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This article is about the Palestinian village south of Jerusalem. For the battle during the Arab invasion of Persia, see Battle of Walaja.
Other transcription(s)
 • Arabic الولجة
 • Also spelled al-Walaje (official)
al-Walaja is located in the Palestinian territories
Location of al-Walaja within the Palestinian territories
Coordinates: 31°43′52.47″N 35°09′49.00″E / 31.7312417°N 35.1636111°E / 31.7312417; 35.1636111Coordinates: 31°43′52.47″N 35°09′49.00″E / 31.7312417°N 35.1636111°E / 31.7312417; 35.1636111
Governorate Bethlehem
Founded 1949
 • Type Village Council
 • Head of Municipality Saleh Hilmi Khalifa
 • Jurisdiction 17,709 dunams (17.7 km2 or 6.8 sq mi)
Population (2007)
 • Jurisdiction 2,041

al-Walaja or Al Walaja (Arabic: الولجة‎) is a Palestinian village in the West Bank, four kilometers northwest of Bethlehem City. It is an enclave in the Seam Zone, near the Green Line. al-Walaja is partly under the jurisdiction of the Bethlehem Governorate and partly of the Jerusalem Municipality. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the village had a population of 2,041 mostly Muslim inhabitants in 2007.[1]

al-Walaja was depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, in October 1948.[2] It lost about 70% of its land, west of the Green Line. After the war, the displaced inhabitants resettled on the remaining land in the West Bank. After the Six-Day War, Israel annexed about half of al-Walaja's remaining land, including the neighborhood Ain Jawaizeh, to the Jerusalem Municipality. Large parts of the land were confiscated for the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier and the Israeli settlements of Har Gilo and Gilo, one of the Ring Neighborhoods of Jerusalem.


In 1596, al-Walaja appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Quds of the Liwa of Quds. It had a population of 100 Muslim households and 9 bachelors and paid taxes on wheat, barley, summercrops, vines or fruit trees, and goats or beehives.[3]

During the latter half of Ottoman rule, al-Walaja was the administrative seat of the Bani Hasan subdistrict (nahiya) (which consisted of over ten villages, including al-Khader, Suba, Beit Jala, Ayn Karim and al-Maliha), and served as the throne village of the al-Absiyeh family.[4] In the late 19th century, al-Walaja was described as a "good-sized" village built of stone.[5] Between 1922 and 1947, under the British Mandate, the population doubled.[6]

Arabic الولجة
Also spelled al-Walaje, el-Welejeh
Subdistrict Jerusalem
Population 1,650 (1945)
Area 17,708 dunams

17.7 km²

Date of depopulation October 21, 1948[2]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces
Current localities Amminadav
el Welejeh in the 1870s

The old village, less than two kilometers northwest of the new town on the Israeli side of the Green Line, was captured by the Harel Brigade of the Palmach in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The village defense consisted of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Arab Liberation Army as well as a local militia. It was reclaimed by Arab forces more than once before it capitulated to Israeli troops on October 21, 1948.[2][7] Thousands of villagers fled. In the 1949 Armistice Agreements, the Green Line was drawn through the village with 70% of the land and 30 water springs on the Israeli side.[8]

In January 1952, an IDF patrol seized two Arab villagers in a field 300 meters on the Jordanian side of the armistice line and brought them to an abandoned house in Walaja, where they were killed. Israel told UN investigators that they had been shot inside Israeli territory when they had jumped out from behind a rock. The UN and Jordanian cross-examiners were unable to obtain an Israeli admission, but the Israeli delegate on the Mixed Armistice Commission wrote privately to his superior that the allegations were true but the patrol was not acting under orders.[9] The village was completely destroyed during the 1948 war and the villagers rebuilt it east of the 1949 Armistice Line inside the West Bank territories.[10]

Under Israeli occupation[edit]

