for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction—Matthew 7:13
Atomic clocks envy the precision of the Israeli Administration. Denizens living under its power will laugh at the opening statement; after all civil servants there are infamous for corruption and inefficiency.
On Christmas, the Head of Israel Land Authority+ Bentzion Lieberman acknowledged that they have 20,000 unread letters and that in average a letter waits six months to be opened.
In contrast, the administration’s nuclear efficiency becomes evident in actions related to the conquest of new lands. Then, every attosecond counts. This year, exactly one year after Israel stroke the village of Beit Safafa by dividing it with Highway 60, it hit the place again with Highway 50.
A Christian Village near Bethlehem
Beit Safafa – Jerusalem
The Palestine Papers: The End of the Road?
Beit Safafa is practically within Jerusalem. Two or three bus stops separate between it and the Old City; outsiders will have trouble trying to spot the border between the two.
Between 1948 and 1967, the town was divided; the southern two-thirds were under Jordanian rule while the northern side was ruled by the Israeli Administration.
After that war, the town was not quite reunited, despite the fence splitting it being removed. Residents of southern Beit Safafa hold Jerusalem ID cards, meaning that their status is like those of Palestinians living in the West Bank while residents of the northern part hold Israeli citizenship. Some of them have “blue-cards,” i.e. are Israeli citizens while others carry “green-cards” and are restricted in their access to the city. Israeli cars have yellow plates while Palestinians have green plates.
With less than 6,000 inhabitants, this is a relatively new town in the area; it is mentioned for the first time by Ottoman records in 1596. Yet, it is much older than the State of Israel. For most of its history, it was a Muslim village.
During the 1922 Census of Palestine, Beit Safafa had a population of 716 Muslims. In 1931, this had changed to 997 Muslims and 24 Christians. Nearby, larger Beit Jala was predominantly Christian. Further south, Bethlehem was the main Christian city in the area. After Israel occupied the area, Palestinian Christians with Israeli citizenship from Nazareth, Jaffa, and Jerusalem moved to the town together with several Jewish families. This created a sweeping shift in the religious composition of the population.
Christians were mistreated by their Zionist allies. On February 7, 2012, the Hand in Hand’s Max Rayne Hebrew-Arabic bilingual school in Beit Safafa and the Greek Monastery of the Cross overlooking the Knesset in Jerusalem were defaced with insulting graffiti signed by Price Tag. “Death to Arabs” and “Kahane was right” was written on a wall outside the school; “Price Tag” and “Greeks out” was written on cars outside the monastery, and “Death to Christians” was written on its walls. The tires of two cars outside the monastery were punctured.
On December 19, 2012, the construction of the stretch of Highway 60 splitting it was begun; an odd Christmas gift to a town with a substantial Christian population.
Bisecting the West Bank
Look at the map. At the left is Jerusalem; the Dead Sea is a bit to the right of the map’s edge. Between the Jewish settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim and the Dead Sea, the terrain is too steep to allow large settlements. Sporadic monasteries dust the powdered ground; training soldiers walk carefully, trying not to sink in the grey dust, so fine that it behaves almost like a liquid.
In sharp contrast, the terrain between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem houses several Palestinian towns. All the names in this area of the map are Palestinian: Anata, Al-Zayam, ‘Izriyah, Abu Dis. E1 is the only unbuilt spot in the area. Once built, it will create Jewish contiguity between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, where one of Israel’s main industrial centers is located.
Once this is achieved, the West Bank will be effectively bisected, splitting the State of Palestine in three non-contiguous zones (Gaza would be the third). If the West Bank is bisected, Palestine would not be viable.
2012: Trunk Road Hits Beit Safafa
The E1 area is the most dramatic manifestation of Israel’s attempt to split the West Bank, but it is not the only one.
Highway 60 between Gilo and Beit Jala
Beit Safafa at the upper side of the map
Israel is building two roads in the Jerusalem area running on the north-south axis. Highway 60 is a trunk road that will divide the West Bank. Highway 50 does the same to Jerusalem, disconnecting Palestinian villages in its vicinity from the West Bank.
Highway 60 is known also as the “Way of the Patriarchs,” since its path appears in the travels of the Biblical patriarchs. It runs along the central watershed, between Beersheba and Nazareth, splitting the West Bank in two. The major stops along its path are Beersheba, Hebron, Gush Etzion, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Afula and Nazareth.
Hebron and Ramallah are major Palestinian cities; thus the highway bypasses them. Near Jerusalem, this road connects Jewish settlements with the city in such a way that settlers can travel through it without passing through Palestinian towns. This is especially true regarding Gush Etzion, a cluster of Jewish settlements south of Jerusalem.
Highway 60 between Gilo and Beit Jala
Gush Etzion enclosed by the Separation Wall, Jerusalem in yellow, Bethlehem in brown
With 70,000 settlers living in 22 settlements, this is the largest Jewish occupied area in the West Bank and is considered by many Israelis a symbol of revival. Several of its villages were founded between 1940 and 1947, and were destroyed during the 1948-1949 War. Following the conquest of the West Bank, Israel decided to settle the area against international law.* The new stretch of Highway 60 will allow these settlers to avoid all Palestinian villages in their way to Jerusalem; mainly at the cost of splitting Beit Safafa.
