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"Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria"  (1 Kings 21 )

An Israeli roadblock: How israel took control over the
Bethlehem area?

Over the years, Palestinians in the western and southwestern areas of Bethlehem have faced severe limitations on their freedom of movement. However, since October 7th, this process has accelerated dramatically and intensified significantly. Our mapping illustrates the roadblocks and barriers placed in the area, which shove aside Palestinian and enable Israel to exert control over additional areas in the region.


This study investigates how Israel took control of the area located west and southwest of Bethlehem. This is an area that many Israelis tend to mistakenly call "Gush Etzion'' and not by coincidence. Since the establishment of Kfar Etzion, the first settlement in the West Bank, in September 1967, Israel has invested significant resources in constructing settlements and infrastructure in this area of the West Bank. The claim frequently asserted by Israeli officials and settlers, which aims to justify the settlements in this area as the "right of return" to lands Jews supposedly purchased before 1948 and were expelled from in 1948, is false. In fact, as we previously demonstrated here, over 80% of the land where these settlements were built on top of, was looted by the State of Israel, in the same way it has looted lands in the rest of the West Bank since June 1967.

The Work on this project began several years ago. Following the massacre committed by Hamas on October 7, 2023, and the subsequent war, the freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank underwent a radical change. These changes were also manifested, and perhaps primarily, in the Bethlehem area, where a significant settler population resides. It is important to emphasise that the reality described here is the outcome of decades of planning and efforts aimed at taking control of lands and displacing their owners. These efforts have been greatly intensified since October 7.

The work process

The work on this research involved the mapping of roadblocks, barriers, and tunnels placed and built by the army and settlers in the area located west of Bethlehem. These barriers were intended to monitor, restrict, and in some cases completely block Palestinian landowners' access to their lands, purportedly for the security of settlers and settlements. All the roadblocks and barriers we identified are marked on the interactive Google map provided at the bottom of this page.

On the map, markings are differentiated by four colours:

Red - Improvised stone roadblocks.

Yellow - Metal barriers (some of which were clearly placed by the military while others are assumed to have been placed by settlers without any official authority).

Blue - Gates of settlements that prevent Palestinians from accessing their lands.

Brown - Tunnels beneath bypass roads that Israel built in order to connect villages and allow Palestinians access to their lands (as we will see below, two of these tunnels are blocked as of today).


Stone roadblock on an agricultural road leading to the lands of the village of Al Khader, situated south of the settlement of Elazar.

The main findings

The map includes 76 points categorised as follows:

  • 5 tunnels situated beneath bypass roads (two of them are blocked).

  • 11 settlements’ gates that directly impede Palestinian access to their agricultural lands.

  • 24 improvised stone roadblocks.

  • 36 metal barriers.

The changes on the ground since October 7, 2023:

  • Since the 7th October, 21 roadblocks and barriers have been added on agricultural roads. Today, there are a total of 60 roadblocks and barriers. This means that over a third of the roadblocks and barriers in the area were installed in the seven months following the onset of the war. The new roadblocks and barriers in this area serve two interconnected purposes:

  1. Preventing Palestinians from exiting their villages onto the bypass roads.

  2. Blocking agricultural roads leading to agricultural lands, primarily situated west of Route 60.

  • A roadblock on the Nahalin-Bethlehem road was relocated from its original location to a new location, in order to facilitate the settlers of Neve Daniel in taking control of an area west of the settlement.

A tunnel linking the village of Al Khader to its lands west of Route 60, is blocked to the passage of vehicles and livestock by concrete blocks.

  • One metal gate was relocated and completely closed to the east of the illegal outpost of Sde Boaz, enabling the settlers to extend their control over additional areas surrounding the outpost.

  • Three gates (two on the access roads to Husan village and one south of Nahalin village) that were open prior to the 7th of October have been completely closed ever since.

  • Four gates that Palestinian farmers previously used to access their lands adjacent to the settlement of Efrat, have been completely sealed off to Palestinians. As a result, these lands remained uncultivated ever since.


A gate that has been placed in a new location east of the illegal outpost of Sde Boaz.

