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Burin: Continual Unchecked Settler Harassment

Village of Burin http://www.palestineremembered.com/GeoPoints/Burin_927/index.html

Older buildings in a seemly quiet village.

A newer home in Burin

This past week, MPTers made a short visit to a friend in Burin, a village of over 2,500, located five miles southwest of Nablus. This visit was to show support for the friend, but also inform him that MPT is willing to help with the harvesting of the olives in the fall.

For many years, Burin has been subjected to hundreds of incidents a year of unchecked settler harassment from the illegal Israeli settlements of Yitzar and Bracha. Settlers enter the village to injure people, smash cars, cut electric lines, cut and burn olive trees, butcher village animals, and burn homes.

Burin is harassed by settlers from 2 settlements, Yitzar and Bracha, on nearby hills.

The friend MPT visited had been injured in a settler attach in February 2010. This injury put him in a Nablus hospital for a month and left him with several scars on his head. MPT was active in the village several times during the fall of 2009: spending the night nearby after settlers tried to burn a home under construction and viewed the aftermath of the destructive cutting of 95 ripe olive trees and later 30 olive trees. MPTers helped pick the ripe olives from the cut trees and later picked in an area near the cut trees.

[To read the blogs of MPT activity in Burin see:

http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/09/burin-construction-site-threatened-by.html Sept. 09

http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/10/burin-tree-massacre.html October. 09

http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/10/burin-olive-harvesting-under-occupation.html Oct. 09

http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/11/more-burin-settler-violence.html November 09

http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/11/tree-planting-protest-in-burin.html November 09

Accounts of the situation in Burin in various other media sources reinforces the fact that the settler violence go unchecked in this village.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/special-feature-the-land-of-unchecked-settler-harassment-1.251284 August 08

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/6762273/Israeli-settlers-threaten-to-make-Palestinians-pay-the-price-on-the-West-Bank.html December 09

http://stopthewall.org/latestnews/2172.shtml January 10

http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/IOF-Uses-Live-Ammunition-on-Burin-Demonstration.html Jan. 10

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnjqESWwDGY&feature=player_embedded#! Feb.10

Why this harassment continues unchecked might be a logical question.


Haris: Planning Regime in the Westbank

The entrance to the village of Haris is frequently closed by the long yellow gate
and Israeli army jeeps. Many homes are under order of demolition.

Some of the most serious effects of the Israeli Occupation are the demolition orders by the Israeli government. Planning and construction in area C is governed by the 1966 Jordanian Planning Law, amended by an Israeli military order in 1971. The Jordanian law stated that almost all constructions need a permit, but the planning process is entirely in the hands of the Israeli settlements. The Israeli Civil Administration does not allow any Palestinian community to participate in the planning process, and it is staffed only by Israeli staff members. The military order established Special Local Planning Committees-SLPCs-only for Israeli settlements, which can obtain permits for their constructions.

The consequence of this military order is tragic for the Palestinian towns and villages, because almost 70 % of the West Bank is considered area C, where no Palestinian family or individual can obtain building permits. According to the official statistics, 95% of the demolition orders in the Jordan Valley and the rest of West Bank are issued in cases of constructing without legal approval.

MPT visited one family in Haris village, who received a demolition order a few days previous. The head of the family has been wheelchair bound for nine years. He was shot while trying to protect his children from the tear-gas thrown by Israeli Occupation Forces from a nearby street. His home, together with the homes of his brothers and other village inhabitants, are located in area C, and do not have building permits. Before they started to build their homes, they sought permission, but they were refused. Their choices were: to build without permission on their own land or to buy a piece of land in another location. They opted for the first solution and now they are starting to receive demolition orders.

The procedure is usually the same. An order is delivered. The family has three days to hire a lawyer and to submit the documentation proving the ownership of the land to a court. The court can decide to delay the demolition for one or two years , or an indefinite time or to start the demolition process.

This family were lucky, their protest was accepted and they can live in their home for an uncertain period, because they never know when another demolition order will be issued against them. [MPT was present April 2010 in Haris immediately following a demolition of a newly constructed home. See http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2010/04/haris-home-demolition.html]

The head of the family considers this decision of the Israeli Occupation Forces as a defensive measure against the international criticism Israel has faced after the attack of the Freedom Flotilla. According to his views, if the international community increases the pressure on Israel, more houses will be demolished in the future in the West Bank. Or because Israel feels the pressure of the international community, it then applies pressure on the Palestinians.