This road is more important than that. North of Jerusalem it connects with Road 443, creating what is known as the “second corridor.” “Gush Dan,” (Dan’s Block) is the name given to the seven cities occupying central Israel, with Tel Aviv at its center; the metropolis is the financial and commercial center of the country. Gush Dan and Jerusalem are connected by a narrow corridor along Israel’s Highway #1.
This is one of the most strategic fault-lines of the State of Israel. Breaking it apart is a real possibility, especially at a narrow point known as Shaar HaGai (Narrow Valley’s Gate), where Jerusalem’s mountains connect the seashore plains. This is the reason for digging at the site of a railway tunnel (see Reviving Burma Road), which in its Jerusalem stretch will double as a nuclear-bunker.
In parallel, Israel is for years now trying to widen the corridor connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv through the construction of a secondary access road. This is known as Route 443, which links north Jerusalem and the West Bank settlements with the city of Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut and Tel Aviv. In 2013, these roads became one continuum, creating the infamous second corridor.
Highway 50 Northwards
2013: Highway 50 Hits Beit Safafa
London is not a city. Visiting it, one can see that it is a cluster of settlements that united into a metropolis. In contrast, Paris is one urban unity. Jerusalem is like London. There is the Old City, the Palestinian city, Palestinian villages surrounding it, and Jewish settlements built outside the walls since the late 19th Century. All these were artificially unified in one administrative unit.
Proposed Beit Safafa Interchange
Urban Planning For Dummies
Highway 50 grew out of Jerusalem’s Begin Boulevard, named after the former Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The first part of the project, Begin South, started in 1990 and will end in 2015. The entire project will end in 2018. It crosses Jerusalem uniting remote Jewish neighborhoods to the downtown area. Thus, it passes near Beit Safafa.
One of the reasons for the long period of construction is that the road is opposed by Palestinians and environmental organizations. Constructed so that it bypasses Palestinian areas, much of it demands bridges and tunnels that cause long-term environmental damages.
The project is run by the city-owned Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation. It split the project into sections, applying for construction permits separately. It drafted a plan for the Beit Safafa Interchange, but withdrew it after it was requested to perform an environmental impact study.
In the last days of December 2013, it announced that it will bypass the request. It will use the original draft of the project, a general outline proposed in 1990 and based on ideas from the 1980s. Since this was already approved, neither Palestinian denizens nor environmental organizations can submit objections or sue for damages.
The new interchange will connect the tunnel road from Gush Etzion in the West Bank to the Begin highway and the Gilo settlement northeast of Bethlehem, ending the bisection of Beit Safafa with a 12 lanes road. The 1990 plan mentioned a narrower 6-lane road.
After the first draft was proposed and vbefore it was withdrawn, Beit Safafa’s Council approached Court arguing that the road discriminates against Beit Safafa’s denizens because other proposed highways in the city were based on detailed plans that allowed for legal challenges and compensation claims. Jerusalem’s District Court favored the plan, but its ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court. The court has heard the case but has not yet ruled on it. The newly announced approach renders this ruling irrelevant.
“So What? Israel has an ancestral right to build roads,” would be the answer of Zionist readers if I had ended this article in a different way.
The point is simple. The new road isolates the residents of Beit Safafa that don’t have blue-ID cards. They can’t enter Jerusalem easily and from now on will have difficulties to move into the West Bank.
Essentially, Israel is sending them a violent and illegitimate message to leave their homes, a step that violates international law.*
Creating territorial continuity between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion will create a third-corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. That is why this is a strategic project. That is why Israel delays the talks with Palestine while advancing its annexation plans with the precision of an atomic clock. Pretty soon, the latter won’t be a viable State.
Mr. Roy Tov is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.
+ In the 19th Century, Zionist Jews started a coordinated effort to buy lands in the Holy Land. Two organizations are key for understanding the current situation. The Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, literally “Existing Fund for Israel”) was founded in 1901 to buy land in Ottoman Palestine, and afterwards in the British Mandate for Palestine, Israel and the Palestinian territories. It still keeps buying land for Jewish settlements. In 2007, it owned 13% of the total land in Israel. Yet, it doesn’t belong to the State; hence an additional body completes the picture.
Israel Land Authority manages land that is either property of the state or of the Jewish National Fund. It controls 93% of the land, the rest is privately owned or under the protection of religious authorities, mainly the Greek Patriarchate.
Neither the State nor the Jewish National Fund sell lands. The best one can achieve is a lease-for-generations agreement with them. In other words, to rent the land for a century (see Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem sells the City).
* The United Nations Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and most countries (Israel being the obvious exception) agree that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the West Bank. This Convention prevents an occupying power from transferring its own population into occupied territory. Thus, settlements and outposts are both illegal under international law; under Israeli law, settlements are legal and outposts are illegal. Yet, the Israeli government supports both, violating its own laws.