The roadblock on the Nahalin - Bethlehem road in its current location. On the right is an illegal dirt road that the settlers of Neve Daniel recently broke through

The lands belonging to the residents of Al Khader, which were annexed within the fence of the settlement of Efrat. Since October 7, the owners of these lands have been unable to cultivate them.

A military gate on the southern access road to Nahalin village that has been closed since October 7

Army or settlers? Or actually, what is the difference?

We lack official information to definitively determine whether most barriers and roadblocks were installed by the army or by settlers. Moreover, if placed by settlers, it remains uncertain whether this was done in coordination with the army or not. However, the majority of these barriers and roadblocks were placed in locations where no military orders were issued, which theoretically should have been issued(according to the military law), if they had been placed by the army.

A prime example illustrating this is the roadblock that was placed over two decades ago on the road south of the settlement of Neve Daniel, which historically connected the village of Nahalin to Bethlehem. This road was blocked without any military order, in order to prevent Palestinians from passing near the settlement. (The movement of the residents of Nahalin to Bethlehem has been rerouted since the road was blocked to Husan village). Also in this case, it's unclear whether the original roadblock was implemented by the army or the by the settlers, but it is clear that the army is aware of it and insists on its existence. Either way, from the point of view of the Palestinians, whose ability to enter their lands has been severely damaged over time, it does not matter who placed the roadblock.


The area under study

The area under study is a significant part of the historical agricultural lands west of Bethlehem. By examining this area which covers approximately 75,000 dunams (75 square kilometres), we can see how Israel engineered this space in a way that isolated it from its surroundings. This was done in a manner that, in our assessment, requires treating it as a distinct space, even though  it was created by artificial means through the use of constant violence. 

The northern border of this area is defined by the jurisdiction of Jerusalem post-1967. Its western border is the Green Line. Its southern border is Route 367. The eastern border is Route 60 (the Bethlehem bypass road) where the construction of the separation wall (which remains unfinished in this area) runs alongside the settlement of Efrat, situated east of Route 60.

In this area, several Palestinian villages and communities are situated, including Al Walaja, Wadi Fukin, Husan, Batir, Nahalin, and Al Jab’a. Most of the built-up area of these six villages, (with the exception of Al Walaja, whose built-up area is mostly within an area that was annexed to Jerusalem after 1967), was designated as Area B in the Oslo II Agreement of 1995. In addition to these villages, there are several smaller Palestinian communities in the area, each one housing between dozens to a couple of hundred residents, such as Khirbat Zakariyya Khallet Afana, Khallet Al Baluta, and Al Makhrour. According to estimates from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, approximately 30 thousand Palestinian residents currently reside in this area.


In addition to these villages, there are several Palestinian communities that have significant portions of their land within this area, even though their built-up areas are located outside of it. The most important one regarding this matter is the village of Al Khader (which we will discuss further later), where approximately 90% of its lands have been physically separated from it, while the village itself is situated east of the separation wall. Other villages whose lands are included in this area are Artas, Beit Ummar, Beit Jala, and Surif.


Settlements and Outposts

From September 1967 till today, Israel has established eleven settlements in this area that were intended to Judaize the area and reduce the longstanding Palestinian presence that has existed there for generations. These settlements are: Har Gilo, Beitar Illit, Neve Daniel, Elazar, Efrat, Migdal Oz, Bat Ayin, Rosh Tzurim, Alon Shvut, Kfar Etzion, and Gva’ot (which is officially considered a neighbourhood of Alon Shvut, although practically, it operates as an independent settlement). In addition to these settlements, over the years another twelve outposts have been established, some of which have been legalised under Israeli law.

According to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, the current number of settlers living in this area is close to 95 thousand. This means that in this part of the West Bank, Israel has managed to create a reality where the number of settlers is almost three times greater than the number of Palestinians, despite the fact that the settler population represents less than 20% of the total population of the West Bank. The main factor contributing to the demographic dominance of the settlers in this area, is the population of the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, which currently stands at about 68 thousand residents. All of these settlements, except for Beitar Illit, which is defined as a city and the settlement of Efrat which is defined as a local council, fall under the jurisdiction of the Gush Etzion Regional Council. In addition to these settlements, twelve outposts were established in the area from the late 1990s until today, with some of them being retroactively legalised. Furthermore, there is an industrial area belonging to the Gush Etzion Regional Council situated between the settlements of Efrat and Migdal Oz.

