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A Jerusalem Life Style Sunday, July 22, 2001
Jeryes, a manager of a hotel in East Jerusalem talked at length about the difficult economic, political and living conditions of Palestinians in Jerusalem. ・Israel is trying to depopulate Jerusalem from its Arab residents by suffocating us slowly・ The 34 years old Jerusalemite said. ・Economically it is getting tougher for us. Our hotel received cancellation orders by more than 50 groups for this summer alone. At this time of the year (July) the hotel is usually full. Reservations for summer 2001 were made as early as 1998.・Jeryes added.
It is no wonder that the hotel is a popular place to stay at in Jerusalem. The hotel located just about 1KM outside the old city in a well-known area called Sheikh Jarah. The famous Orient House is only a block away. It is beautifully built with natural stones and marble and boosts an attractive traditional Arab Garden.
A very pleasant person, Jeryes smoking and drinking the traditional Arabic coffee described what it is like to live as a Palestinian in Jerusalem in our present time. Israeli Authorities in the city always introduce punishing measures against the local Palestinian population as a long-term strategy. Jeryes raising his arm, They always try their best to get rid of us from the city. According to Jeryes, the two biggest problems facing them the heavy taxation and non-issuing of building licenses. If any visitor has a chance to talk to a Jerusalmites, the issue of taxation is prevalent and many constantly complain about it. For example, if a Palestinian shop owner is late in paying taxes, Israeli Interior Ministry official protected with an army unit attack the shop and confiscates the merchandise and finally closes the shop. The act is swift and immediate.
Building license is almost an impossible procedure to accomplish. The license fees cost NIS (Shekel 80,000). It is the equivalent of $ 19, 400. This is only an application fee for Palestinians to pay Israeli authorities in order to build a house or whatever. Outside the old city in East Jerusalem, the land cost is astronomical. The price of 1000 square meter (one Dunum) is $ 5 million. For local Palestinians such a price is simply impossible. Jeryes, in a sarcastic manner, said, they want to kill your dream as well he dream of owning your own home.
Ramallah City is only located about 20 minutes drive north of Jerusalem. Ramallah (not all of it) is under Palestinian control. Of course, building licenses are easy to get here. On the border between Ramallah and Jerusalem is an area called Al Ram. There is a major Israeli military checkpoint. It is not abnormal for daily commuters to spend about two to three hours waiting in line at the checkpoint where it should only take 20 minutes. Soldiers check ID s of passengers. Some of Palestinians are ordered to return to original destination.
Al Ram area is divided into two worlds; the Palestinian control on Ramallah side and the Israeli control from the Jerusalem side. On Ramallah side, the adjacent area has been developed into residential homes and buildings. Where Palestinian relatives and neighbors on the Israeli controlled Al Ram is a dusty, neglected and intentionally underdeveloped. Few years back, a major donor country to Palestinian National Authority offered to construct the old, rough road linking the two cities. Israel refused.
Palestinian Jerusalemites are issued an ID called the Blue ID. It distinquishs them from other Palestinians in West Bank as residents who live under Israeli administrative control within Jerusalem area only. If one Palestinian Jerusalem resident leave the city for a long period of time, the ID will be confiscated. That automatically, according to some Israel law, denies the person of his residency rights in the city, even if he was born and has lived all his life there.
Jeryes mentioned a story about his sister who is married to a Gazan and lives in Gaza City. He said, my sister has been married since 1991 and ever since she has to apply for a three months permission to stay in Gaza. Raising his eye brows to drive his point effectively, imagine she has to come back to Jerusalem every three months to renew her permission. If she is late, immediately she no longer considered a Jerusalem resident. Laughing at this modern day legal insanity, the Jerusalemite joked, may be they want her to stop becoming our sister. He said he or his family could not go to Gaza to visit her neither Before the current intifadah, they needed to apply for permission, which was painstakingly difficult to obtain. Now, it is simply impossible.
Before leaving, Jereys insisted on offering Arabic coffee; a ceremony of expressing hospitality. To say, we had coffee together is to mean we know each other or we have met in cultural terms. While saying good bye just outside the hotel garden, Jeryes waved his hands and said, do not forget to sent my warm regards to the people of Gaza.
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