A-RAM, West Bank — More than a thousand Palestinian schoolchildren, boys and girls from age 6 to 14, wearing their school uniforms and carrying books and supplies, demonstrated here on Sept. 13 in the shadows of the 15-foot-high concrete “separation barrier” that is being built in this bustling town of 60,000 near East Jerusalem.

The students, who carried posters reading, “Let us learn!” were protesting the wall for its role in cutting them off from their schools on the “Israeli side,” only a few dozen yards away. Although about 60 percent of a-Ram’s residents hold Israeli identity cards, the wall will confine many of the town’s residents to the “Palestinian side” and split up neighbors, families, students, and teachers.

The 435-mile-long “apartheid wall,” as peace and justice activists here have dubbed it, is being built by the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon to supposedly enhance Israel’s security. However, Palestinians charge the wall is merely a thinly disguised land grab. The World Court at the Hague ruled July 9 that the wall is illegal under international law and should be torn down.

The Israeli Supreme Court, however, has permitted the government to continue building the wall, albeit under some restrictions. Since the court’s decision to give the go-ahead, the wall here has been going up at great speed. Only a few “holes” remain.

Local officials note that, when the wall is completed, many students will have to drop out of school altogether, since there are insufficient places at schools remaining on the Palestinian side. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that a similar situation exists in nearby al-Issawiya.

According to the Oread Daily news service, Abu Rajab is one of at least 13 al-Issawiya pupils from kindergarten through sixth grade who have been prevented from attending school due to the separation barrier. The 10-year-old has been spending his time at home or in his yard, occasionally going to the village school to see if it will take him in, and then returning home.

Last year, Abu went to Al-Quds al-Islamiyah, a school belonging to the Muslim Waqf in Dahiyat al-Barid, but in recent months, the wall has sprung up between the school and his home in Issawiya, in northern Jerusalem. His parents registered him for the Issawiya village school, but were informed at the beginning of the year that its classrooms are full.

For the past two years, Issawiya students who attended schools elsewhere have had trouble getting to school on time — even before the separation wall went up. An Israeli checkpoint at the main entrance to Issawiya, which operates irregularly in the morning, holds up school buses, so students are sometimes forced to transfer to another vehicle waiting on the other side to take them to school.

Would-be fifth-grader Karim Mustafa previously attended a school in Shuafat and would occasionally arrive two hours late because of checkpoint delays. His parents registered him at the local school this year, “so he wouldn’t keep arriving at different times,” and he too was barred for lack of room.

Some schools, like that in Issawiya, are filled beyond capacity, the Oread Daily reports. Others can expect to empty out. Students and teachers on both sides of the fence going up will be cut off from their schools, placing the fate of some schools in question.

“The problem will reach its height in a month or two, when the fence is complete,” said a-Ram council head Sirhan Salima, warning that “a disaster is coming.”

Throughout the demonstration, which was joined by 150 Israeli peace activists from Gush Shalom, Ta’ayush, Bat-Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights and others, giant cranes continued to lift concrete slabs into place, and a large contingent of the Israeli Border Police was deployed along the path of the wall to prevent any interference with its construction.

The school crisis is only one of the problems created by the wall, which is cutting off a-Ram residents from their businesses and workplaces, hospitals, universities and even their cemetery, according to Gush Shalom.

In a related development, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and other groups have called on Congress to reject Senate Resolution 408, which endorses Israel’s construction of the apartheid wall and condemns the World Court’s decision. For more information, visit www.endtheoccupation.org.