On Friday, the sixth day of the September Freedom Ride, we joined the people of Al Walajah on a procession from the village mosque to the house of Omar Hajajlah and his family.
Al Walajah is a village under threat. The proposed route of the Israeli separation wall will circle the village, and the ancient mountainsides are already being reduced to rubble by bulldozers. The land around Al Walajah is lined by ancient terraces and olive trees, as well as the remains of Roman waterholes carved into the yellow rock. Omar Hajajlah’s house lies directly in the path of the wall and has been threatened with demolition. Omar fought through the Israeli courts to save his house, and, in a situation that seems beyond farce, the Israeli high court ruled in favor of allowing engineers encircle his house and effectively imprison his family with an electrified, four-meter-high barrier. They have built an underground tunnel, at a price of 5 million shekels ($1.3 million), that will allow his family access to the rest of the village.
The villagers of Al Walajah having been using creative forms of protest to struggle against the attacks on their land and homes. In preparation for the march, the villagers made giant puppets that waved high above the moving crowd. One, a skeleton with a key for a heart, symbolised the longing of refugees for the right to return to their lost homes. Young people from the village carried drums and chanted slogans, including one in English: “1,2,3,4! Occupation no more!”
The march ended on the rocky outcrop next to Omar’s house, overlooking the valley that will soon be lost to the people of Al Walajah. There are plans to turn this land into a Israeli national park. Sitting in the shade of olive trees, we saw performances from the Freedom Bus actors, and music from Dar Qandeel, Palestine Street and the United Struggle Project. Once again our uninvited guests, the Israeli army, watched from a distance.