Aqraba: 76% Land Loss

Aqraba is one of the many affected villages in the West Bank by the Israeli Occupation. The community lost about 76% of its initial land, since the war of 1967. The confiscated land was used to build four settlements and so-called “Natural Areas “ and “Military Areas”, declaring these territories area C, where the Israeli government has total administrative and security control.

The town has constant clashes with the surrounding settlements, and these are more violent in the olive harvest season. Farmers are attacked when working on their lands and even when passing certain roads near their properties. Three years ago, the settlers kidnapped a man and killed another one. A few months ago, MPTers were told that two young men from Awarta village were killed on a road which borders the village land with Jitit settlement.

Settler-only road. Land to north is confiscated settler land,
to the south village land.
In the distance, a settler water tank.

Settler contained-animal lots.

MPT visited the village and spoke with the Project Coordinator of the Union Agricultural Work Communities, agricultural Palestinian NGO. As he explained the goals and the achievements of this agricultural union, MPT realized this is not only a community development organization, but a very well organized form of resisting the occupation. The organization works mainly on the land declared area C, where already 18 buildings including a mosque received a demolition order. The organization tries to empower farmers with the knowledge, skills and competences necessary for them to cultivate their lands, which otherwise will be taken away by the Israeli settlements, if it is not cultivated and rehabilitated. The coordinator told MPT when they started their work in area C, an Israeli surveillance plane flew low over the area, took pictures about what are the Palestinians were doing and how. They are expecting new “visits” like this in the future, besides the regular “ inspections” already practiced by the Israeli Occupied Forces.

Home/not a home - no real roof, in C Area. Under order of demolish.
Simple homes built to replace primitive housing.
Mosque with tower. All under demolition orders.
School in B Area for children in C Area. Better construction is possible.

The organization is funded mainly by external donors, like Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and it is one of the most successful agricultural organizations. They have offices in Jenin, Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah and their main activities include: land rehabilitation projects by taking out the rocks from the fields, building terraces, setting up water tanks and planting olive, fig and almond trees. They offer training courses for farmers in pesticides use, green houses, waste management, soil preparation, minerals and organic compounds, and the use of fertilizers. They help farmers establish microfinance
"Reconstruction" of land. Leveled, rocks removed
and used to build terrace wall. Terraces for planting trees.

Terrace walls are built by hand, giving work to villagers and reclaiming the land.

Speaking about their achievements, the coordinator proudly explained that the work that they are doing has many benefits for the farmers, unfortunately no study has been made yet. Last year, 13 very poor farmers, whose land was taken, were provided green houses; 500 farmers in ten villages were trained and MPT could see how the unused land is being transformed in a fertile agricultural area.

This organization does not accept US AID. The European funders are very supportive of the approach and work of their organization, while the US has a different approach. Local volunteers who work with this organization first contacted MPT about the situation in Aqraba.


Awarta: Lost half its land

Awarta, a village with a population of over 6000, lies about 5 miles southeast of Nablus. Originally the village covered 5000 acres; however, the illegal Israeli settlement of Itamar confiscated 3000 acres, leaving the village with less than half its land. The village may have burial sites for various rather obscure Hebrew prophets which has been the excuse for settlers to invade the village for prayers at the burial sites. The Israeli Occupation Forces [IOF ] then enter to protect the settlers. A recent agreement gave settlers the legal right to pray at the sites two nights yearly.

Part of Awarta is in area B [Palestinian civil authority and Israeli military control] and part is area C [full Israeli military control] under the Oslo Accords. No construction can be done in Area C, although families already live in the area. Water for the village is controlled by the Itamar settlement and villagers have to buy their water from the settlement.

[Village health clinic. Village council, municipal building on second floor.]

Last fall, a man was killed by the Israeli Occupation Forces [IOF} as he was driving from his land where he no longer had Israeli permission to be. In March two young men from the village were killed. The information regarding the circumstances of their deaths changed often the first few days after their deaths. The location of their deaths changed – in the checkpoint near Awarta or in a field nearby, or in a field further away, or . . . The reason for killing them changed also – carrying metal to sell while passing though the checkpoint, in the field using a shovel against soldiers or . . . People from a nearby village told
MPTers that the two young men were planting olive trees on the Palestinian side of a settler road and that settlers tied them up and shot them several times. Perhaps someday the truth of their deaths will come out. No one has been charged with the deaths of these two youths. In the past five years 20 persons have been killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers.

