Exile is an experiential state often associated with expatriation, deportation or separation whereby a person or a group of persons find themselves refugees or expatriates in a place other than their original place of birth and permanent residence. This state of exile leaves one with a sense of estrangement, desperation and depression, leading to a situation of stress that can be exhibited in a variety of psychological and mental disorders. In the occupied Palestinian territories and in East Jerusalem, the separation wall has made of thousands of Palestinians exiles in their own homes.
The construction of the wall began in the Jerusalem area in 2002. In addition to its negative impact on the livelihood and well-being of all Palestinians in the West Bank, it makes out of East Jerusalem a disconnected enclave with disastrous consequences upon such basics as family relationships, access to medical and educational institutions, and freedom of access to places of worship and, more notably, it almost completely hampers the Jerusalemites living on the eastern side of the wall from reaching their workplaces on the western side of the wall. According to Bryan Atinsky:

Jerusalem is the only region in which the wall cuts through dense urban districts, separating many, not only from their workplace, but also from services and needs such as local medical centers or schools… Even with the wall not yet complete, 95% of Palestinians from the areas "outside" of it and 77% [from] the areas "inside" the wall (relative to Jerusalem) report that they have difficulties getting to their workplace…The separation wall further disconnects the main travel routes between Bethlehem and Ramallah, creating an artificial separation between the north and the south of the West Bank. The wall thus cuts vital connections between the economy of these cities and the Jerusalem economy.1

This opinion is shared by both Kobi Michael and Amnon Ramon in their A Fence around Jerusalem. An important conclusion of this study indicates that, in northwest Jerusalem, two enclaves are created by the separation wall, with 55,000 residents - most with Jerusalem (blue) IDs - denied unimpeded access to their families, land and center of life. As an example, the writers point to the neighborhoods of Kafr Aqab, Semiramis and the western part of Qalandiya refugee camp [northeast of Jerusalem] where most residents are already cut off from the rest of Jerusalem, and where the many go to work and obtain educational, health, welfare and other services. The same applies to each of the 21 localities in East Jerusalem where the construction of the separation wall has impinged on the lives of well over a quarter of a million Palestinians.

The Jerusalemites who reside outside the city are heavily dependent on Jerusalem in their everyday life and for the services they need. Thus, many children living outside the city attend schools in East Jerusalem; the residents turn to hospitals in East Jerusalem for medical services, and many hold jobs in the Israeli labor market (including the Jerusalem Municipality.) Conversely many students who reside in East Jerusalem attend Al-Quds University, most of which is located in Abu Dis (outside the municipal area), and the cheaper shopping centers in Ezariyya and A-Ram rely on Jerusalem shoppers.2

The separation wall has had a negative effect on Palestinian family life and social fabric, as exemplified by the splitting of villages and neighborhoods, such as in Abu Dis and A-Ram, where it has separated members of the same family or hamula (clan). In the case of Hizma, Anata, Shu'fat refugee camp and the Peace Neighborhood (New Anata) [east and northeast], all these neighborhoods have become Palestinian enclaves as Israel decided to exclude them from the Jerusalem municipal boundary in order to reduce by 25,000 the Palestinian population in Jerusalem.3 According to Leila Farsakh, the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem would almost equal the Jewish population in the city by 2050. It is no wonder, then, that the separation wall has purposely excluded over 55,000 residents, most with Jerusalem ID cards, on the eastern side of the wall. In planning the route of the wall, it is clear that Israel did not simply have "security" considerations on its mind; a primary consideration was getting rid of as many Palestinians as possible in order to defer the eventuality of demographic equality between Arabs and Jews in the city. Ironically, the construction of the separation wall has led to the return of thousands of Palestinians with Jerusalem IDs to the city, as will be mentioned below.

