Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
A Muddy Journey: Sewage Tunnel becomes transit point to Jerusalem
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