The lands of the village of Al Khader to the east of the separation wall constructed along Route 60 (the Bethlehem bypass road)

Another significant project that Israel has been promoting in this area in recent years is the construction of a new road (Route 3742), extending approximately eight kilometres. This road aims to connect the two main lateral roads in the western area of Bethlehem, leading to the west towards the Green Line: Route 375 and Route 367. These are two bypass roads that were constructed by Israel in order to link the settlements in this area with the southern Beit Shemesh area. About three years ago, the far-right politician and former Deputy Minister of Defense, Eli Ben Dahan, commented on this project, stating: “Route 3742 from Gva’ot to Beitar, a road which is necessary, is meant to close off the western part of the Gush Etzion area”.  In May 2021, road marking works for the planned route commenced in the field, but progress has stalled since then. Towards the end of 2022, the Israeli military issued a Seizure Order in this area, ostensibly intended for the construction of a military patrol road, which is also supposed to be constructed in this area.


How was the area west of Bethlehem separated from the rest of the West Bank?

Two major historical events have contributed to the isolation of this area from the rest of the West Bank in the last 30 years. The first event is the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993-1995. Following the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Bethlehem, where the historic road connecting Jerusalem with the south of the West Bank passed, a bypass road (Route 60) was constructed west of Bethlehem and the village of Al Khader, in territories that were expropriated for this purpose. First and foremost this road was built to serve the settlers, but during most of the years since its construction, it has also remained open for the use of the Palestinian population. In recent years, the road has undergone significant expansion efforts, aimed at converting it from a two-lane to a four-lane road.

The construction of this road marked the first instance where a physical barrier was established between the Palestinian villages and communities in this area and a significant portion of their lands. Although three tunnels were constructed beneath this road in order to give farmers access to their lands from the other side, two of them are closed and impassable.


Following the second intifada (the Palestinian uprising) in the late 2000, severe restrictions of movement were imposed on Palestinians throughout the West Bank. Many roads connecting Palestinian villages and bypass roads were blocked for several years and the movement of Palestinian vehicles on the bypass roads in the West Bank was significantly reduced. At the same time, Palestinian farmers' access to extensive areas around the settlements was severely limited, and in some cases, completely halted.


In April 2002, the Israeli government decided to construct the separation barrier. It later became evident that most of the barrier's route was planned to be within the territory of the West Bank, annexing ‘de facto’ significant parts of its land. In the Bethlehem area, the planned route of the barrier was designed in a way that would leave all the settlements we mentioned earlier to the west of the system of fences and walls that Israel built in the area. Although the construction of the barrier in this area was not completed, the parts that were built played a crucial role in physically separating the area west of Bethlehem from the rest of the West Bank.

Al Nashash checkpoint - southern exit from Bethlehem


The looting of the lands of the of Al Khader village

The village of Al Khader is situated to the west of the historic road connecting Bethlehem and Hebron. Since 1995, the built-up area of the village has been divided mainly between area A and area B, together they cover approximately 900 dunams (less than 5% of the village's total land). The rest of the village's lands fall within Area C, where Palestinian construction (with the exception of around 180 dunams to which apply master plans that were approved by the Civil Administration) is prohibited.


Due to its location and the fact that its lands include about 20 thousand dunams, the lands of Al Khader were marked by Israel as a target for extensive looting over the last four decades. The first settlement which was built on  the village's lands was Elazar. To facilitate its construction, in 1973 the army issued a "temporary" Seizure Order for "security needs" (Seizure Order 3/73). In 1979, another Seizure Order was issued by the army for the establishment of the settlement of Efrat, also built on  the lands of Al Khader.


