Located northwest of Jerusalem, al-Jib takes its name from the ancient Canaanite town of Jibeon, meaning ‘hill.’ Once known for its fertile lands, the village has become a closed rural enclave surrounded on all sides by the Annexation Wall and Jewish colonies. Four communities are trapped inside: al-Jdeira, Beit Hanina al Balad, Bir Nabala and al-Jib.3 The settlements of Giva’at Ze’ev and Giv’on surround the town from the west and Har Shmuel settlement from the south. To the north, separated through two barriers, it borders the villages of Rafat and Beituniya. To the northwest of the village there is a checkpoint built in 2006 which blocks al-Jib’s residents from reaching al-Khalayleh neighbourhood.4
The history of al-Jib village dates back to around 3300 or 3000 BC. The present village was the site of an important Canaanite city during the Bronze and Iron ages. Remnants of the Canaanite city have been found on a hill known as Tal al-Jib which dominates the valley. In 1956, James Pritchard, an American archeologist, discovered 56 jar handles inscribed with the Semitic Triliteral gb'n in the village. The hill is 160,000 meters2, commanding two plains. The ancient Jerusalem-Jaffa road cuts bisects it.
Known in the Old Testament as ‘Ayalon Valley,’ meaning “the valley of deer,” the eastern plain contains the historic spring of the village, ‘Ein al-Balad’ or ‘Ein al-Natuf,’ These plains were extensively cultivated in the past and constituted the breadbasket of al-Jib, which is famous for the cultivation of snake-cucumber, vegetables and olives. Now, however, the Israeli settlements of Giv’at Ze’ev, Giv’on and Giv’on Hadasha, established in the 1980s west of the village, as well as the Annexation Wall have nullified the historic role of plains.”3
Al-Jib is also home to several archaeological sites such as the ancient water pool, the Byzantine church, the oil mills, and the ancient caves. Al-Jib originally covered an area of 9000 dunums, two-thirds of which were agricultural lands. During the 1990s, al-Jib enjoyed an economic boom due to its central location between Ramallah and Jerusalem. This location made the town a meeting place for Palestinian merchants from the West Bank and contributed to the prosperity of businesses there.5 The prosperity lasted well into the years of the Second Intifada but ended almost overnight in 2006 with the construction of the wall that encircled the town and completely detached it from Occupied Jerusalem.6
The four plains that surround the village were traditionally used for agriculture. Since the erection of the Annexation Wall, the village has been cut off from the its traditional market in Jerusalem which has put significant economic pressure on the residents.
According to the al-Jib Centre for Women and Children, al-Jib relied on the Jerusalem market to sell their agricultural produce but the restrictions have severely impacted this income stream. This, and the fact residents cannot freely enter Jerusalem or the territories occupied in 1948, is driving increasing unemployment rates in al-Jib, forcing migration out of al-Jib to other areas in the West Bank.
In addition, Israel's continuous excavations in the village following the occupation in 1967 have led the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MOCIP) to add it to the list of Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites in the West Bank Governorates. A project to repair and restore these sites was launched by the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange during the Second Intifada.8
Land Confiscation and Colonial Expansion
Most of the village's agricultural lands, nearly 3000 dunums, have been confiscated for the construction and expansion of the Israeli colonies, Givat Ze'ev, Giv’on and Giv’on Hadasha. Additional land was confiscated for construction of the annexation wall. The land confiscation hinders the natural growth of the Palestinian village as a population of 5,700 is forced to live in an ever-shrinking area.
The Annexation and Expansion Wall
Following the construction of the Annexation Wall, the villagers were separated from approximately 3000 dunums of their agricultural land where they once freely cultivated olive trees, figs and grapes. Today, villagers require permits from the Israeli occupation forces to tend and harvest their crops.
The wall has also separated al-Jib and nearby villages from Jerusalem. Although the village itself has not moved in the past 15 years, a trip to Jerusalem that once took mere minutes now takes hours - that is, if residents are able to obtain permits from the occupation’s administration. Since the construction of the 443 bypass road linking Modi’in colony to Jerusalem as well as the Annexation Wall, residents are forced to head northeast, away from the city centre, to Qalandia checkpoint in order to reach Jerusalem.
Freedom of Movement
Until 2006, al-Jib, Bir Nabala, al-Jdeira and Beit Hanina enjoyed relative prosperity as commercial hubs by serving merchants from Ramallah, Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Residents of Jerusalem kept homes in these villages because of the lower rent and easy access to the two major urban centres. Yet today, these villages form an enclave surrounded by the Annexation Wall. They have been cut off from Jerusalem and a single tunnel was dug under the wall to provide access to Ramallah. Since then, residents wanting to travel to Jerusalem have to traverse a military checkpoint at the northwestern end of the enclave; they may spend hours waiting at the checkpoint uncertain whether they will be allowed entry. This has caused an exodus of Jerusalemites from these villages. Today, the population is almost entirely Palestinian West Bank ID holders.9
The flow of contaminated waste water from surrounding colonies into the agricultural lands of al-Jib has led to irreparable environmental damage and the destruction of crops. Over 150 dunums were destroyed because of the bad odors and toxic gases. The landowners in the village stated that this flow would destroy all their agricultural crops, and that, even if they stopped pumping wastewater, it will take many years until it can be remedied due to high levels of salt in the land. Many cases of skin disease have been caused by the pollution.10 Residents have tirelessly demanded a solution but settlement waste water continues to flow untreated onto al-Jib's agricultural lands.
Development and Planning
Construction is permitted only in Area B, which constitutes only 12% of the village territories, forcing internal and vertical urban expansion.11 This contributes to poor urban planning for the community’s growth and places extra pressure on an insufficient infrastructure system.