Map of the Al-Walaja region

After the Six-Day War, Israel redrew the Jerusalem municipal boundaries, annexing half of al-Walaja's land that had remained after the 1948 war.[8] Although also the Ain Jawaizeh neighborhood of al-Walaja was included in the Jerusalem Municipality, imposing Israeli law on its inhabitants, residency rights in Jerusalem were denied. Ain Jawaizeh does not receive municipal services and homes may not be built.[11][12] The splitting of the village caused various problems. Cars of local residents of both parts were confiscated by the Israeli Border Police for trespassing illegally into Israel.[12]

More village land was swallowed for the construction of Har Gilo and Gilo.[8] In 2003 through January 2005, Israel demolished Palestinian houses in Ain Jawaizeh and issued demolition orders against 53 other houses.[13] Land confiscation orders issued by the IDF in August 2003 showed that the route of the barrier will completely surround the residents of the village, allowing them only one entry/exit point. The two main access routes for Ain Jawaizeh to Bethlehem were both closed, and the only access road to Jerusalem was reserved as a Jews-only road for settlers from Har Gilo.[12] In April 2005, fruit orchards were cut down and homes were demolished due to the absence of building permits, to make place for the construction of the barrier.[14]

In April 2010, Gush Etzion settlers and residents of al-Walaja united to protest the extension of security fences around Jerusalem. The event was partially coordinated by the Kfar Etzion-based organization ארצשלום ("Land of Peace") dedicated to building contacts between Jewish settlers and West Bank Arabs.[15]


According to a census by the British Mandate government in 1945, al-Walaja had a population of 1,650 inhabitants and a land area of 17,708 dunams. The residents fled when it was captured and the Israeli village of Aminadav was built on the land. One of the few oldtimers is Abed Rabbeh, who lives alone in a cave and raises chickens. When US President Barack Obama was visiting Israel, Rabbeh invited him to his cave but the US Consulate in Jerusalem sent a brief note of regret saying this could not be arranged.[16]

Landmarks and cultural institutions[edit]

The village has three mosques. It is also the site of al- Badawi, a 5,000 year old olive tree, claimed to be the oldest in the world.[17] The Al-Walaja sports club was established in 1995. A women's club and the Ansar Youth Center opened in 2000. In 2005, the Ministry of the Interior established the Agriculture Charitable Society to aid local farmers.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2007 PCBS Census Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. p.116
  2. ^ a b c The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p.xx, village #349. Benny Morris, 2004. Also gives cause of depopulation.
  3. ^ Wolf-Dieter Hütteroth and Kamal Abdulfattah (1977). Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft. p. 116. 
  4. ^ Palestine Exploration Fund (1905). Quarterly Statement. p. 353.
  5. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, III:22. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.322
  6. ^ Transformation in Arab Settlement, Moshe Brawer, in The Land that Became Israel: Studies in Historical Geography, Ruth Kark (ed), Magnes Press, Jerusalem 1989, p.177
  7. ^ Khalidi, Walid All That Remains 1992
  8. ^ a b c Palestinians on statehood: ′We want action, not votes at the UN′. Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian, 14 September 2011
  9. ^ Morris, Benny (1993) Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-829262-3 p 183
  10. ^ Living in a Cage. ARIJ, 17 January 2004
  11. ^ The Israeli Colonization Activities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip During 2004, section "Case Study 1(a): Al Walaja Village". ARIJ, March 2005
  12. ^ a b c OCHA Humanitarian Update Occupied Palestinian Territories Jan 2005. ReliefWeb, 31 January 2005
  13. ^ At Risk of De-Population: Home Demolitions in Ain Jawaizeh area of Al-Walaja Village, Bethlehem Governorate. PLO-NAD, Palestinian Monitoring Group, 18 January 2005
  14. ^ Israeli Authorities Cut Down Hundreds of Fruit-Bearing Trees. PLO-NAD, Palestinian Monitoring Group, 14 April 2005
  15. ^ 'Settlers and Palestinians may unite'
  16. ^ "I can't live without this place" March 3, 2010[dead link]
  17. ^ a b Al Walaja religious and archaeological sites


External links[edit]