Palestinian Neighborhood, Abandoned by Jerusalem, Paves Its Own Road

Residents of Ras Khamis, located beyond the separation barrier, take matters into their own hands after years of neglect by the municipality.

The construction of a road in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras Khamis, April 11, 2016.
Jamil Sanduka

Despairing that the Jerusalem municipality would never do it, residents of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras Khamis, next to the Shoafat refugee camp, collected money to pave themselves a new road.

Ras Khamis is one of the neighborhoods around Shoafat that is within the municipal borders of Jerusalem, but beyond the separation barrier. Since completing the fence over a decade ago, the city has almost completely stopped providing services to residents.

The infrastructure in the neighborhood has severely deteriorated, and the residents suffer from a lack of roads and sewage pipes, only partial water supply, partial garbage collection and other ills. In recent years, a number of youths from the area formed a local council to act on different subjects on behalf of residents. In recent months it has begun the project of paving a new road between Ras Khamis and the nearby Anata neighborhood.

The residents collected some two million shekels ($531,000), and paid contractors — themselves local residents — directly. The broad new road stretches two kilometers with drainage and sewage infrastructure, also paid for at their own expense, laid beneath.

“Someone paid 50, another paid 100, and we did it on our own,” said Jamil Sanduka, a member of the council. One resident contributed 130,000 shekels for the project. “What are we to do? You’ve got to live. The state tossed us out. They just keep collecting municipal taxes. So what choice do we have? To let our children grow up amid garbage?”

In light of the project’s success, residents began paving an additional road in the neighborhood as well as starting a project for self-collection of garbage.

“The Jerusalem neighborhoods located beyond the wall have suffered for years neglect by all the municipal and governmental authorities, although they are entitled by law to all services and infrastructure,” added attorney Anne Suciu of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “Despite the government decision a decade ago that promised that the wall’s construction wound not hurt residents, in practice its commitments have remained on paper, and the residents live in inhuman conditions. The residents are forced to look after themselves because the authorities have totally shaken off this area.”

Half a year ago, following a petition by the Ir Amim non-governmental organization, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the city was obliged to quickly move forward with a plan to pave roads in Kafr Aqab, another Palestinian neighborhood located beyond the separation barrier north of Jerusalem.