Words 
and
 Realities:

 Settlements 
and 
Refugee
 Camps 


by 
Kitty 
Donnelly


In 
the 
news 
about 
Israel
 and
 Palestine,
 we 
often 
hear 
the 
word s
”settlements”
and 
”refugee 
camps”.  These 
words 
had
 conjured 
up 
mental 
images 
for
 me 
that
 contrasted 
strongly 
with
 what
 we 
saw
 on 
our visit . 

”Settlements”
sounded 
like 
small 
outposts 
of 
temporary 
homes,
 gradually 
becoming 

communities of 
more 
established 

houses.

 But
 driving
 through 
the
 West
 Bank
 countryside, 
we
 mostly 
saw
 large mountain
top
“settlement”
 towns 
crowded 
with 
recently‐built 
rows 
of 
multiple 
apartment
 buildings
and 
houses, 
populated 
with 
tens 
of 
thousands
 of 
Israeli 

Jewish 
settlers.
 
These 
new 
towns 
or 
cities 
were large, 
modern, 
and
 permanent. 

We 
did 
pass 
one 
new 
temporary 
settlement 
of 
half 
a 
dozen 
trailers 
near a 
built 
up 
settlement‐this 
way 
a
 site 

not 
authorized 
by 
the 
Israeli 
government 
begins 
as 
”facts 
on
 the ground”
 with 
the 
likely 
outcome 
of 
being 
authorized 
by 
the 
government 
after 
the 
fact 
as 
”expansion 
to accommodate 
natural
 opulation
 growth.”

.Settlements
The 
words 
”refugee
c amp”
 also 
suggested 
temporary 
housing, though 
many 
families
 have 
lived 
in “camps” 
more 
than 
60 
years.

 Visiting 
the
 Aid 

refugee
 camp,
 land 
crowded 
with 
homes 
near Bethlehem, 

we 
walked 
past 
one 
of 
the 
original 
single 
story 
concrete 
UN 
camp 
dwellings 
with 
very 
little living
 space 
for 
a 
family.
 
But 
as 
the 
camp
 land 
was 
fixed 
and
 population 
grew, 
the 
homes 
have 
been expanded 
and 
built 
up 
by 
individual 
families
 into 
a 
dense 
variety 
of 
buildings
 of
 multiple 
stories,
 with plants 
growing 
in
 pots 
and
 boxes 
on 
ledges 
and 
staircases 
to 
make 
up 
for 
the 
lack
 of 
green 
space.  Expansion 
of 
land 
for 
natural
 population 
growth 
is
 not 
an 
option 
in 
the 
camps.

 We 
saw 
no 
open 
spaces for 
children 
to
 play
 other 
than 
the 
streets 
or 
the 
bare 
land 
along 
the 
separation 
wall.

 The 
wall 
provided a 
surface 
for 
creative 
graffiti, 
slogans
 and 
artwork 
depicting 
all
 the 
villages 
that 
the 
camp 
residents 
had been 
forced 
to 
leave 
decades 
ago.

Aida Refugee Camp

During 
our 
visi
t to the 
Aida 
camp, 
we 
were 
interested 
to 
hear 
that
the 
land
 on 
which 
the
 camp 
is 
built 
is 
temporary, 
the 
land 
is 
on 

a 
99 
year 
lease.
 
As 
decades 
have already 
passed 
since 
the 
camp
 was 
opened, 
we 
can 
only
wonder
 what 
will 
become 
of 
the 
thousands living 
in 
Aida 
and 
other 
camps 
when 
the 
lease
 runs 
out.
So 
now 
we 
understand
 that 
settlements
 are 
permanent
…..and 
literally 
new 
Israeli 
towns.
 Refugee camps 
are 
temporary…..
but 
in 
fact, 
decades 
old 
Palestinian 
neighborhoods 
or 
towns 

built 
on
 land
 with a 
lease 
running 
out
.


 These 
are 
the 
facts 
on 
the 
ground
 and 
they
 point 
to 
the 
difficulties 
that 
lie 
ahead and
 must 
be 
faced.

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