Written by Staff Writer
(CNN) — Einat, a middle-aged Israeli woman, began her week at Haifa’s Tsukuba medical complex amid the advice of her Israeli doctor, asking him to walk her home the 60 meters to her front door.
The nurse who shared her bed is also the first to tell visitors that it can get cold in this air-conditioned building. Here, patients enjoy free healthcare and are free to speak to doctors of their own choice.
It’s a very different view of reality from the one many of Israel’s Palestinian minority live in.
This is where many of the approximately 22,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel’s residents live in concentrated pockets, enclosed between Israelis.
Not by choice
Instead of a local hospital, they rely on a government network of public clinics and cashless IDs to make their way in and out of town.
“Not having this hospital right here is a handicap. People have been dying of respiratory infections from small children coming in with the flu, or coming in with asthma attacks,” says Einat.
Einat and other families in the East Jerusalem and West Bank town of Sheikh Jarrah have faced the threat of eviction from their homes and forcibly removal by Israeli authorities for a century.
As a result of strong Jewish-Israeli electoral support, Jewish settlers moved into the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in the 1920s and until recently they were able to pressure government to uphold laws that divided residents according to religion.
Today, the Palestinian minority lives in some of the most densely populated suburbs of Israel, a country governed by law on behalf of all its citizens.
Sheikh Jarrah residents have been living in an area that was originally a Jewish quarter but contains their only publicly accessible hospital for more than a century. Credit: Gaza City Media
About 170 Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah are facing the threat of forced removal by the government.
Israeli authorities have begun to enforce laws that require Arab citizens to obtain a special ID card which permits them to move about their homes in their free will. Many in the community question why they should be treated differently.
The first wave of demolitions in the 1970s saw up to 1,000 house expulsions.
In the early 1990s, scores of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah returned to their homes and still fear being forced from them.
Today, despite losing the 30% of housing in Sheikh Jarrah that was originally Arab, it is still home to a large mosque and large Palestinian community.
“We are returning to the site of our former land, to the buildings that were built on it on previous occasions,” says Abu Izzam, a member of an interfaith group tasked with assisting the community.
PVH Graphic Credit: PVH Graphic
Israeli religious authorities maintain that the original houses on the land were built without proper permits. However, non-Jewish residents allege the Orthodox community made false claims of ownership in order to qualify for preferential housing rights.
They also accused the original Jewish residents of trying to expel them and are now working to oppose the demolition policies.
In recent years, a number of European activists have been targeted in blasphemy allegations but a number of leading Muslim and Christian religious leaders have been present in Sheikh Jarrah.
“There is no reason in the world to live on the top of a hill and drive into a very narrow area,” says Abu Izzam.
The roots of the problem, however, lie in the dispossession of the Palestinian Arab population in the late 1940s.
Following Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence, Palestinians in the Palestinian West Bank were relocated to areas that still exist to the west of the city and those within the Jerusalem area were pushed out of the area that would be Israel.