July 7th 2006
After School I wanted to become a Pilot...
It is hot today. Very hot, like almost every summer day in Jerusalem. Our fully occupied Arab bus is toiling through East Jerusalem's afternoon traffic, before disappearing in the tunnel under Mount Olive. Behind the tunnel the highway winds between Azaryah and Issawyia, two Arab villages, in the distance the Judean desert is spread out. Before it the houses of Ma'ale Adumim become visible, the biggest Israeli settlement in the West Bank. We pass Ma'ale Adumim and get into Azaryah from the other side. All the way between Mount Olive and Azaryah we can observe the building of the Wall parallel to the road.
In Azaryah the heat gets even more oppressive. The lane to the hill on which the Jahalin live is dusty, in the air hangs the smell of burnt garbage. On top of the hill I find protection from the burning sun in a hut composed of corrugated iron and boards. Inside three young men are waiting for me - three cousins -, and Saleh, the interpreter. They have made themselves comfortable on worn-out sofas and matresses, the TV plays repetitions of yesterday's World Cup matches. I am welcomed, news are exchanged, and we talk shop on the World Cup. I introduce myself once again, tell the boys that I do this Alternative Service abroad instead of military service in Germany. Then I explain my present interest: that I wish to learn something about their personal situation, e.g. if they have jobs, may be in Ma'ale Adumim, the neighbouring Israeli settlement. Many of the young men from Azaryah and of th Jahalin work there, and I have already heard of the difficulties of getting a Job there and of the job conditions. For me, however, it is important to hear it from them personally and to publish it for the people in Germany to get informed. Eventually the TV is silenced, attention is drawn to the microphone that I have placed on a stool in the middle. We are ready to start.
What are your names, what and where do you work?
Farraj: My name is Farraj Abu Galia, Jahalin, and I am out of work.
Yiachia: I am Yiachia Suleiman Abu Galia, Jahalin. I have just finished school.
Mahmoud: My name is Mahmoud Abu Galia, Jahalin. I have a job cleaning stairs in Ma'ale Adumim.
Farraj, have you always been out of work after school?
Farraj: I am not allowed to work in Ma'ale Adumim, it is forbidden. They decide, the military. They may like you and give you a permit, or they may refuse the permit, without any reason given. For security reasons.
How exactly does that work? You need a permit? Where do you get it?
Farraj: Permit? I have got one! But still I may not work. Just so.
Mahmoud: The same thing may happen to me any time. I do not know how long I will be able to work there. Maybe they soon tell me, without a reason, that I am no more allowed to come.
Farraj: You have to apply for a magnet card at the Israeli Military Administration, and there are strict requirements. They take prints of all your fingers. If you are lucky, you get your permit a month later. But even with that you cannot always work. I have all the papers and still I am not allowed.
Mahmoud: Eventually the soldiers at the entrance of Ma'ale Adumim decide wo may come in and who not.
Is it true that any adult inhabitant of Ma'ale Adumim is permitted to ask someone like Mahmoud for his permit?
Mahmoud: That's true. They would never employ me if I could not show a permit. None of the caretakers would even talk to me as long as I had not shown my permit.
How long are you working in Ma'ale Adumim?
Mahmoud: Since three years.
What exactly is your work?
Mahmoud: I clean the stairs in multy-story buildings.
How often in a week do you go to work there?
Mahmoud: Every day from four to 11 o'clock in the morning.
How much do you earn?
Mahmoud: Depends on your diligence. I can do six to seven stairwells a day. For each stairwell I get about 200 NIS (ca 36.- EUR) per month. But I have to clean them at least twice a week, makes eight times a month.
Do you work alone there, or together with colleagues?
Mahmoud: Alone. I go to the houses, where I have to work, and start. In each house there is a caretaker with whom I arrange the dates for cleaning.
How do the people of Ma'ale Adumim treat you? How do you see them?
Mahmoud: They are different. Some are polite to me, some not.
Have you met with nasty treatment?
Mahmoud: Only by the military and the police; and the secret service.
Farraj: They control us. If you have a permit or not, they check you. You are always under suspicion. ... everything you want is suspicious. You are searched.
