Wadi al-Joz, meaning “Valley of Walnuts”, is a Palestinian neighbourhood located northeast of the Old City of occupied Jerusalem. Overlooking the Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley, Wadi al-Joz was once the city’s industrial zone until the First and then the Second Intifada. The area is under the jurisdiction of Israeli civil law under the Jerusalem Municipality. As with many neighbourhoods in the area surrounding the Old City, Wadi al-Joz is experiencing severe challenges with the 2009 approved ‘Master Zone Plan’ and the subsequent aggressive expansion of Jewish presence in the area.
Until the 19th century, Wadi al-Joz was Meri land tenure, meaning Ottoman State Lands which were cultivated by private individuals. The right to cultivate was passed on through generations of families. This drew some of the wealthiest Palestinian families in Jerusalem to spend the summer there tending their lands. Later in the 20th century many families moved permanently to the neighbourhood.1
Due to its large open space and proximity to the Old City, many refugees and rural migrants moved to Wadi al-Joz following the 1948 Nakba. Israeli forces occupied and illegally annexed Wadi al-Joz after the June war of 1967 and when they rezoned the area as a ‘Green Zone’. This significantly hampered the possibility of residential and commercial development and decreased property values in the area.2 Ribhi al-Khatib, the former president of (the Palestinian) Jerusalem municipality, moved the industrial zone from Nablus road into Wadi al-Joz to expand the central bus station that was there. Thus, Wadi al-Joz witnessed an economic boom in the early 1980s as several garage owners, enticed by the neighbourhood’s low rent, opened shops there.3 The residents of Wadi al-Joz played an active role in the first intifada, with several of the small businesses in the area closing down regularly due to strikes and civil disobedience. Between 2000 and 2004 the area’s economic growth was hampered following the start of the Second Intifada and the isolation of several West Bank neighbouring villages from Jerusalem.
Wadi al-Joz is considered an economic and industrial hub for Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem, however it hosts only limited types of industry, mainly car repair. It is the site of several garages, businesses and shops as well as several Palestinian and international organisations which have offices in the area.3
The Jerusalem Master Plan
Wadi al-Joz faced several challenges shared by most Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, but one of its main challenges continues to be the Jerusalem Master Plan, approved by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee in June 2009. Aimed at expanding the Jewish presence in al-Quds, the plan oversees the destruction of Palestinian vegetable markets and stores, the confiscation of Palestinian land, and the construction of a new hotel on their ruins. 5
The Annexation and Expansion Wall
Neighbourhoods not physically affected by the construction of the Annexation Wall still experience its heavy impact indirectly. Its construction has resulted in the separation of the Palestinian economy in occupied Jerusalem from that of the West Bank. Consequently, many Arab and Palestinian clients started taking their business to industrial zones in the West Bank offering cheaper services. This caused a major dent to the Palestinian economy in Wadi al-Joz in particular and occupied Jerusalem in general.6
The water issue
The Wadi al-Joz Neighbourhood suffers from the water issue. The whole neighbourhood, which has thousands of Jerusalemites living there, is linked only to two old main lines that are inadequate to provide the area with the required amount of water. Also, there’s a huge shortage in the required number of water meters. Mohammad Abu Sneineh, the lawyer of al-Quds Centre for legal assistance and human rights, affirmed that there are more than 50 houses in the area linked to only one water meter, which means a huge decrease in pumping of the required amount of water needed for the number of citizens in the neighbourhood.
To make it even worse, Jihon, the Israeli water company, restricted the amount of water allowed per person, and if this amount exceeds the restricted amount, the company will impose high fines that may be more than 6000 shekels against the families. Moreover, Jihon uses intimidating tactics to procure payment of water bills and deliver the fines. For example, they send military vehicles and many soldiers and impose a high price of water (as much as 14 shekels per cup of water).7
Shortage of reserved lands allocated for building and the national park “Emik Tsurim” Project
The occupation municipality is still developing many plans for the Palestinian villages and neighbourhoods in order to restrict the urban expansion Palestinians and to expand colonisation and settlement-building. Because the occupation municipality allocated a severely limited percentage of lands for building in the planned areas of Wadi al-Joz, new necessary Palestinian construction was often not formally approved and now faces demolitino threats.
On the other hand, the other areas, which aren’t included in the plans, are crowded. Also, 39 donums of the neighbourhood’s lands, which are crowded with houses and shops, were included in Emik Tsurim National park plan. Yet, the plan has not been implemented until today. This park was planned to serve “Israeli citizens” and tourists without even considering the minimum basic needs of the Jerusalemites for building. According to the plan, Palestinians are not allowed to pass through the park or use it for entertainment as the park is not linked to surrounding Palestinian neighbourhoods and there is a cement wall separating it from the residential areas. 8