For most of the half century that the Jados have lived on a rocky slope between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, they could travel freely. Then Israel built a barrier between the two cities.
Now the Palestinian family finds itself trapped between a 20-foot-high concrete wall that blocks access to Bethlehem, and an Israeli road that is off-limits to Palestinians. The Jados say the situation claimed the life of their matriarch, Fatima, who died of a heart attack last year when she couldn’t get to a hospital on time.

The Jados’ plight has become the centerpiece of a series of legal challenges to Israel’s West Bank barrier, built to stop suicide bombers and now being rushed to completion following the rise of Islamic militants to power in the Palestinian territories.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has asked the Israeli Supreme Court to order the wall near the Jados’ property torn down. "These people are caught in a type of ghetto," said Oded Feller, an Israeli lawyer with the association.

The Jados first moved to their rocky slope south of Jerusalem in 1948, after fleeing Jerusalem in the war over Israel’s creation, and eventually built three two-room homes there. After it captured the territory in the 1967 Mideast War Israel expanded Jerusalem’s borders to cover the Jados’ land but that didn’t affect the family’s freedom of movement.

Then, five years ago, the Palestinian uprising broke out, a wave of Palestinian suicide attacks followed, and the separation barrier started going up. One segment was built just a few dozen yards from the Jados’ home, cutting off the dirt road the family used to walk to nearby Bethlehem. Israeli restrictions imposed during the uprising prohibit Palestinians from driving on the nearby Israeli road.

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The barrier will eventually separate Jerusalem from the West Bank. Some of the segments already built cut through Arab neighborhoods and separate thousands of Palestinians with Jerusalem residency rights from their city. The 30-member Jado clan is among some 100 Palestinians trapped between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the Israeli civil rights association says.

The Palestinians say the barrier route is largely dictated by demographics – to include a maximum number of Jews and exclude a maximum number of Arabs – and that Israel is drawing a border without waiting for peace negotiations. The barrier scoops up land the Palestinians want for their state.

Israel says the barrier is the most effective tool to keep out Palestinian attackers who have killed 1,000 Israelis since 2000.

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has instructed officials to speed up the barrier’s completion in the wake of Hamas’ victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections Jan. 25. Hamas is expected to form a government in the coming weeks, and given its refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist, the situation is likely to encourage unilateral Israeli moves to draw its own borders.

Shaul Arieli, a retired army colonel and barrier expert, said Israel has the right to build obstacles around Jerusalem to prevent attacks, but should alter the route where it causes hardship, such as in the case of the Jado family.

"There is no justification for … cutting them off from the social fabric of their lives," said Arieli, a member of a group of dovish ex-army officers, the Council for Peace and Security.

A Defense Ministry spokeswoman, Rachel Naidek-Ashkenazi, suggested the Jados could move. She noted that they hold Palestinian ID cards, meaning they are in Israel illegally, even on their own property.

In 2005, Fatima Jado’s heart condition worsened, and her relatives knew they would have trouble getting her to a hospital quickly.

One day last April, she began sweating profusely as she prepared lunch sandwiches. Fatima, her son Fuad and a nephew set out along the dirt path toward Bethlehem, planning to squeeze through a small gap in the wall then still under construction.

But Jado collapsed after a few yards, her son said. The two men carried her into Bethlehem. There they caught a ride to the hospital, where she was declared dead.

The gap in the wall is now closed. The army has since granted the family permits to use an Israelis-only road to Bethlehem, but the trip requires a costly Israeli and Palestinian taxi each way.

Sipping tea in a living room that at night is a bedroom for his seven children, Fuad Jado remarks: "I look at the wall and think, maybe if the wall didn’t exist, my mother would be alive."