Walaja - Lior Mizrahi - March 2012
A view of Walaja from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. Photo by Lior Mizrahi
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Israel Border Police expelled a group of 55 students from Harvard University from a Palestinian village after a confrontation erupted along the separation fence near Jerusalem.

According to Border Police, the confrontation occurred after a bus full of Harvard students who were touring the area began traveling along a route inside the village of Walaja which is intended solely for Israeli security vehicles.

“They arrived on a Palestinian bus and traveled along the route of the fence,” said a Border Police spokesperson, calling the incident a “clear transgression.” The spokesperson also stated that none of the students were detained for question, but were forced to leave the area.

Border Police forces detained the tour leader and Walaja resident Shereen al-Araj for questioning. She was taken to a police base in Atarot and was released on bail after an investigation which lasted several hours.

According to al-Araj, the bus was on the way to look at one of the houses that is slated for demolition so that the security fence can be built. Once the bus arrived at the house, the students exited the bus, only to be met by a private security firm employed to protect bulldozers.

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“The security guards approached us and said that we could not be there because it was a “closed military zone,” despite the fact that Israel’s High Court established that it is not.”

According to al-Araj, the private security guards called the Border Police, which eventually escorted the bus out of the village, but not before taking the I.D. cards of the Palestinian students on the bus, as well as that of the driver.  

The students, who study at the Harvard Kennedy School, were part of a yearly tour to Israel and the West Bank which is put on by the Palestinian Committee.

Read this article in Hebrew