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Middle East, Asia
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Israel, Gaza, West Bank, Palestine
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The Palestinian town of Qalqilyah sits cut off from the outside world, completely encircled by the Israeli Security Wall constructed in 2003 which affects this small community dramatically and created a tremendous the isolation for the Palestinians in the town.
Jeffrey Fehder

2007 — student winner

The Israeli Security Wall completely encircles the West Bank town of Qalqilyah, resulting in desperate conditions for Palestinians trapped inside the concrete barrier.

The Palestinian town of Qalqilyah sits cut off from the outside world, completely encircled by the Israeli Security Wall constructed in 2003. I have seen firsthand the effects the Wall is having on this small community and witnessed the isolation Palestinians in Qalqilyah are forced to undergo. I plan to document the effects the Wall is having on the local economy, medical care access and the daily lives of Palestinians living in these extreme circumstance.

Qalqilyah is historically a hot bed for political aggression toward Israel. Fatah and Hamas both have a strong presence in the community, and much of the rhetoric behind the Second Intifadah of 2000 came out of Qalqilyah. The town is less than 8 miles from the Mediterranean Sea on some of the most fertile farmland in the world, yet access to the local water supply, once used for irrigating crops, is now non-existent due to the Security Wall's construction. The neighboring Israeli settlement of Kochev Ya'ir now uses the irrigation and confiscated farmland for their own crops. An aerial view of Qalqilyah would show the dust-laden city, brown from drought and enclosed by the circular divide from the surrounding rich, green countryside. Over 28,000 residents live within the confines of the town only eleven kilometers in diameter. Every few hundred meters, there are watchtowers monitoring activity near the Wall, and the Israeli Defense Force has closed all roads but one into the city, allowing them to control all movement.

Such intense living conditions have created definite social ramifications. The high population density has created severe unemployment and working outside of the confines of the city is limited to those who obtain work permits from Israeli Authorities. Palestinian industries such as textile mills and large-scale farming are paralyzed by the lack of raw materials and natural resources once available from Israel.

Access to basic necessities such as health care and sufficient food supplies is a constant struggle. The United Nations Permanent Mission in Palestine operates the only functioning hospital within the town. Medicine and surgical needs are difficult to predict and access to physical therapy and prosthetic equipment is rare, if non-existent. Food supply to Qalqilyah is limited to non-perishable goods and that which can be raised or grown by people themselves.

During a prior visit I made through the West Bank to witness life surrounding the Security Wall, I experienced the unique and tragic situation in Qalqilyah. I only stayed there briefly, but since then I have planned to return and document this heartbreaking story. Families must raise and slaughter their own livestock, survive on little or no income, and deal with the filth of no sanitary disposal of garbage. They must tolerate the humiliation of being aggressively questioned and sometimes strip searched on their way through the main Israeli checkpoint at the entrance of the town. They must go years without seeing family members who live in other parts of the Occupied Territories. As if those condition were not intolerable, Qalqilyah residents must live with the violence endemic to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict inside this tiny area enclosed by the Wall - an area less than 25 square miles.

I have been communicating with several members of the International Red Crescent Society in both New York and Palestine and established access to photograph inside the hospital in Qalqilyah. Additionally, I have contacted the translator I worked with on my previous trip to the West Bank and negotiated a suitable payment arrangement and a place to stay inside the isolated confines of the town. While movement in or out of Qalqilyah is difficult for Palestinians, my possession of an American passport is enough to enter without a visa.

This story offers an opportunity to witness and share the struggle of the Palestinian people inside a controlled space. Qalqilyah possesses all of the social and political aspects associated with this 58-year-old conflict contained inside the pressure cooker of a concrete divide from the outside world. America offers substantial monetary and political support to Israel, some of which was spent on constructing the Wall dividing the West Bank. This story has serious social value on both a domestic and global scale. The Alexia Foundation Grant can help provide a voice to Palestinians trapped behind the Wall.

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Israeli soldiers set up a roadblock to control movement along the only road in and out of the West Bank City of Qalqilya. Jeffrey Fehder/Alexia Foundation
Abu Hani Ahmed sits in his front yard, less than ten meters from the Israel Security Wall.  He and his three children painted their section of the wall to escape the solemn reality of the barrier. Jeffrey Fehder/Alexia Foundation
A young shepherd exercises his flock along the dirt track that runs along the perimeter of the concrete wall encircling the West Bank city of Qalqilya. Jeffrey Fehder/Alexia Foundation
A crippled boy passes through a gate at the Mawabi checkpoint, the main crossing between Qalqilya and the state of Israeli. Jeffrey Fehder/Alexia Foundation
Three men work in the close quarters of their shoe repair shop along Nazir Al Saanti Street in downtown Qalqilya. Jeffrey Fehder/Alexia Foundation
Abu Ibrahim selects pigeons from his rooftop coupe for the evening's supper.  Many residents in Qalqilya raise their own animals for food because of the high prices of meat imported from Israel. Jeffrey Fehder/Alexia Foundation
Men dance along Nablus street in Qalqilya to celebrate a wedding.  Traditionally, Muslim men and women do not co-mingle during wedding celebrations, but instead, hold two separate parties. Jeffrey Fehder/Alexia Foundation
Members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade march through the streets of Azzoun Atma to gain local support against the Israeli occupation. Jeffrey Fehder/Alexia Foundation
At the Aqsa Hospital, Dr. Abdel Latif Qahou (right) prepares to operate on a young child with a fractured skull. The child came in with complications resulting in the need for general anesthesia, due to the long travel time created by the checkpoints and security wall. Jeffrey Fehder/Alexia Foundation
An Israel soldier closes the gate to the electric fence of the Tulkarem checkpoint near Jayous, one of the most fertile farming regions of Qalqilya district.  The gate is open for two hours in the morning and two hours before sunset for Palestinian farmers to access their own land. Jeffrey Fehder/Alexia Foundation