Located 8 km north of occupied Jerusalem, Beit Hanina is a Palestinian village bordered by Beit Iksa and An Nabi Samwil to the west, Hizma and Shu'fat to the east, Bir Nabala and a-Ram to the north, and Lifta to the south.3 A thriving social and commercial hub of northern Jerusalem, this cluster of communities has been split by the illegal annexation of land and subsequent construction of the Wall.
Originally a Canaanite village whose name either means ‘the house of someone who deserves pity” or “encampment,” Beit Hanina's residents trace their roots to the Huweitat tribe and other Bedouin tribes who migrated from Egypt and Eastern Jordan.4 The first elementary school in the village was established in 1930 as a boys school and expanded in the mid 1940s. The village's first girls school was opened in 1945, and the village's mosque was expanded and rebuilt in 1938. Initially an all-Muslim village, a number of Palestinian Christians moved to Beit Hanina in the 1950s. By 1961, it had an estimated population of 3067 residents, including 332 Christians.5 In 1967, most of Beit Hanina was illegally annexed by the Israeli occupation authorities and fell under the jurisdiction of the Israeli occupation municipality. The smaller part, referred to as Beit Hanina al-Balad or Beit Hanina a-Tahta, was considered a West Bank area. This created a situation in which a number of Beit Hanina's residents carry a Jerusalem residency while the others carry Palestinian IDs.
Beit Hanina is considered a relatively prosperous Jerusalemite village and has many shops, bakeries, beauty centres and ngo offices. It is a busy commercial centre that attracts and serves not just local residents but is also a hub for leisure, trade, education and health facilities for visitors across northern Jerusalem. The severe impact of the political separation between Beit Hanina, as a Jerusalem suburb, and its neighbouring ‘West Bank’ villages was enhanced when the Annexation Wall was built. It physically divided the village and severed the natural connection between residents of Beit Hanina al-Balad (which came under PA Jurisdiction after the Oslo accords) and Beit Hanina al-Jadida which was annexed to become a part of the Jerusalem governorate.
Beit Hanina al-Balad suffers from a lack of medical clinics. Health care clinics are only provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Health which operates once a week, and there are no pharmacies in the village. Due to the poor conditions in the village many residents are forced to leave, though they consequently live in fear of their Jerusalem residency being revoked.. Moreover, residents of Beit Hanina suffer from unemployment for two reasons: first, the loss of agricultural land (people's livelihood); and second, their inability to obtain work permits in Jerusalem. Moreover, the male school dropout rate is high because there are no high schools inside the village.
The Annexation Wall
The Annexation Wall runs 8.2 km into Beit Hanina's lands starting near the Atarot Industrial zone in the north and continuing southward to Ramot settlement. In 2002, the construction of bypass road 443 split the village's lands. The entrance to the village was closed with roadblocks and the Wall completely encircled Beit Hanina al-Balad (or Beit Hanina a-Tahta), along with Qalandia, al-Jib, al-Jdeira and Bir Nabala. An enclave of Palestinian society had been formed.6 All of these villages were thus detached from Jerusalem, their main urban centre, and deprived of access to the services of Beit Hanina and the wider city of Jerusalem.
For Beit Hanina, however, the wall is much more than just a physical barrier that tore the village apart. It destroyed the traditional community life within the village and greatly damaged its once tight social relations. Residents in Beit Hanina a-Tahta could no longer access their homes and workplaces in Beit Hanina al-Jadida unless given a permit by the Israeli occupation authorities. Even the dead are influenced by the construction of the Wall. Because the village's cemetery is located in Beit Hanina a-Tahta, residents of Beit Hanina al-Jadida need to carry the coffins through the Qalandia checkpoint 5km to the north and then turn back south 5km to Beit Hanina a-Tahta to bury their dead. The trip that can sometimes take hours.
Beit Hanina residents often insist that the Wall and the new borders enforced by Israel will not succeed in dividing the residents. Although they indeed try to maintain community life within their own village, an increasing number of Beit Hanina al-Balad residents are forced to leave their village because they are completely deprived of the most basic services and infrastructure. They now also look to Ramallah to receive the services once accessible in Jerusalem. This is precisely the purpose of the occupation: to change the demographic reality and shift the Palestinian urban centre from Jerusalem to Ramallah.
On 14 April 2012, the Natsheh family were forcibly evicted from the house they had lived in for over seven decades. The eviction, the first to occur in Beit Hanina al-Jadida, which is relatively quiet, was done with the blessing of Israel's judicial system. The Palestinian family was evicted to make way for Israeli settlers.7 The Al-Ashqariyeh neighborhood, located north of the village of Beit Hanina in Jerusalem, the residents are hard-pressed to obtain building permits to develop housing as a result of the Occupation restrictions and policies on giving building permits for Palestinians in Jerusalem, a burden from which all Jerusalemites suffer. In 2014, two houses were demolished by occupation bulldozers belonging to the Kisswani and Idris families. Beit Hanina is also surrounded by the settlements of Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Ze'ev, Ramot and Ramat Shlomo. Beit Hanina al-Balad village has had its lands confiscated for various purposes including the construction of settlements on the village territories. Israeli occupation authorities have confiscated 186 dunums of Beit Hanina a-Tahta’s villages for the purpose of constructing and expanding the Ramot and Ramat Shlomo settlement. Beit Hanina also suffers from repeated demolitions under the pretext of building without a permit, all within Israel's strategy to drive the population out and make it hard for them to expand.