MPTers were warmly welcomed in a visit with a member of the Awarta village council in the municipal building. MPT visits are made to inform authorities of the work of MPT and MPT’s availability to work in areas of risk - near settlements during plowing and the fall olive harvest, or during times when settlers or soldiers invade the village.


Leonard Cohen - Anthem

This is my second blog entry as part of my training in technology for Palestine. This song speaks to my soul.



Peaceful March Through the Old City in Hebron

Al Khahil [Hebron] is one of the oldest city in the world, dating its history back to 4,000 years. It is considered the fourth holiest city in the Muslim tradition, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. The city faces constant clashes between the Muslims and the Jewish population, some very violent crimes happened in the 20th century, committed by both sides.

Al Khahil/Hebron is the only Palestinian city in which approximately 450 Jews live amidst the Palestinian majority. A Palestinian massacre of Jews occurred in 1929 and all those who survived, many of whom had been protected by their Muslim neighbors, left the city. After 1967, ten Jewish families returned in the city center, in order to preserve the Jewish presence and culture in the city which according to some radical views, belongs to the Jews.

The massacre of 29 Palestinians in the Ibrahimi Mosque in the 90s led to the so-called Hebron agreement, in which the city is divided into area H1, under Palestinian administrative control, and area H2, Israeli security control. Although geographically the city is united, and all the services are commonly provided by the Hebron Municipality; the Jewish quarter forms a separate entity in the Old City. The city is also surrounded by several settlements and separation walls.

MPT visited Hebron and participated in a very peaceful demonstration this past week. There have been violent clashes between the Israeli Occupation Forces, Israeli settlers and the local Palestinians during demonstrations.

The past demonstrations` trade mark’ was the so-called “hate march”, organized by the Jewish settlers under the protection of the Israeli Occupation Forces. Every Saturday at 3:00 PM the gate which separates the two communities would open, and approximately 100 Jewish people would march in the Old City`s market, spitting in Palestinians faces, calling them crude and ugly names, destroying shops, hitting people, and giving speeches in front of different historical sites. The message of these marches was about installing Jewish domination in all Hebron and the re-occupation of the former Jewish properties, according to the Zionist theory.

Saturday, the 12th of June, the Palestinian demonstrators, accompanied by a few international activists, organized their protest in front of the separation gate at 3:00 PM, the time of the “hate march”. Protesters gave speeches, chanted in Arabic and English, and sang songs. The Jewish settlers, who started gathering at the top of the road, and settler youth on tops of buildings were did not come out on a march or to retaliate. After a while , they left.

The demonstration continued with a “peace tour” in the beautiful Old Suk/market, but the protesters had to run not to be “soaked ” by sewage water coming from the roof of the buildings, thrown by the Jewish settlers who live above these streets. Settlers have thrown garbage, cans, bottles and dirt.

The palestinian inhabitants in
the Old City protect their
livelihood with wire fences
against the trash thrown by the
jewish settlers

The demonstration ended with the safe arrival of the protesters in front of the separation gate, where new speeches and chants were expressed. Surprisingly, a smiling happy face appeared near where 4 armed soldiers had stood and near an Israeli soldier in a tower, who apparently protested with the Palestinians, but from the other side of the gate.

After two hours of peaceful protest, MPT and all participants dispersed safely, acknowledging that no violence occurred from any of the sides involved.

Is Israel Afraid of Children?

Asira al Qibliya has a long history of settler attacks. Like many of the Palestinian villages in the West Bank, the community lost a considerable amount of land, confiscated for the enlargement of Yitzhar settlement.

the violent Yitzhar settlement

Settler attacks are a weekly routine; one of their main target is a Palestinian house situated on the village border. Israeli settlers - man, women and children - usually come during the day and destroy everything what they find on their way: houses, cars, agricultural tools. They are equipped with metal or wood sticks, and sometimes rocks. The army always accompany them, offering protection during the well-organized destruction of the Palestinian property.

For more information from a video made in the village, see the following link:

Villagers try to defend themselves with different non-violent tools, like fixing metal frames in front of their homes, to guard against rocks thrown by the settlers. But no prevention can save this small community, which already has serious numbers of boys arrested by the Israeli Army.

the house facing permanent attacks from the settlers

In the past two years, eight young boys were arrested, and released after a short time, but another youth, aged 15, was killed while walking on the road.

