Umm Laysun is a Palestinian community located southeast of Jerusalem near Jabal al-Mukaber and Sur Baher. It is bordered by the colony of East Talpiyot to the west; the municipal boundary of Jerusalem to the east; and two valleys of Wadi a-Darajeh to the north and south. The northern valley, known by the residents as Wadi al-Joz, separates Umm Laysun from the neighbouring village of a-Sawahrah, while the southern valley, known as Wadi al-Hummus, separates it from Sur Baher. Umm Laysun was occupied and illegally annexed to the occupation’s Jerusalem municipality in 1967 and has since suffered from a severe shortage of basic services and infrastructure.
Umm Laysun is considered part of Sur Baher, along with areas of al-Obeidiyeh, Ghzayel and Wadi al-Hummus. It was established in the 1950s by residents of Bethlehem’s al-Obeidiyeh who migrated north to work in Jerusalem and bought lands from Sur Baher residents.
While community members estimate the number of Umm Laysun residents to be at 1,500, Bimkom puts put the number at 3,000.2 The origin of its inhabitants go back to a Bedouin Ubaydi tribe whose inhabitants still maintain a relationship with the tribe outside of Jerusalem. Some families still bury their families in tombs located in the areas that are under the Palestinian Authority. All Umm Laysun residents hold Jerusalem IDs.
Umm Laysun is home to a prominent women's association called the Emleson Society.3 The association manages several educational, cultural and social activities while also providing Palestinian-Jerusalemite women with the means to be economically independent.
The Emleson Society was founded to help families and address the inadequate institutions for women in the community. It began in 1992 when a group of women from the society came together to establish a kindergarten in one of their homes. In 1994, the society was registered as an official organisation and has since expanded to work with communities across southern Jerusalem by establishing kindergartens and orphanages and helping women achieve financial stability.
Lack of services and infrastructure
There is no sewage network in Umm Laysun which has caused a series of environmental and medical problems. Only 20 houses in the village are connected to the Occupation Municipality’s sewage system.4 In 2005, residents came together to dig a cesspit. Since then, the Jerusalem occupation municipality issued a demolition order for it and demanded the residents apply for building permits. Although the order was overturned in court and the residents were allowed to keep their ad-hoc sewage-pit, basic services are still systematically denied. As is the case across Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, the residents are unable to obtain building permits. The lack of urban planning and coincident overcrowding pose significant threats to the livelihood of the community members.5
In December 2010, the Jerusalem occupation municipality planned to build 180 settlement units near Umm Laysun which would lead to the confiscation of lands belonging to the residents of Umm Laysun and Jabal al-Mukaber while expanding the colonial presence in the area.6
There is only one entrance to the village that people which is dangerous and crowded. Since 2005, residents have demanded amending the entrance to make it safer and wider; however, while their request was approved in 2012, it has yet to be fixed.7