Economic Consequences

In addition to restricting the movement of employees and workers to their workplaces, by encircling East Jerusalem and splitting the neighborhoods and villages in the north, northwest, east and southeast from the city center, the wall has exacerbated an already calamitous economic situation. According to Farsakh, the economic activity in East Jerusalem has fallen by 10% since 2000.4 The separation wall, with its restrictions on the movement of population and goods in and out of East Jerusalem, is indubitably at the root of the depressed economy in the city. According to one estimate, the wall has already caused more than US$1 billion in damages resulting from direct income loss for Palestinians, and the trend is expected to continue with a US$ 94 million loss per year.5
The Jerusalem area has also suffered severe land confiscation, as 92% (141,974 acres) of the land on which the wall has been built have been confiscated from the East Jerusalem area.6 The separation wall, also known as "The Jerusalem Envelope," has now made it impossible to connect the north and south of the West Bank via Jerusalem as was the practice throughout history. This disconnection has impacted the economic activity in the city and its surrounding areas. Jerusalem merchants often bemoan the dwindling number of shoppers in the markets and souqs of the city. They also speak of the high costs of transporting goods from wholesale depots in the West Bank, thus hurting East Jerusalem's economic competitiveness with neighboring West Bank markets. Many Jerusalem merchants, who traditionally came from areas that have become part of the West Bank, now need a permit to enter Jerusalem to practice their trade. This further reduces the competitiveness of the Jerusalem economy as many of these merchants eventually leave the city taking with them their business enterprises.7
The tourism sector, which constitutes the biggest economic sector of the city, is further debilitated by the fact that many of its employees come from the West Bank and need permits to access Jerusalem. But another negative factor affecting the tourism sector is the separation of Jerusalem from its historical and religious twin city of Bethlehem. The difficulties encountered by pilgrims, tourists and Palestinians alike in moving freely between these two cities have an adverse impact on the economies of both Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
In short, the separation wall has aggravated the state of an already depressed economy in Jerusalem, leading to the exodus of businesses, organizations and young talent. The latter have gone to work in Ramallah and other parts of the Palestinian territories. This weakens the social, economic and service infrastructure of the city and widens the disparities between East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem. The conclusion, as will be seen below, is the increasing pauperization of East Jerusalem's population as a result of the separation wall - a warning that should be taken very seriously.

Forced Displacement and Other Ills8

Between May and June 2006, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and Badil (the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights) carried out a survey whose main objective was to quantify the impact of the wall on the forced displacement of the Palestinians in Jerusalem and on their social and economic conditions. The sample size was 1,008 households; interviews were carried out with 981 households comprising 5,148 persons.

* Changing Place of Residence
The findings showed that close to 30% of respondents living in localities inside the wall have changed their place of residence since the beginning of its construction. The wall and its associated regime was the main cause for changing their place of residence for 17.3% of all persons who moved. Almost 20% of households interviewed indicated that their land had been confiscated, with families outside the wall - on its eastern (Palestinian) side - reporting land confiscation six times higher than those inside the wall, on its western (Israeli) side.

* Difficulty in Accessing Educational Institutions
The results of the survey showed that 80.0% of households with students in higher education used alternative roads to reach universities/colleges. About 75.2% of households with students enrolled in basic/secondary education reported the use of alternative roads to reach schools. In addition, 72.1% of households with students in higher education reported sometimes being forced to absent themselves from university, compared with 69.4% for households with students enrolled in basic/secondary education.

* Separation from Relatives
About 21.4% of Palestinian households reported to have at least one member who was separated from relatives (15.5% inside the wall and 32.6% outside the wall).  In addition, 18.0% of the Palestinian households in the Jerusalem District are separated from the father (14.3% inside the wall and 26.2% outside the wall); whereas 12.7% of the households are separated from the mother (12.9% inside the wall and 12.3% outside the wall). 

* Access to Health Services
The results of the survey showed that accessing health centers in the city was difficult for 34.5% of the households in the Jerusalem District (5.8% inside the wall and 88.3% outside the wall). The inability of medical staff to reach health centers is a problem for 31.3% of the households (4.4% inside the wall and 81.8% outside the wall).

* Population Mobility
The time spent crossing checkpoints was considered an obstacle by 94.7% of the households (94.5% inside the wall and 95.0% outside the wall).

* Impact on Social Networking
The survey showed that the wall curtailed the ability of 84.6% of households in Jerusalem to visit family and relatives (84.3% inside the wall and 85.2% outside the wall). About 56.3% of households were denied the facility to practice cultural and social activities (48.5% inside the wall and 70.5% outside the wall). The wall has also affected the ability of 40.0% of the households to visit religious and holy sites. Moreover, the results showed that the percentage of households that faced obstacles in marrying a partner living on the other side of the wall had risen from 31.6% before the construction of the wall to 69.4% after the construction of the wall.