MPT was alerted by villagers on the 10th of June, in the case of two young boys who were arrested and taken by the Israeli Occupation Forces the previous night. MPTers were told that approximately 120 soldiers came to arrest two young boys, aged sixteen and fifteen. At one home, they entered the home through the roof, wearing masks. The procedure used in these cases are usually the same: soldiers send the whole family out from the house in order to search the home. Very often they destroy the furniture or other home appliances, as in these cases, the front door and the refrigerator. The threatened family waits outside, children are crying, soldiers are screaming and behave very aggressively.

The soldiers asked for each boy`s ID, after that they chose their victims, they handcuffed and blindfolded them and took them away in army jeeps. The parents tried continuously to find out the reason for the taking into custody of their sons, but the only answers they got were: “Your son is an enemy of the Israeli state”and “We need to take him.” One parent remembered that two years ago, his son was playing with a paper plane in the fields when a soldier saw him. The soldier came down the hill and throw a tear-gas canister toward the boy.

At the time of writing, MPT found out that the two boys are in custody at Huwwara Israeli Military Camp, where they were provided with a lawyer by an Israeli human rights group. The family will need to pay legal fees.

[MPT wrote a human rights report about this incident which was then said to human rights organizations, particularly, the UN organizations.]

Nil''in: Brutal Response to Resistance

Nil’in, located in the Ramallah district on the Green Line, lost more than half their village land in 1948, than 1/5 of what remained after the 1967 War. This land was used for 5 illegal Israeli settlements and a large Israeli military base. In May 2008, an additional 600 acres were confiscated for construction of a three storey-cement apartheid wall. These confiscations include prime agricultural land with many productive olive trees. For more details see: http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article439

In 2003, other villages in this region led a nonviolent resistance struggle against the wall, holding daily and/or weekly demonstrations. Budrus became one of the first villages to successfully win an Israel court order to push back the apartheid wall to the Green Line.

In May 2008, when construction began again in Nil'in on the barrier fence and later the concrete wall, the village held 3 -4 demonstrations every week. Villagers were joined by international and Israeli peace activists. In response to the demonstrations the Israel Occupation forces [IOF] reacted with extreme violence, including firing massive amount of teargas from new weaponry mounted on jeeps. The weaponry consists of cannons capable of firing 10 - 15 tear gas canisters simultaneously.

Since 2008, 5 villagers have been killed including a ten-year old boy who was holding a flag in each hand and asking for peace. Many more have suffered injuries. In this same time period, 160 villagers have been arrested during demonstrations or in Israeli army night raids. These men have been jailed and imprisoned for different lengths of time. Eleven villagers are still in prison. In Nil’in in March 2009 Tristan Anderson, an American peace activist was shot in the forehead at close range with a tear gas canister. Tristan, who spent more than a year in an Israeli hospital, recently returned home to California, very incapacitated due to considerable brain damage.

[Demonstrators carried the Palestinian flag and the Irish flag - in honor of the Rachel Corrie, Irish ship of the Flotilla.]

The huge Israeli settlement is in the distance, up from the wall and the barrier land.

Friday, June 11th, MPTers met with the Nil’in villagers, Israeli peace activists and other internationals in the fields just behind the village for the Nil’in Demonstration against the illegal apartheid wall. After noon prayer in the field, the demonstrators marched toward the wall carrying Palestinian flags and the Irish flag for the Rachel Corrie ship from the Freedom Flotilla. The soldiers were positioned behind gate of the 3-storey concrete wall. This concrete wall completed last year, was constructed in front of the wire barrier fence put up in 2008.

Within a short time, volleys of powerful tear gas caused the demonstrators to move back and westward along the wall. MPTers experienced the tear gas more powerful than ever before. The soldiers seemed to be shooting the canisters at people and not in an arch. Since the Israeli naval raids on the Freedom Flotilla, Israelis, but particularly Israeli settlers seemed to have become more nationalistic and more fearful. A small group of settlers from the nearby settlement stood about ½ miles away, sang songs and shouted at the demonstration in support of the army encouraging them to kill Palestinians. After less than hour there was less action so one of the leaders asked the MPTers to hike back to the village through the fields, a safer route than the main path used sometimes by army jeeps after a demonstration.

[Volleys of potent tear gas filled the area with smoke. Cloud formeds and stayed in the area about 30 seconds, but it took minutes to recuperate from one, even at a distance.]

