Ramallah, once a mere village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, has seen its population double and land prices surge. The de facto capital of Palestine has boomed over the past five years, with new restaurants, pre-planned neighborhoods and even luxury hotels.
The construction boom is one of the most obvious signs of West Bank economic growth, estimated at an annual rate of 8 percent, which is attributed to the relative stability, an ease on the restriction movements and checkpoints imposed during the Second Intifada and to foreign aid. But with large public debt and a growth driven by foreign aid, some fear the current economic bubble could burst.
Nowadays the educated and secular generation who grew under the Oslo agreements, sees in Ramallah a place of freedom, with relaxed attitudes and entertainments difficult to find in other cities of the West Bank.
However they are at a crossroads, trying to balance this modern lifestyle triggered by the economic growth and influenced by western culture with their traditional Palestinian background. While occupation is not as visible as it used to be, it's still affecting everyday life: they can study or get a mortgage, but many expect an uncertain future when its economy and movements are still controlled by Israel.
With high unemployment and a profound disaffection with the political establishment, the hopes for the future are blurred, and the mirage of economic growth seems to vanish. When asked about the current peace talks many just shrug, “yeah, same again”.