Sheikh Sa'ad in East Jerusalem: A Community at Risk

In August 2006, the Foundation for Middle East Peace published a special report by Ir Amim that focused on the effects of the separation wall on the neighborhood of Sheikh Sa'ad [southeast of Jerusalem]. The report addressed the difficulty of life, unemployment, the higher dependency on charity and the difficulty of visiting one's family in East Jerusalem.
The route of the wall, like elsewhere, has damaged the residents' capacity to reach their workplace, to earn a livelihood, and to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. It has interfered in their access to medical care, depriving the residents from their right to decent health. The restrictions imposed by the authorities on the movement of children to and from school have impaired their ability to exercise their right to education. The situation deteriorated further when food supplies were prevented from entering the neighborhood. Since the entrance to the neighborhood was closed, compounding the already difficult situation created by the wall, about 500 residents abandoned their homes. Most of those who left went to live in East Jerusalem - an option possible for holders of Israeli ID cards, or those with permits to reside in Jerusalem granted for family reunification purposes. An estimated 1,700 residents are left in Sheikh Sa'ad; most of them still hold Israeli IDs, and only a few have Palestinian IDs. 
Indeed, there is a growing phenomenon - noted by institutions and research studies - which points to the fact that a good number of Palestinian Jerusalemites living in peripheral areas of the city have been returning to the city proper because of the construction of the separation wall. Some estimates set the total number of Palestinians with blue ID cards who will eventually settle permanently on the Israeli-controlled side of the wall in the tens of thousands. This mass return of Palestinian Jerusalemites to the city will increase the population density in the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and will no doubt contribute to a concomitant rise in poverty and unemployment, both already high.  Moving into the neighborhoods outside the city line are non-Jerusalemite Palestinians who do not possess permits to enter Israel. This is bound to exacerbate the existing economic ills in East Jerusalem and the Palestinian Jerusalem metropolitan area, raising poverty and crime rates and eroding stability.
The report concludes that the case of Sheikh Sa'ad is illustrative of Israel's policy that aims to unilaterally draw the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state under the guise of security concerns. With the start of the construction of the separation wall, the lives of Palestinians in and around Jerusalem changed beyond all recognition.9

UNRWA's Worries on Educational and Health Prospects

UNRWA issued a report (January 2004) on the impact of the Jerusalem separation wall on its own operations, even when construction was in the early stages. The conclusion was that the wall has affected the operation of UNRWA schools, and will hinder the access of refugee students to both UNRWA and Palestinian Authority (PA) schools. Out of the 14 UNRWA schools operating in the Jerusalem area, 10 now lie outside the wall and 4 within. Accordingly, 74 UNRWA teachers will have to exit the barrier in order to reach their workplace, and 12 will have to enter. Altogether, 86 teachers and 260 students in UNRWA schools in the Jerusalem area will be affected by the wall in their daily movements, this in addition to at least 6,000 refugee students who attend various PA and private schools in the Greater Jerusalem area. Furthermore, UNRWA believes that access of refugees to secondary and tertiary medical care in Jerusalem hospitals has been severely hampered. The majority of those seeking the services of the UNRWA Jerusalem Health Center located in the Old City spend on average three hours on the road. And since an estimated 7,000 refugee patients are annually referred to Jerusalem hospitals from as far away as Hebron in the south of the West Bank and Nablus in the north, there is real concern that these patients would not be able to make it to Jerusalem, due to Israeli permit restrictions and checkpoint entry measures.
UNRWA is equally concerned about the impact on relief and social services. The number of families receiving UNRWA's emergency assistance and who are residing in localities affected by the Jerusalem wall reaches 6,984 cases inside the wall and 11,472 cases outside; 1,057 families in the area receive special hardship assistance. Eighteen staff members of the Relief and Social Services Department need to cross the wall every day in order to reach their workplace. Of particular concern is the Shu'fat Community and Rehabilitation Center, where 20% of the patients are disabled and need to cross to the other side of the wall in order to continue their rehabilitation procedures.10


Israel's separation wall poses social, economic, health, and educational challenges to the population of East Jerusalem. While it has made of East Jerusalem an enclave and forced structural and demographic transformations on the geography of the city and its population, the long-term effects on the entire city would spell dire socioeconomic consequences. The disconnection between the city, its neighborhoods and its natural hinterland; the woes to separated families; the difficulties in accessing their center of life to thousands of Palestinians; the problems caused to those seeking medical care; the time needed for thousands of school children and teachers to cross over to their schools in the cold early mornings; the pressures on the housing sector - all these and more are turning East Jerusalem into an increasingly marginalized city for the sake of an Israeli political, economic and demographic domination.


1. Bryan Atinsky, The Alternative Information Center, A Report, March 21, 2007.
2. Kobi Michael and Amnon Ramon, A Fence around Jerusalem: General Background and Implications for the City and Its Metropolitan Area (Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2004), p.75.
3. Ibid., p.79.
4. Leila Farsakh, The Economics of Jerusalem (Boston: University of Massachusetts, CIS-MIT), 2006.
5. Atinsky, op. cit.
6. Ibid.
7. See: Azzam Abu Saud and Naila Jwealis of the Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Impact of the Racial Separation Wall on the Different Economic Sectors in East Jerusalem (East Jerusalem: July 2006).
8. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, and Badil (Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights), Impact of the Wall and Its Associated Regime on the Forced Displacement of the Palestinians in Jerusalem (Ramallah: June 2006).
9. Adva Rodogovsky, Public Outreach Coordinator, Ir Amim, August 2006.
10. UNRWA, Reports on the West Bank Barrier (January 2004).