How do you see the people of Ma'ale Adumim?
Mahmoud: They respect us as long as they need us. As long as they have an advantage from us.
Yiachia: It is a situation blackmailing us to work there. If we had other chances, we would not go there at all.
Is there nothing for you here in Azaryah?
Farraj: Unfortunately not. There are simply no jobs here.
Did you three finish school?
Farraj: I dropped out after 9th year.
Mahmoud: I did my graduation.
Yiachia: I finished school, but failed graduation.
Time ago, did you have a dream of what you wanted to become? A childhood dream perhaps?
Farraj: I wanted to become a pilot.
Mahmoud: My dream was being a football professional.
Yiachia: I wanted to become a shepherd. To roam the country with a big herd.
You three are Jahalin bedouins. Do you still remember the life before you came to this hill?
Alle: Of course we do.
Where did you live then?
Mahmoud: Exactly where Ma'ale Adumim is now.
Is it important for you, Mahmoud, that you work there now?
Mahmoud: It reminds me of my childhood.
What is now at this place?
Mahmoud: The place where we lived is now a Street and a University beside.
How long did you live there?
Mahmoud: Till 1997.
Can you remember how you had to leave the area? How did that happen?
Farraj: First they beat the children, to make the parents afraid. To make us go voluntarily.
Yiachia: I myself was beaten. By the soldiers, who came to expel us.
Mahmoud: When there was press coverage, they behaved politely. But as soon as the cameras were gone, the beating started again.
Farraj: They came for each family. One family after the other was thus expelled.
Do you have any form of contact to youths of Ma'ale Adumim?
Mahmoud: No. they don't want Arab friends. That's what they are like. When they want something from somebody, they make friends, but after that they quickly forget that friendship.
What will happen once the Wall is finished also from the other side?
Farraj: Whatever will happen? We trust in Allah.
Mahmoud: What can we do?
But will you still be able to get to Ma'ale Adumim?
Mahmoud: It is not only Ma'ale Adumim. The Problem will be much bigger, as we won't be able to go anywhere. We will live in a prison.
Farraj: Only who'll be allowed by the Israelis will be able to get out of this prison.
When did you go to Jerusalem the last time?
Farraj: Yesterday. Although I don't have a permit for Jerusalem. I did not cross by the checkpoint, but made a detour.
Mahmoud: If I get caught in Jerusalem without a permit, they'll again take my fingerprints. Then I won't get another work permit. It is very risky. Three days ago two young men of a neighbouring bedouin tribe were shot dead near this place, when they tried to get to Jerusalem on a back way. The soldiers saw them from their watch tower and shot them.
What exactly hapens to you when you get caught in Jerusalem without a permit?
Farraj: One has to pay a fine, 2500 NIS (ca 450.- EUR). That has to be paid on the spot. Besides you are charged, and have to pay a lawyer.
Mahmoud: And from that day on you are not allowed to go to Israel any more, including Jerusalem. You won't get any more permits.
What kind of feeling is it to get to Jerusalem on that risk, when perhaps you have to go there?
Mahmoud: I wonder what happens here. My brother lives in Jerusalem, but I'm not allowed to go there. Even if you get a permit for one day, e.g. to go to hospital, maybe it happens you exceed the prescribed hours of the permit. When they get you, you sleep in prison, not in hospital. And next time you won't get a permit, no matter if you need the hospital. It is a strange feeling to live in such circumstances.
What are your wishes and ideas for the future?
Yiachia: I'm hoping for peace.
Farraj: Which peace? There is no hope for peace. The atmosphere here doesn't indicate any peace.
Farraj: Are there any German soldiers in Iraq?
No, but in Afghanistan.
Farraj: What's their business there?
That's what I'm asking myself, too. Maybe we can talk about that in detail another time, for that I would like to have more time with you. Let's come together for that another time. One last question: Who'll win the World Cup?
Farraj: Brazil or Argentine.
Mahmoud: No, after the match yesterday I'm sure France will kick out Brazil. We will see ...
Fotos, Text and Interview: Jonas Calabrese
Translation: Wolfgang Wiemers, July 7, 2006