[Note the distance between the electrified fence and the cement wall and the loss of olive groves.]

This man showed MPT some footage of 2008 demonstrations when villagers first began to demonstrate against the new wall. There was face to face contact with Israeli soldiers who responded violently to the nonviolent resisters, including children.

The man then showed MPT a scar where he had been hit by a tear gas canister. He said, “I was ashamed to tell my son [10 years old] that this was done to me by an Israeli soldier. I did not want my son to hate the Israeli soldier who had hurt his father. I do not want my son to see Israeli soldiers as the enemy. I want us to live in peace, as people of peace.” Later when he has the opportunity to do so, he said this to an Israeli soldier during a demonstration. The soldier’s reaction was to shoot more tear gas. He then said to the soldier, “You do not understand what I said now, but maybe someday you will."


Urif: Hundreds of Olive Trees burned

(The burning of the olive trees took place near the Yitzar settlement)

MPTers visited the Palestinian village of Urif to gather information on a huge fire which burned hundreds, perhaps as many as 500, olive trees, almond trees, grape vines and fig trees to the west and north of the village on June 2nd. The fire, set by settlers from Yitzar, an illegal Israeli settlement, began about 11:00 a.m. It was first noticed by the stone quarry workers in the quarry below the olive groves, but not in direct sight of all of the grove.

When the villagers heard the fire announced through the village mosque loudspeaker, all came to fight the fires. The local Palestinian Civil Defense fire truck came with men to fight the fire, but the distance of the fire from the road, the delay in spotting the fire and the size of the area set afire resulted in a large area being burned. To the untrained eye of the MPTers, it seemed like fuel such as gasoline may have been spread over parts of the area, since on one hillside only parts of the hill were burned.

When the villagers heard the fire announced through the village mosque loudspeaker, all came to fight the fires. The local Palestinian Civil Defense fire truck came with men to fight the fire, but the distance of the fire from the road, the delay in spotting the fire and the size of the area set afire resulted in a large area being burned. To the untrained eye of the MPTers, it seemed like fuel such as gasoline may have been spread over parts of the area, since on one hillside only parts of the hill were burned.

will not

(MPTer near burned grass area. Lost grazing land.)
The Israeli Occupation Forces were called by the village authorities and came, but did nothing. This is due to the fact that civil offences should be investigated by the Israeli police since the Israeli army does not have jurisdiction over these matters. In other incidents with settlers, the army comes and watches only or detains or arrests villagers who may or may not react to the settlers.

MPT was told by one Village Council member that other types of incidents also happen frequently. About six months ago the bulldozers and other equipment at the nearby stone quarry were burned by Yitzhar settlers.

One year ago the village school was also attacked by Israeli settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzhar, injuring 23 persons . MPT interviewed the Village Council President in the spring of 2009 shortly after the school incident in which live bullets were used by settlers. (See: http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/05/urif-live-ammunition.html

The village authorities called the media when the recent fire occurred in the olive grove, but the response was minimal . Perhaps this was because of attention on the Freedom Flotilla or because there would be no action when they came. Several other villages in the area have had incidents with settlers which will eventually be recorded by various national and international organizations.

The member of the village council expressed that there was little the village could do because the Israeli military does little, the media is not always responsive, and villagers are punished severely if they retaliate. A village nearby responds with regular nonviolent demonstrations; Urif does not have demonstrations.

No Water for Bedouin Communities in Jordan Valley

Before the 1967 War, the Jordan Valley, part of the West Bank, had more than 80,000 inhabitants, most of them lived in agricultural communities. By 1971, as a result of the ongoing war between the Jordanian armed forces and the Palestinian guerrillas, the population shrunk to 5,000.
Bedouin community view (right picture)
The situation has growing worse since 1967, because all the Israeli governments considered this strip to be the eastern border of Israel with Jordan. Under the 1993 Oslo Accords almost the whole area -except Jericho- was declared to be zone C, meaning that Israel has total control over the territory.
Initially, the state of Israel planned to build a barrier to separate the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank. After the decision of the High Court of Justice in 2004 and followed by international criticism, Israel has been instituted a regime of permits and restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the territory.
The segregation process continued with issuing massive demolition orders in the Jordan Valley, targeting mostly herding communities. According to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the main target of demolitions in Jordan Valley affected the Bedouin population of the area, living in “firing zones” of the Israeli Army. Most of these demolitions occurred in the context of forced eviction of these communities, who lived in these areas well before they were declared as closed territories.

