The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) funds a school in the Balata camp, with approximately 4,000 pupils.
Balata is one of the most densely populated locations on Earth. Less than two square kilometers in size, 30,000 people live in its concrete block houses. The layout of the camp is a product of its creation. In 1950, the UN gave the refugees from the Jaffa area temporary housing. These people initially refused the UN's offers, stating their eagerness to return to their homes. They desired no sense of permanence. After two years, these refugees accepted the UN's offer and settled at Balata.
In 1956, the Jaffa refugees desired more permanent housing. The border with the recently created State of Israel having been sealed, the refugees accepted the UN's offer to build concrete structures in place of the refugee's tents. Balata camp today is so dense because these concrete structures were built on the actual plots families had been given for refugee's tents. There are some alleyways in the camp that are so narrow that large people cannot traverse them.
During the course of the al-Aqsa Intifada, the IDF has developed various tactics, like "traveling through walls", that allow them to enter the camp without suffering many casualties. In the traveling through walls tactic, Israeli soldiers enter a home on the edge of the camp in cover of night, and proceed to blow holes through the walls of homes down a given street, using the homes as shields against Palestinian fire.
Balata's a Palestinian Alamo .. the Last Stand with Nowhere Else to Go; by KEVIN TOOLIS, Who Has Visited the Refugee Camps
Mar 04, 2002; Byline: KEVIN TOOLIS THERE is no end to this ghastly trail of death and destruction in the bloody land of Israel. The Middle East...