West Bank jobless eke out living from trash

Jawad held up a pair of worn plimsolls to show he was having a good day. He had found them in the heaps of rotting rubbish at Azzariya, the main garbage dump for Jerusalem where hundreds of unemployed Palestinians have gathered every day since Israel sealed off the West Bank.

"There used to be just 10 or 20 people who came here," says Adel, 19, dressed in a dirty T-shirt. "Now there are between 500 and a thousand people who come because they have no money to buy food for their children." As each garbage truck disgorged its load, people surged forward in search of food, clothing and scrap metal.

Most of the Palestinians who claw through the rubbish at Azzariya used to work in Israel. Jawad, 19, says: "Before the closure [of the West Bank] I used to work in a supermarket in Tel Aviv. Now I am here from five in the morning." At one time 174,000 Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank were working in Israel, mainly in construction and agriculture.

Israel had sealed off the West Bank before, but after two suicide bombs exploded in Jerusalem and Ashkelon on 25 February the West Bank was isolated as never before. Israeli employers were threatened with heavy fines if they employed any West Bank Palestinians. Some 210,000 Rumanians, Thais and Turks have replaced Palestinians on Israeli construction sites.

The Azzariya dump is easy to find. You follow garbage trucks past the outskirts of Jerusalem through the village of Azzariya into an enormous sandy hollow. Even before they stop you are hit by the stench of the rubbish heaps. Beside a cliff face there was a huddle of donkeys waiting to take away anything of value. As each truck stops people rush to grab the choicest items.

A Palestinian manager in charge of the dump, who did not want to give his name, said: "About 1,000 tons of rubbish come here everyday. It is dangerous for people to be standing in the middle of it. There is lots of broken glass and last year a ten-year-old child was crushed to death by a truck." In half an hour our car was covered in a fine layer of dirt.

It is possible that the people of the Azzariya dump may soon see a small improvement in their lives.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the newly elected Israeli Prime Minister, is expected to decide today if the closure will be eased. This might ultimately allow 50,000 to 60,000 Palestinian workers to enter Israel. But only workers over 25 will be given permits and most of the people at Azzariya are in their late teens or early twenties.

Not surprisingly nobody at the dump spoke about the Oslo accords. For them the years of the "peace process" have brought economic misery. In the last 12 months per capita income for Palestinians on the West Bank has fallen by 20 per cent. It is not difficult at Azzariya, watching the young men squabble over a choice garbage bag, to understand why Hamas and Islamic Jihad find it easy to recruit suicide bombers.

Ibrahim, 15, looking pleased that he had found an uneaten roll with some lettuce in it, said he did not think anything would get better. He said that the 14 members of his family were on the edge of starvation and the dump was their last resort.

Later in the afternoon he was expecting his mother and father to join him in searching through the garbage.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: International Customer Service Administrators

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea