07/14/2005, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Wall breeds rage and causes joblessness

East Jerusalem residents speak about the threats posed by the "security barrier" and about people's state of mind. They call on foreign governments to have the wall—this obstacle to peace—included in the world's agenda.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The security wall Israel is building around East Jerusalem is turning lives upside down, threatening jobs, pushing people to emigrate. If one is not even sure of when of if it is possible to get to work, all hope for the future dies.

With the wall's final route approved by the Israeli government on July 10, a chorus of voices is rising from the Holy City. They spoke to AsiaNews about their "never-ending nightmare, a catastrophe that will cause limitless damage".

With only a few months to go before completion, the wall around Jerusalem will cut off four Arab neighbourhoods and their 55,000 residents but will include dozens of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Jerusalem's Israeli Mayor   told AsiaNews that "1.7 million dollars have been allocated to ensure the safety of the Palestinians".

Samuel Martin, Caritas communications officer in Jerusalem, describes the mood of people stuck in an "endless traffic jam".

"If you don't have an Israeli ID, you are cut off from municipal services like schools, work, hospitals, but even going over to friends or relatives means crossing check points, and this takes hours of controls".

"You can see how people feel in the eyes of children who wait every morning at the bus stop: rage and sadness. And that is a dangerous mix," Martin said.

"A system with check points is like living in a prison. It stifles any desire to do anything and undermines the notion of a future since you can't plan. You can't even know how long it will take you to get to work," he added.

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that "special transport will be provided to the 3,655 pupils who are currently cut off by the barrier".

He noted that welfare and health services will be moved outside the barrier; similarly, some of the schools will be go as well.

However Martin said that the government will pay to move only public schools. Instead, "many families send their children to private middle schools because they offer a better education. But they won't get any government money to move and it will be really difficult for pupils to get to them".

"In Kufr Aqab, a village just outside of Jerusalem, I spoke to widows who are fretting over being able to get to their kids' school in case of an emergency, or having to spend hours to get there," Martin said.

The wall will also have major economic consequences.

For Bernard Sabela, a sociologist at Bethlehem's Pontifical University, the "wall will undermine economic cooperation between Israel and Palestine and is a grave obstacle to the peace process".

"Israel is in need of workers and it is absurd to bring Filipinos or Thais to do the job, whilst on the other side of the barrier unemployment is widespread," he said.

The residents of the Chouafat refugee camp share the same view.

"This wall will cause more unemployment, because many camp dwellers work on the other side of Jerusalem," Jawal Awad, local notable, told AsiaNews Jamal Awad.

One direct consequence is emigration among young Palestinians, who would "rather go abroad instead of settling for meagre wages and a precarious life".

Caritas Italia is working on issue in Jerusalem. The head of its Mideast operations Silvio Tessari explained that the Catholic organisation is giving priority to projects that focus on young people provide education and set up activity centres that ground them in their homeland".

For Sabela, the international community must do something about the economy that will emerge once the wall is up.

"The European Union and international organisations have a duty to include the wall on the agenda and come up with solutions to the economic problems it causes".

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