Bir Nabala is located about nine km northwest of occupied Jerusalem.3 Like all towns located in this area, Bir Nabala had a fertile agricultural land suited for growing olive trees and vegetables. Once a busy and economically flourishing town, the Annexation and Expansion Wall built in 2006 has transformed the village into a ghost town.5
The village's name was inspired by the ancient well that was the main water resource for the village and is now considered among its most important antiquities. The village's first mosque was built in 1925 and its first school, known as the Ibn Khaldoun elementary school for boys, was built in 1944 to serve the entire area. In 1948, it fell under Jordanian jurisdiction until the Israeli occupation in 1967. Also located in the village is the al-Quds Association for Palestinian Heritage (2006), where they offer courses in embroidery, the Bir Nabala Charity (1985), and the Bir Nabala Sport Club (2006), which offers a variety of sports and cultural activities.
Bir Nabala is trapped in an Israeli-controlled enclave along with the villages of al-Jib, al-Jdeira and Beit Hanina al-Balad, now completely encircled by the Annexation Wall.6
The Annexation Wall
Not only does the Wall impose restrictions on residents' freedom of movement, isolate farmers from their agricultural lands, and separate them from the city, it has also destroyed the village’s social fabric and economy, and completely reshaped social life.7 The main road linking Bir Nabala to a-Ram and Jerusalem was once a busy conduit of movement, vehicles, and energy. This was brought to an end in 2006 by the construction of the Wall and the completion of the enclave in 2007. One Bir Nabala resident laments that in the past the road was so overcrowded and jammed with traffic that you could hardly cross it (sparking its nickname “death road"). Today, one can play football for hours without a car passing by.8
Prior to the construction of the Wall, Bir Nabala was two kilometres from a-Ram. The closure of the road due to the Wall denied residents from easily accessing a-Ram and Jerusalem, their closest urban centres. The road route has been moved to the northwest and the journey from Bir Nabala to a-Ram is now 14 km.9 In 2007, a checkpoint was set up at the Bir Nabala enclave's only exit, on the road leading to Ramallah, meaning that the village is surrounded from three sides while the fourth is under the full control of the Israeli army.10 In 15 November 2014, Palestinians managed to dismantle a section of the Wall In Bir Nabala by using hammers, and in the process achieved what politicians and lawyers have failed to do for years.11
Apartheid Road 443
The isolation of the Bir Nabala enclave is made worse by Road 443. Though built on confiscated Palestinian land, Palestinian pedestrians and vehicles from Bir Nabala are prohibited from using it. The road is limited to settlers and people with Israeli IDs or Jerusalem residency. Thus, movement in and out of the village is only possible through a tunnel to Ramallah which passes under the 443 motorway.9
The Wall, the apartheid road, and on-going colonial expansion have not only contributed to the expropriation of Bir Nabala's lands; they are part of Israel's plan to drive Palestinians away from this strategic area by imposing restrictions and making their lives unbearable. In Bir Nabala, the population has declined by more than 50% since the Wall's construction. Like neighbouring villages, Bir Nabala suffers from a lack of infrastructure, classrooms, health facilities and work opportunities. Jerusalem, the closest city and previous source of these services, is now beyond reach.