RAMALLAH, March 18 (JMCC) - Near Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, a Palestinian family struggles to eke a living out of a souvenir shop in the shadow of Israel's military installations, writes an
International Solidarity Movement volunteer.
Before 2002 her husband had an auto mechanic shop in this building, perfectly located right next to the main road to Jerusalem. The business was good back then. Palestinians as well as Israelis came here to get their car fixed or buy parts, and just next door, Mariam had a shop for home accessories. All this changed radically in 2002 when the area became a “military zone.”
Suddenly the road was closed and the family that lives on the floors above the shops became prisoners in their own home as soldiers turned their house into a military base. Sometimes they took a room or two, but other days the whole family of seven were forced to stay in one room without being able to go out.
Both shops had to close and life became hard. The next year in 2003, the Israeli government built the apartheid wall that is now surrounding the house from three sides. The land around them that is owned by her uncle was confiscated and is now on the other side of the wall, out of reach for the family that no longer can travel outside the West Bank without permission, a permission that is rarely given.
The travel situation was also different before the wall. Mariam, like other Christians, has strong bonds to Jerusalem, and she used to volunteer in a church in the city that she visited almost every day. It used to take her 15 minutes to get there. Now she only gets permission to visit Jerusalem for Easter and Christmas, and how long it takes to get there depends on the mood of the soldiers at the check point.