MPT visited the northern part of the Jordan Valley, southeast of Tubas. Our guides were two Palestinian volunteers who work with a local NGO in aiding the herding communities from the valley. The first outstanding experience was not allowing MPTers to pass through the checkpoint, because there is only one checkpoint where internationals can pass, far away in the south. Together with their guides, MPTers decided to choose a very “uncommon” way of passing a border line, a walk about a half mile through the creek bed of a former river, hiding themselves under the green vegetation, and trying not to be observed by the soldiers. They successfully reached their car and headed toward their destinations, Bedouin families living in tents, near their simple animal shelters. The living conditions and stories of the families MPT visited were similar.
These families are very poor, they try to make a living from their animals, making cheese, slaughtering sheep and goats and selling these products in the nearest town or city. Their dwelling is very simple with dirt floors and basic goods. With outside assistance, they sometimes can build homes from adobe, good housing in desert and because no cement is allowed. Although very unusual for the Palestinian mainstream communities, some Bedouins have more than one wife. One family MPT visited a man had four wives and several children. Many of the families have a small house in a village, where they can spend summer months and from which children can attend school. Many of these Bedouins must changing their locations every two years, in order to comply with the existing military orders which says that nobody is allowed to have a house or a home in these “firing zones” . Many families resists this law and several times their homes have been demolished by the Israeli Occupation Forces or by settlers, but each time they rebuilt it with local and international help.

Fenced off water tank
These herding communities face huge economic and social challenges, as there is no electricity, unless a generator is provided, no water, no health care and little education. MPT guide said that Oxfam spent a great deal of money on plastic water tanks that are not useful in this desert area; it would be better for them to have given pumps for water wells. Water tanks have to be hauled 25 miles through checkpoints where people are fined $1,500 for having them, and often confiscated. The Israeli government put up pumps on water wells, fenced these off, and put water pipes on them, which can be used only by the settlements. Traditional Palestinian communities do not have access to these water resources, which legally are theirs.

As a consequence, the occupied Jordan Valley looks like a patchwork puzzle of yellow Palestinian fields next to dark green fields belonging to the settlements. The settlements achieve their wealth and income using stolen lands and water resources.
well off settlements (right picture)
In fact, the settlements in the Jordan Valley are well off, vegetables and fruits are raised and shipped directly by air to Europe and USA. 12 % of what Israel exports from this area goes to the USA.

green houses for the settlements

This situation was visible when MPTers reached an area where on one side of the hill the settlers cultivated their land and had grapes, olive trees and green houses, and on the other side of the hill it was an abandoned and damaged Palestinian green house, useless because of the lack of water.

abandoned palestinian green house

Another challenge for the Bedouin communities is the continuous harassment of the settlers. Some arrived in masse mostly after 2005 from Gaza. These settlers behave very aggressively, demolishing tents and attacking the Bedouins on their lands. One family was attacked a few days ago and forced to move their tents to another place. Our guides told MPT they really have to convince these people that piping water would be cheaper and more convenient than the purchased tanks of water, which are very often requisitioned by the Israeli army. The army also confiscates other basic equipments necessary for the basic livelihoods of these communities: tractor, tents, tin shacks.

The last stop in our tour was visiting an abandoned old building, which hopefully will serve as a school for those children who have to go 7 miles by foot and through a checkpoint to the nearest school. Our guides hope that with the help of local and international donors, this dream would be achieved in the near future.

this ruined house was a nice hotel in the past

MPT also observed with sadness the ecological disaster of what has happened in the Jordan Valley: pumping out the water by the settlements for their own usage left rivers without water, once a flourishing desert resort hotel, with palm trees and flowers is now a place where cows are trying to find shade under the remaining palm trees.

ecological disaster


Al Walaja: Encircled by the Wall


Before 1948 Al Walaja was one of the largest villages in the southwest of Jerusalem. During the 1948 War Israel captured the northern part of the village, expelling the villagers and confiscating 65% of their land. These Al Walaja refugees went to refugee camps in other countries and in Palestine, but some lived in nearby caves eventually building homes on the village’s land that remained in the West Bank, after the 1948 War, creating a new Al Walaja.

