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A Muddy Journey: Sewage Tunnel becomes transit point to Jerusalem

November 2, 2009

Ordinary women and men, wearing plastic bags on their feet, pulling pants up to knee level, clutch their children to their chests and roam along a 110-metre dark tunnel of sewage to cross from the Israeli-occupied West Bank to East Jerusalem.

Erected under a barrier that Israel is building in the West Bank in defiance of a World Court ruling,  the tunnel serves as a gateway connecting Palestinians from the West Bank to East Jerusalem, a centre for medical, social, religious and other services for the Palestinians.

The passage goes from the village of Old Beit Hanina in the West Bank to the area also called Beit Hanina in what Israel has annexed as part of its Jerusalem municipality. It was first used in early 2004, locals say, when Israel erected the barrier between the two Beit Haninas. What was originally essentially one village became physically divided  in two.  The tunnel was last used during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in late September by people anxious to visit family or to pray in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque. Israel restricts entry for Palestinians to the city. Since then Israel has blocked off the passage — not for the first time.

Scenes of people’s legs sinking up to the knee in sewage are depicted in  ”Journey 110″ by Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar, who spent six hours capturing the 12-minute-long clip last year.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip can only enter Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as a capital for their future state, with often hard-to-get permits from Israeli authorities. In 1967, Israel captured the territories including Arab East Jerusalem.

Local officials in Old Beit Hanina estimated the number of people who crossed the passage at up to 150 per day while it was open. “People are not doing it for fun and this is may be the only way to get to Jerusalem,” said Saleh Daajneh, an official in the village.

When Israel first found out about it, soldiers blocked the passage with rocks but “tunnel operators” managed to find  a gap for people to squeeze themselves out the other end of the tunnel. Israel says the barrier is needed to  prevent Palestinian militants from attacking  their cities inside Israel.

After Ramadan this year, Israeli bulldozers again blocked the entrance of the tunnel with rocks.

“There must be a compelling reason why these people have to go through this trip,” said film maker Jarrar after a screening in Ramallah. His film will compete in  the film festival “Instants Video” in France’s Marseille next month.

To read full story in Arabic, click here


PHOTO: Film maker Khaled Jarrar posing for a picture, with his film playing in background, after the screening of the film in Ramallah.  December 27, 2009. 

Photo by Lucia Cristina Estrada Mota


I am Israeli. Will you people please leave us alone. Anyone with intelligence knows that we are only trying to protect ourselves from terror attacks. You also know that every time we made concessions and tried to make peace with them, they only responded with more terror. This is why we have to take strong measures.

Posted by Dr Yeruham Leavitt | Report as abusive

Id say what a load of crap.. but. All it would take is 1 palestinian to come unchecked into jerusalem, loaded with a bomb gun or other weapon to kill people. The check points are harsh, but the world has learned after busbomb after pizzeria, after night club after hotel. that until palestinians abandon terror, walls and barriers will exist. Until then scenes like this will be more and more prevalent. put down the guns renounce the hamas charter calling for israel destruction, edit the school books urging youth to violence.. and then free passage will be obvious

Posted by dan | Report as abusive

I am Italian. From this video I understand only about woman, child and man, old and young try to cross something trough a tunnel.
I think about why some ordinary people do this.

I am also a people who has seen behind (or maybe in front of) the wall.. your Israeli wall, you know.
I think israeli people live in a imaginary world, full of paranoid and fear.

Posted by Aurora | Report as abusive

“I think israeli people live in a imaginary world, full of paranoid and fear.”

Look at the Israeli wall, and what do you see?

The Israeli people have defended themselves against more then four wars in the last fifty years. Against enemies who were seeking to completely destroy their nation.

They have suffered two intifadas, measured by the numbers of suicide bombs and innocent israeli citizens killed. Suicide attacks which only halted with the checkpoints and walls you see today.

They have given up land in Lebenon, only to result in the strengthening of Hezbullah. And given up Gaza only to allow the strengthening of Hamas.

The world will sit back and yawn when Israeli cities are bombed by hundreds of terrorist rockets. And those same people will howl in protest when after repeated warnings, Israel responds with military force.

And yet you can climb down from your ivory perch and say they live in an imaginary world.

If you are going to ignore everything that happened in the last fifty years, it is no wonder you think the walls serve no purpose.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

The israeli cries of “oh poor us” and “they are all evil” are getting old. this whole notion of we only defend ourselves is a joke. Hamas and Hezbullah were formed because of israel’s actions. their policies of “bomb and cry” are getting old and frankly as an american I am tired of seeing our good name brought down because of them. This country is in huge debts yet we continue to send billions of dollars to israel. israel is considered to be our “ally” yet we have caught and arrested more israeli spys them from anywhere else in the world. we were never hated in the middle east as much as we are now only because of our blind support for israel. this needs to end now, we need to leave the palestinians and israelis in the room by themselves and let them figure out this mess, they can either bomb each other into the next century or resolve this matter like human beings. its sad that we have to hold the hands of these children.

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

Unfortunately anaon, all of your arguments went out the window when israel obtained nuclear weapon. all the focus is on iran and it’s nuclear energy work, yet your government continually chooses to hide its nuclear arsenal. you can claim that its is there for “defense purposes” but your invasions of lebanon and palestine and attacks on to soverign nations like syria and iraq have proven there is nothing defensive about your motives. the so called “most moral army in the world” was proven wrong when soldiers from your own army spoke out against the actions of your government and military. you see, it is not the israeli people who are the problem, most of them are good peace loving people who want to live side by side with the arab neighbors, but it is your extremist,nazi like government that is the issue. It will not be the governments of the United States or israel or the UN who will resolve this issue, but the people of israel and palestine. the israeli people are good enough admit their mistakes and crimes, and negotiate peace agreement that will actually work. it might suit you to join that cause.

Posted by Hassan | Report as abusive

God Bless Israel in their struggle against these palestinian squatters in their land.

Posted by mohammedsadevil | Report as abusive

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