At the first check point near Alteera, there are lanes like you see at toll booth and signs in red: “This road leads to Zone A, entrance to Israeli citizens are forbidden.”
- Since the Israeli occupation began in 1967, Israel has implemented a range of different methods to restrict Palestinian access to land and other resources in the occupied territories.
- With the Oslo Accords – an interim agreement between Israel and the PLO intended to lead to a permanent resolution of the conflict – the West Bank was divided into three areas under different jurisdictions. Since then the West Bank has been divided into what are called Areas A, B, and C. Within these areas the Palestinian and Israeli authorities have different levels of control. The idea was that over time more and more of the responsibilities and powers would be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. This has not happened and because no permanent resolution to the conflict has been reached, the interim situation is still in effect.
- Zone A is under full control of the Palestinian Authority and consists primarily of urban Palestinian areas.
- Zone B is under Palestinian civil control and shared Palestinian and Israeli security control and includes the vast majority of the Palestinian rural areas.
- Zone C is under full Israeli control. Palestinian agencies are responsible for education and healthcare.
Ramallah and the West Bank are in Zone A, meant to administered by the Palestinian civil authority.
Which means, Iman’s husband says wryly, that no one does anything and it’s chaos.
No problem going through into the West Bank. The issue is coming out, when you return to Israeli territory, that’s when the check part of the checkpoint gets fully implemented.
New construction and dismantled construction. All White, or cream colored. Arabic signs for stores like clothing, printers, a grocery store.
We pass the entrances to two refugee camps. They have a big white gate and blue UN signs. The refugees are from Palestinian villages that were within territory that Israel took over.
Or more speicifally according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency http://www.unrwa.org/palestine-refugees
Palestine refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”
Why don’t they integrate into Palestine? Why do they keep their refugee status, I ask.
Because, Iman says, by maintaining their status as refugees, they maintain their inalienable right to return to their villages…
…that no longer exist, I say.
Yes, she says, that no longer exist.
There are over 55 Refugee camps in Palestine.
Two small dark haired boys in white pants stand in the doorway of a white courtyard with crumbling cement blocks.
Q: Why did you choose Ramallah for Ashtar theater?
Iman: Because till 1997, you couldn't put one stone on top of another in Jerusalem; no building permits were issued.
Then when the PLA came to Ramallah, in 1993, after the Oslo Accords, there was an expansion of the city. At that time, there no checkpoints. Ramallah was only 20 minutes door to door from Jerusalem.
After the Second Intifada, everything changed. But at that time when we bought the space for the theater, we didn't know there would be a separation between Old Jerusalem and the West Bank. Nor did we know about checkpoints.
ARRIVING AT ASHTAR
An main room with offices attached, and down a hallway, the theater with a lobby and a multipurpose room with paintings by a graduate from Ashtar’s Drama Training Program which is an an extra curricular after school program. Some of the young graduates are now planning the second annual International Youth Theater festival which starts on June 20.