After the 1967 War, the Israelis expanded the borders of Jerusalem and annexed Jerusalem to Israel. The northern part of the village taken in 1948 was included in the Jerusalem border expansions, but the new Al Walaja residents did not know that their lands were also annexed and that they should have been provided with Jerusalem IDs. From 1967 to 1985, all of Al Walaja was ruled by the Israeli Military Authority which governed the West Bank. During this time no services (water, electricity) were provided from either the Military Authority or the Jerusalem Municipality.

(Area of old Al Walaja [top] is now
the site of the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Gilo)

In 1985, the Jerusalem Municipal Court issued orders to demolish homes in Al Walaja stating lack of proper permits from the Jerusalem Municipality. With these orders, the villagers learned that their land had been annexed to Jerusalem. A residents committee was formed to defend the land, to organize demonstrations, to hire a lawyer and to appeal for the cancellation of the demolition orders. Since 1985 more than 33 homes have been demolished in Al Walaja and more than 100 people were left homeless. Most of these people left the village, as refugees for the second time. Since 1990, the Israelis have issued demolition orders for another 55 homes. Persons whose homes are under order of demolition pay monthly fines for having a home without a permit. When homes are demolished, the family must pay the demolition costs.

Since 2004, the Israelis have increased pressure on the village arresting, convicting and imprisoning scores of people, The Israeli High Court declared that the Israeli Occupation Forces must cease their campaign of arrests, but that residents must provide proof of presence on the land in 1967 and therefore the right to stay on the land. Residents cannot provide the needed documentation, such as electrical bills and water bills, because these were never provided by any Israeli authority. Arrests and imprisonments have continued. At one time bus drivers were issued huge fines for driving their routes in the village. At times, all exits to the village were blocked and people had to walk many miles to leave the village.

The village fought back by getting an urban planner to design a master plan. Previous Israeli maps were gotten to show that homes were present in certain areas before and since 1967. Residents are encouraged by the Israelis to seek Jerusalem IDs which would then be a statement of acceptance of the Jerusalem annexation.

The elementary school in Al Walaja for 300 children was in 3 rented homes and very inadequate. About a year ago a new school was completed with donations from the villagers and their labor, but it is without a permit and could be demolished.

MPT has visited this village a couple times a year since 2007. In the last two years, but particularly in the last few months more and more land has been bull dozed, a wall put up, settlement homes constructed, roads built and land prepared for the 3-storey concrete wall. Any land that is empty will be taken for settlement housing. It would seem that Israel is making a tremendous effort to enlarge as many settlement areas as possible before Obama really enforces the no settlement policy.

(Caterpillar bull dozers take more land beside the illegal settlement to build the 3-storey concrete wall around Al Walaja.)

(Huge illegal settlement homes on Al Walaja land.)

MPTer visited a family with a beautiful new home not yet completely constructed. The man had worked in Israel so he speaks both Arabic and Hebrew and was visiting with a young Israeli activist. As MPTers drove into his yard, they passed an archeological crew digging under the protection of an armed guard. To prove that land was Israel in ancient times, archeological digs are done. This crew folded their tent and left before MPT.

The man with the new home had retired, planted a small garden and had fruit and olive trees descending down the mountain. His family gravesite was a bit further down the hill. This week, soldiers of the Israeli Occupation Forces will accompany the bull dozers which will destroy his garden and trees and level an area in order to build a wall. This wall will be a continuation of the three storey wall around Jerusalem. His family burial plot will be on the other side of the wall. In time the whole village of Al Walaja will be encircled with this high wall and have only one exit.


MPTers and the family they had visited in Beit Sahour were invited to a delicious meal by an Al Walaja family they have visited over the years. This family had begun to add on a room to their home. They have now only 2 small bedrooms and need one more. This building is being done without a unattainable permit, so could “invite” demolition. This family has helped various families rebuild a home that has been demolished – collecting money from other villagers and organizing workers.

The family told us that now there are daily interactions with the soldiers. They said, “You can say that we are living with the soldiers.”

The family has very intellect children. What is their future? How will they be able to go to the university? How can they return to their village, be safe and earn a living? But most of the preoccupation now is with the here and now and wondering if the demolition order will come in the morning or the next week.

Added on June 10th: Please view these videos on YouTube to see the destruction of the olive trees and the protest.

Heartbreaking video of devastation Tuesday June 8th at
And the action and arrests on Wednesday June 9th
And here is a report from Palestine monitor with great photos