People cross a street near Al-Manara, Ramallah's main square, a popular place for shopping and promenading. While poverty and unemployment are rampant in the West Bank, Ramallah is showing signs of rebirth with a growing economy and vibrant youth culture. Photojournalist Julien Goldstein wanted to explore scenes of daily life in the West Bank city since images of violent protests and border tension regularly dominate Western coverage of the area. He originally reported this story for the magazine Geo France.
On the edge of Al-Manara Square, newly affluent men drive around in a convertible. Palestinians are seeking greater representation on the world stage. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to request full membership to the United Nations as an independent state when the General Assembly meets next week – setting the stage for a diplomatic clash with Israel and the United States.
While most of the Palestinian territories are mired in poverty, Ramallah, the administrative capital of the West Bank, has experienced a building boom in recent years. Many luxury villas and apartment blocks have been built. But the economy is fragile since it is mainly based on foreign aid - in 2010 it grew by 9 percent thanks to foreign aid, according to the World Bank. But if the aid were to dry up, many salaries could go unpaid and much of the recent progress could be lost.
A mural of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat adorns a part of the Israeli separation barrier. The barrier, described as a security fence by Israel, surrounds part of the city of Ramallah and separates it from Jerusalem. To cross it, one has to go through a checkpoint. While the Palestinians are requesting statehood recognition at the U.N. because they believe peace talks have stalled, both Israel and the U.S. firmly oppose the initiative, arguing that a Palestinian state can only be created through direct negotiations.
Abdelhakim Al-Shini's factory, which manufactures the water tanks that can be seen on the roof of every Palestinian home, is one of the few operating businesses in the small industrial area of Ramallah.
Businessmen meet in the lobby of the Movenpick, the West Bank's first 5-star hotel, which opened late last year.
The Reach call center is operated by Jawwal, the main cellphone company in the West Bank. In this divided country, the mobile phone has enabled many people to stay in touch with their families despite the politically complicated geography of the region. Jawwal has some 2.25 million subscribers. The call center is open around the clock, staffed by men and women working together.
An elderly man lives in the Al Amari refugee camp, just a few minutes from the city center. He is seriously ill, but says he cannot afford to seek treatment. The camp, which has 9,000 inhabitants and is managed by the United Nations, was created in 1949 on a 23-acre site.
350 people work at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah. The soft drink is produced under license.
Trifitness, one of many gyms in Ramallah, offers a variety of activities including swimming, squash and dance classes. It has 1,700 members. Certain times are reserved for women only while other times of day allow men and women to mix.
Revellers socialize at the chic Orjuwan restaurant. The city's nightlife peaks on Thursday and Saturday nights.
A view of the city of Ramallah from the surrounding hills.