The Palestinian city of Bethlehem lies 6 miles (10km) south of Jerusalem, the two cities sprawling one into the other. Bethlehem governorate is a conurbation of several contiguous towns, including the old city, surrounded by 41 small villages, with a total population of 194,000 Palestinians. There are also now 22 illegal Israeli settlements in Bethlehem governorate plus 22 outposts (outposts are how settlers establish new settlements or expand existing ones).
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967, when it illegally annexed East Jerusalem, the Palestinian capital. In 2002, following the second Intifada (Arabic for Shaking Off), Israel began building the Segregation Wall. This now dominates the landscape of Bethlehem and the lives of its people, cutting them off from East Jerusalem
The Wall has decimated the Palestinian economy and Bethlehem, which was a thriving economic hub, now has the highest unemployment rate in the West Bank (35%).
Outside our apartment there is a constant hum of vehicles queueing for Israeli Checkpoint 300 (Gilo), the main access from Bethlehem to East Jerusalem. Tourist busses come and go full of foreign Christian pilgrims, but West Bank Palestinians can not pass through without a permits which is hard to obtain and often arbitrarily revoked.
Armed Israeli soldiers and security guards check vehicles passing though Checkpoint 300.
The Segregation Wall crossing the Hebron Road into Jerusalem and taxis waiting near the pedestrian entrance to Israeli Checkpoint 300.
The ‘Key of Return’ entrance to Ayda Refugee Camp. Bethlehem has threeRefugees camps, Ayda, Al Aza and Ad Duheisha, which remain home to around 18,000 people – generations of refugees since from 1948 and 1967.