Following a ruling in the Alon Moreh petition that was issued in the beginning of 1980, the government was forced to evacuate the settlement of Alon Moreh after it was built on private lands. Israel then began to expropriate lands in the West Bank primarily by declaring them as "state lands", in villages whose land registration in the Land Registry was not completed by June 1967 (a situation that applies to about two-thirds of the West Bank territory). From the early 1980s until the present day, approximately 2,700 dunams of Al Khader lands have been declared "state lands". These lands were effectively expropriated from the residents of the village and most of them were transferred to the settlements of Elazar, Efrat, and Neve Daniel. In total, about 3,100 dunams of Al Khader lands, which account for about 15% of the village's lands, were officially allocated to these three settlements. However, in addition to the official land looting channel in the West Bank, there is also a very active unofficial land looting channel. This holds true for this area as well.

The lands of the village Al Khader east of the separation wall along Route 60 to which access is free

The establishment of outposts in the lands of Al Khader - the unofficial looting channel

In the years following the signing of the Oslo II agreement in September 1995, settlers began establishing illegal outposts with the aim of expanding their control over territories surrounding existing settlements. With the establishment of the first Netanyahu government in June 1996, government ministers encouraged settlers to establish dozens of new outposts. One of the illegal outposts established in the late 1990s was the outpost of "Givat Hadagan", situated on a hill that at that time, was over a kilometre away from the northern border of the settlement of Efrat. Following the outbreak of the Second Intifada, three additional outposts were established on the lands of Al Khader: "Derech Ha’Avot" to the north of the settlement of Elazar, "Sde Boaz" to the north of the settlement of Neve Daniel, and "Givat Hatamar," also situated to the north of the settlement of Efrat. Over the years, the agricultural land owned by the residents of Al Khader which surrounds each of these outposts, has become either partially or completely inaccessible.

Two decades later, in 2021, another outpost was established, the fifth one on the lands of Al Khader, named "Havat Eden". Unlike the previous outposts, this outpost was established as a farm outpost, whose primary purpose is to take control over the open areas in its vicinity.

The outpost of “Havat Eden”

The outpost of “Derech Ha’Avot”

At the end of 2001, the illegal outpost of "Derech Ha’Avot" was established north of the settlement of Elazar. This outpost made headlines following a series of petitions submitted by the owners of the land on which it was established, to the High Court. In 2018, some of the outpost's houses were evacuated after the government decided to whitewash it retroactively in accordance with Israeli law. Even after the partial evacuation, extensive agricultural lands remained in and around the outpost, inaccessible to their owners. The outpost continues to serve as a focal point for spreading violence and criminal land seizing in the area.


The outpost of “Sde Boaz”

Another focal point of violent land seizing in this area is the illegal outpost of Sde Boaz, established in 2002, approximately 1.5 km north of the settlement of Neve Daniel, in the heart of a highly cultivated agricultural area. This outpost is one out of ten outposts that the current government announced in February 2023 its intention to "whitewash", and it serves as the main factor that spreads violence, aimed at dispossessing Palestinians from their lands in the area between the settlement of Neve Daniel and Route 375. Since October 7, Palestinians have been completely prevented from entering this area, which spans over approximately 3,000 dunams, due to several roadblocks placed along Route 60 as well as from the direction of the village of Husan.

A roadblock on an agricultural road from the village of Husan to agricultural lands that the settlers of the outpost of Sde Boaz have been preventing access onto

The plan to take control over this area has been promoted in recent weeks by the settlers of the outpost of Sde Boaz in a project they call the "Sde Boaz Circumference Path". The intention is to promote the takeover of the area north of the outpost. Of course the timing is not coincidental, the plan is to take advantage of the forced absence of the Palestinian landowners from the area, the same way it was done in the area between the outpost and the settlement of Neve Daniel.


A sign indicating the access to the "Sde Boaz Circumference Path"


A plot on which the settlers from the outpost of Sde Boaz planted a vineyard

The outpost of Sde Boaz was established in the heart of fertile agricultural lands belonging to the residents from the villages of Al Khader and Husan

The takeover by settlers of a plot that the Palestinian residents of Al Khader were expelled from following the establishment of the outpost in 2002

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