U.S. Readies To Open Jerusalem Embassy
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Tomorrow, the U.S. moves its embassy to Israel, from the city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It's an endorsement of Israel's view that Jerusalem is its capital. That view is not recognized by most of the world because Palestinians also want to establish their own capital in the city. And they say Jerusalem's status should be decided through negotiations. NPR's Daniel Estrin brings us the story now of Palestinians trying to hang on in the city that is their home.
DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: About 40 percent of the population of Jerusalem is Palestinian. Many of the city's Palestinians live behind a concrete wall. It's part of the barrier Israel built during a wave of Palestinian attacks in the 2000s to keep attackers out. This makes for a complicated commute to work for hotel receptionist Raja Tamimi.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR DOOR CLOSING)
ESTRIN: First, she boards a shared taxi at 6 a.m.
RAJA TAMIMI: Now I’m - he will pick us to the checkpoint. After that, I will be at the checkpoint.
ESTRIN: The driver barrels down the wrong lane, past a line of cars waiting to get through. He's just dropping her off.
TAMIMI: It's very dangerous. But if he don't do that, he will not reach here.
ESTRIN: Tamimi gets out of the taxi and faces military guard towers and a tall cement wall covered in graffiti. She tries to flag down a ride through the checkpoint to her job in the Old City. She says her hour-and-a-half morning commute would take 20 minutes if there were no wall or checkpoint here.
TAMIMI: It's not fair. And as you see, I - all the time, I'm hurry. I have to go. It's not normal to go every checkpoint, see this bad view. It's not good.
ESTRIN: She didn't used to live behind a wall. She was renting a home that overlooked the Old City. But Israel provides few building permits to allow Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem to expand, and housing was at a premium. She felt she had few options but to move behind the Israeli barrier, where houses are cheaper.
TAMIMI: I hate to rent and move from this home to this home - house, from this house to this house. It's not easy, and it's not fair. It's not - you don't feel safely. You have all the time think about the future.
ESTRIN: She's considered applying for Israeli citizenship, something many Palestinians scorn as surrendering to an occupier. And Israel often rejects applications anyway. Her 79-year-old father, Akram, also uprooted to the same neighborhood behind the barrier.
AKRAM: We call it a prison, not a life.
ESTRIN: He used to live in a four-story home with a garden on the edge of the city. But in the mid-'90s, the area was deemed to be a part of the West Bank under Palestinian self-rule. If he stayed there, Israel could strip him of his residency rights in Jerusalem and his access to Israeli health insurance and Jerusalem hospitals.
AKRAM: Because of that, I came here just looking for the future health.
ESTRIN: He lives behind the Israeli barrier, where Israeli police don't patrol, where Israeli ambulances don't enter. He has Israeli friends, but they don't visit. A big, red sign at the barrier warns Israelis not to enter. And this area is still inside Jerusalem, the city the U.S. has now recognized as the Israeli capital.
AKRAM: What Jerusalem this? This is very good to animals, not human beings.
ESTRIN: Palestinians want this and other parts of East Jerusalem for a capital of their own. Israel refuses, but President Trump has said the final borders of Jerusalem are subject to negotiation. Israeli lawmaker Michael Oren suggests that President Trump's promised peace plan may require Israel to make concessions.
MICHAEL OREN: All I'm saying is let's be open-minded about it. Let's accept it. Let's discuss it. Do not reject it out of hand, even if it has some aspects that are difficult for us, including aspects relating to Jerusalem.
ESTRIN: Some Israeli lawmakers want to withdraw from parts of East Jerusalem, a way to increase the city's Jewish majority. If Israel does withdraw from Palestinian neighborhoods like this, Raja Tamimi says she'd move again to stay in the city that's her home. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.