al-’Eisawiyah is a Palestinian village located northeast of Jerusalem’s Old City with the Bedouin communities of al-’Eizriyah and Arab al-Ka’abneh to the east, Anata and Shu’fat to the north, and a-’Zayim to the south. The jurisdiction of the village is split between the Jerusalem occupation municipality and Area C. The occupation authorities continue to expropriate village lands for Jewish colonies, the Annexation Wall and a ‘national park.’ Due to its support for Palestinian liberation over the years, the village is subject to frequent raids, closures and the arrest of its minors.
al-’Eisawiyah was founded 900 years ago, but it is not clear from where it got its name. Some sources claim the name means “Jesus Christ (Issa in Arabic) and his apostles sat,” while others argue it was named after King Issa al-Ayoubi. The origins of some of al-’Eisawiyah residents can be traced to tribes from the Arab Peninsula who migrated to the village centuries ago, while others came from present-day Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan.1 Al-’Eisawiyah has several archaeological sites including old Roman cisterns.2 After the Nakba, al-’Eisawiyah fell under Jordanian jurisdiction. After the Naksa, it was divided into two parts: 30% falling inside ‘Greater Jerusalem’s borders; and the other 70%, consisting of agricultural lands, becoming Area C of the West Bank.3
al-’Eisawiyah has recently gained prominence in international media following the heroic hunger strike of Palestinian political prisoner Samer Issawi.10 During his hunger-strike, which lasted over 270 days, residents of al-’Eisawiyah organised protests in the village in support of Samer. Israeli occupation forces typically responded by raiding the village and firing sound bombs and rubber bullets. The forces destroyed the tent protest residents built over 60 times.11 Samer’s perseverance as well as the village’s resilient support and the popular mobilisations throughout Palestine forced the Israeli occupation to release him, prompting unprecedented celebrations in the village.12 There are also a number of local civil societies active in the village such as the al-’Eisawiyah Community Centre, al-’Eisawiyah Youth Forum, and The Women's Centre.
al-’Eisawiyah is also famous for its ancient Carob tree which overlooks the village from the south. The tree is thought to be 700 years old. Residents venerate the tree and string lights up around it twice weekly and on religious occasions. In years of drought, residents pray for rain under its foliage.13
Land Consification and Settlement Expansion
Since its occupation in 1967, large swaths of al-’Eisawiyah’s lands have been confiscated for the expansion of colonies, construction of bypass roads, and the establishment of military bases. 7,000 dunums, 70% of the village. was isolated by Annexation Wall. There is a plan by the occupation authority to build a ‘national park’ which will expropriate another 450 dunams of al-’Eisawiyah’s land according to the spokesperson for the Popular Committee to Protect al-’Eisawiyah. The Mount Scopus Slopes ‘national park’ plan is the latest example of the gradual land expropriation policy which began in 1967 and continues to segregate Palestinian towns and neighbourhoods in Jerusalem while connecting and expanding Israeli colonies.14 It will also prevent Palestinians from building schools and houses to account for the population’s natural growth.20
The plan, temporarily frozen in October 2013 due to international pressure, would cut off the only space in which al-’Eisawiyah and a-Tur, on the Mount of Olives, can expand.15 Hundreds of dunums of al-’Eisawiyah's lands have already been expropriated by Israel for the benefit of building the so-called "national park' and for use as a dump for solid waste.16
Both projects aim to connect the E1 zone and the Ma’aleh Adumim colony with Jerusalem while isolating Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, preventing Palestinian territorial continuity, and cutting off al-’Eisawiyah from Shu’fat and Anata.17
Part and parcel of what can be termed "environmental colonialism,” the national park threatens Palestinians' homes in al-’Eisawiyah with demolition, prevents development in the village, and further fragments Palestinian communities in the city. It should be pointed out that even the occupation's Environmental Protection minister acknowledges that the planned park in al-’Eisawiyah has no environmental or archeological significance.18
Similar to all Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, the Israeli occupation authorities systematically reject al-’Eisawiyah residents’ applications for building permits on their own lands. The authorities use the excuse that building permits must be issued according to neighbourhood master plans that do not exist, but at the same time the occupation authorities refrain from creating these plans in the first place, leading to a serious housing problem.19 In al-’Eisawiyah, due to the price of the building permits as well as the difficult process of obtaining permission to renovate or build from the Israeli authorities, 90% of the homes in al 'Eisawiyah are built “illegally,” without a proper permit.
However, despite constant threats of home demolitions and denial of building permits, al-’Eisawiyah’s residents remain steadfast.
Shortage of Civil Society Organisations
Despite the valiant work of a few local, self-sustained initiatives, the village suffers from extreme marginalisation and a shortage of social services by civil society organisations to meet the needs of its growing population.
Assaults and Arrests
Many of al-’Eisawiyah’s residents are strongly involved in the resistance against the occupation and are continuously subjected to arbitrary arrests, and frequent raids of their homes as well as closures and collective punishment of the entire village.21 22 23