Located eight kilometres northeast of occupied Jerusalem, the villages of a-Ram and Dahyat al-Barid remain a unified community despite the Oslo Accord's division of them into areas B and C and despite the construction of the Annexation Wall bisects the community.1 The villages lie just outside the boundaries of Jerusalem and cover a total area of 6,708 dunums with 2,613 dunums of built-up area.2 Neighbouring villages include Jaba’ to the east, Kufur ‘Aqab and Qalandia refugee camp to the north, Bir Nabala to the west, and Beit Hanina to the south. Dahyat al-Barid, whose literal translation is the “post office suburb,” is the southern neighbourhood of a-Ram. Dahyat al-Barid is surrounded by colonies on three sides: Pisgat Ze’ev from the south, Neve Ya’akov from the southeast and the settlement of Giva’at Binyamin from the east.3 According to the a-Ram local council, Dahyat al-Barid’s area is 1000 dunums and it is home to around 5000 residents.4 A section of Dahyat al-Barid, where many international NGOs have offices, was severed from the village by the Annexation Wall and thus from the communities with whom the INGOs work.5 6
Originally called Ramah, meaning ‘high place,’ by the Romans during the first century BCE,7 a-Ram and Dahyat al-Barid sit 750 metres above sea level. Many of the local families have lived there for centuries. There is also a significant refugee community from Qalunia, a village destroyed in 1948, who fled following the Nakba.8
Inside the village is the Faisal al-Husseini International Stadium, home of the Palestinian national football team. Named after Palestinian politician and leader Faisal AlHusseini, the stadium was renovated in 2008 and is now the largest in the West Bank. The village has 19 schools, 10 kindergartens, and 9 health clinics as of 2012.9
During the 1980s and 90s the village was relatively prosperous with the influx of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and Jerusalemites who were attracted by the relatively low cost of living and proximity to Jerusalem. After the construction of the Annexation Wall, which turned the ten minute drive to Jerusalem into an hour-long trip, many of the people who moved then have since moved away. Consequently, since the construction of the wall, nearly one third of the businesses have been forced to close.1
Freedom of Movement
Although many thousands of a-Ram’s residents left a-Ram after the construction of the Wall in order to maintain their residency status and their connection to Jerusalem,11 there remains today around 58,000 people living in the village, more than half of whom carry Jerusalem identity cards. Until the construction of the Wall, the Jerusalem-Ramallah road was the main entry point to the village.12
The construction of the wall has impacted the village in several ways. Crime has dramatically increased. The town is littered with abandoned shops, and many families have been divided.13 In late 2001, Israeli occupation forces transformed Qalandia checkpoint into a massive military crossing encircled by barbed wire. Electronic barriers, iron gates, and surveillance cameras were installed to control the entry of people through closed lanes, and two-metre long rotational barriers were constructed. Crossing Qalandia checkpoint is a daily struggle, particularly for students, the elderly and those with disabilities. Additionally, residents of a-Ram who carry West Bank IDs are not allowed to enter to Jerusalem without special permission from the occupation authorities.
There are several medical facilities in a-Ram; however, for emergencies or more serious ailments residents rely on hospitals in Jerusalem. Yet the Annexation Wall has severely restricted access to these hospitals. For example, West Bank ID holders require permits to enter Jerusalem for medical treatment and in cases of emergency. If unable to get a permit, they are forced to travel to Ramallah where hospitals are for the most part overcrowded and underfunded.14
Land Annexation and Colony Construction
Thousands of dunums of a-Ram's lands have been confiscated by the Israeli occupation for the purpose of building illegal Israeli colonies, bypass roads, the Atarot industrial zone and Qalandia checkpoint.15
The Annexation Wall and Checkpoints
In December 2006 the Israeli occupation’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to halt construction of the Wall around a-Ram. Since then, several thousands of a-Ram's residents with Jerusalem IDs have been forced to leave and to relocate to the side of the Wall that is within the Israeli municipal boundary.
Today, the Wall surrounds a-Ram on three sides, blocking access to Jerusalem except through Qalandia checkpoint and leaving only one circuitous road to Ramallah.16
This once-prosperous border town that used to serve as an intersection between Jerusalem and Ramallah is now isolated from both cities.