The Expansion of Ma'ale Adumim Colony and the Expulsion of Jahalin
Last Updated 24 February 1997
Ma'ale Adumim is the largest Israeli colony in the West Bank with a population of approximately 25,000 and plans for many more in the near future. It is located in the center of the West Bank, 4.5 kilometers to the east of East Jerusalem (Map 1). The colony's planning scheme, which was finalized in 1983, sets Ma'ale Adumim borders to an area of approximately 35 square kilometers. Of these, only 3.7 square kilometers have been built so far, representing the colonies of Ma'ale Adumim, Mishor Adumim, Kfar Adumim, and Allon (Map 2). Several new areas are currently under construction south of the present Ma'ale Adumim, and several parts of the planned colony will be built on areas previously declared by Israel as 'closed military areas'. Map 2 shows the existing and planned construction in the Ma'ale Adumim area.
Ma'ale Adumim was originally founded by a tiny group of settlers in 1976, but did not begin to expand significantly until 1982. It was at this time that the Israeli government declared the area to be 'State Land' [CLICK HERE for Chronological Events], in spite of the legal ownership of the Palestinian residents of Abu-Dies. From 1982 onwards, as the colony was prepared by successive Israeli governments and massive state subsidies, the Jahalin Bedouin who had been living there were ordered and physically transferred to another, greatly inferior site which was declared as unfit for human habitation by Israeli environmentalists (Photo1, Photo2)
Despite being 4.5 kilometers from Jerusalem, Ma'ale Adumim has been promoted as the new eastern limit of the city. Ma'ale Adumim is also slated to be the limit of the newly-conceived 'Greater Jerusalem', which is an Israeli plan to annex an enormous area of the West Bank and to confirm its 1967 annexation of Arab East Jerusalem (Map 3). The Israeli insistence upon complete Jewish control over all of Jerusalem has ensured the special significance of Ma'ale Adumim's expansion. Israel's barely-disguised plan is to surround the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem (which numbers around 160,000 people) with Jewish settlement, thus legitimising Jewish sovereignty over the entire Jerusalem area (Map 4). In turn, the natural expansion of Palestinian areas is curtailed by the confiscation of Palestinian land and the arrival of still more Jewish settlement. This plan enjoys the support not only of the Likud government but also of the Labor party. Yitzhak Rabin's Knesset speech detailing the latest stage of the Oslo Agreement, delivered less than a month before his death, made clear both the commitment of the Israeli government to Ma'ale Adumim and its place in a wider scheme for Jewish settlement which would effectively divide the West Bank into two. The Mayor of Ma'ale Adumim, Benny Kashriel, has himself confirmed that "the political leadership in Israel is determined to take part in the growth of our city and have pledged their support to promote Ma'aleh Adumim."
The Land of Israel Front, a recently established Israeli parlimentary lobby composed of 17 Knesset members, is calling for the building on an area between Ma'ale Adumim settlement and the East Jerusalem, called E-1 (see map 2). The project, which was approved by the Ma'ale Adumim municipality and the planning body in the Israeli Civil Administration, proposes the construction of some 1,400 housing units,and seven hotels with 3,000 hotel rooms.
According to the Israeli The Jerusalem Post, "By building this project, Israel will not only be creating a territorial link between the capital [Jerusalem] and the largest settlement in the territories [Ma'ale Adumim], but will -perhaps even more importantly- prevent a territorial link between Bethlehem and Ramallah. A territorial link is necessary for the establishment of a Palestinian state... Anything preventing this will make it difficult to create a Palestinian state" (Friday, 21 February 1997).
The Jahalin Bedouin, who have been living on the site of Ma'ale Adumim since the early 1950s after their forced transfer from the 'Arad area in the Negev, have enjoyed a mixed relationship with the Israeli settlement. When the first construction began in earnest in 1982, some Bedouin (who have traditionally been non-political) supplemented their income by working on the new building sites. However, the expansion of Ma'ale Adumim has gradually ensured the displacement of nearly all the Jahalin; and those of the tribe still remaining in their original homes are now protesting fervently against Israel's threatened confiscation.
The land on which the Jahalin have been living belongs to Palestinian landowners in the neighbouring village of Abu-Dies. However, since Israel declared the area to be 'State land' in 1982, the claims of these landowners, let alone the Jahalin, have been dismissed. Israel is pursuing its claim to the land even though the Jahalin's lawyers have been able to establish serious irregularities in the procedures by which the area was made State land. The fight to save the remaining Jahalin, or at least to ensure that they are properly and fully compensated for the loss of their homes, continues to date in the Israeli High Court [Requested Compensations].
Ma'ale Adumim exemplifies both the immediate human cost of Israeli settlement programs, and the long-term political ambitions which the state of Israel is pursuing in the Occupied Territories.
More information on the legal fight of the Jahalin
Eye Witness of the Jahalin Eviction Process (27 January 1997), including 7 photos