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Jerusalem Barrier Causes Major Upheaval
Palestinians who seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip see east Jerusalem as their future capital, but the barrier cuts it off from the West Bank. "The official text is security," said Menachem Klein, a Jerusalem expert and former Israeli peace negotiator. "The subtext is to demolish east Jerusalem as the metropolis of the West Bank."
The city does not have numbers on migration, but officials believe thousands have moved.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 64 of 981 Jerusalem area families questioned in a survey this summer said they moved in the past four years because of the barrier.
In A-Tur, an Arab neighborhood of 28,000 on the biblical Mount of Olives, dozens of families have moved in every year for the past four years, Arab officials said. The influx has strained already overburdened local services, particularly schools, said Nazeeh Ansari, a community organizer.
Ansari, who speaks fluent Hebrew, escaped the overcrowding by moving his family to the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev. He got a mortgage on a $170,000 three-bedroom apartment, cheaper than in a nearby Arab neighborhood, where housing prices have doubled and all transactions are done in cash.
Jerusalem historically has tended to segregate itself into religious and ethnic quarters, and the Ansaris are just of a few dozen Arab families in Pisgat Zeev, but the trend is picking up, said Kimhi.
In A-Tur, many of the returnees have squeezed into their parents' homes, leaving behind apartments in the satellite community of Azzaim on an adjacent West Bank hill, now cut off by the barrier. About one-fourth of Azzaim's 4,000 residents have left, said Mayor Adnan Subeh, who also resettled in A-Tur.
Accountant Ali Abul Hawwa, 68, said he spent his retirement benefits on building an apartment in A-Tur, after abandoning his home in Azzaim.
He said he moved to avoid barrier hassles and to secure the benefits that come with Jerusalem residency status, such as national health insurance. Tarek Muna, a 35-year-old U.N. employee, cited the same motives in locking up his villa in the suburb of Bir Naballah and moving into a $500-a-month two-bedroom apartment in noisy downtown Wadi Joz.
The barrier has perhaps been hardest on some 60,000 Arabs who live within city limits but have been "walled out."
Some 25,000 residents in Kufr Aqeb on Jerusalem's northern tip have to cross the Qalandia terminal, built into a 25-foot wall.
ID cards in hand, they wait at metal turnstiles. When green lights come on, the turnstiles unlock to allow a few people through at a time. After placing their belongings in scanners, pedestrians pass through metal detectors, show ID cards to inspectors in glass booths, go through two more turnstiles, and come out on the "Jerusalem" side.