We drove north east of Aqraba along many little dirt roads and arrived at the edge of a valley.
On the way in we had passed many fields, flat land with stone walls around them, but there are no crops or plowed land. We are told that people want to farm their land but are afraid to because the settlers come and stay with guns - even though they own no land here. We are told the settlers know they can not quite take this land yet but they come to scare the owners away from using their own land and that is the first step.
We arrive a a small flat spot to park the car on the edge of a beautiful narrow valley in the distance we can see the Jordon Valley stretching over to the high land of Jordon. Here we find young olive trees broken off and/or uprooted. Some still had the labels around their trunks from the nursery. About 50 trees in total had been killed but it was hard to count them because the terrain is steep and the trees were not planted in nice rows but are planted a tree or two here or there where every there is room for a small terrace. Who ever killed these trees had to work at it. The elevation change from the parking area to the lowest trees must have been 200-300 feet and the trees are hard to find scattered around in no predictable pattern, where ever there is a little soil.
There is a settler who drives over to here all most daily and sits for an hour or two in the morning and returns for an hour or two in the afternoon. While he does not stop Majed who he knows owns this land he is being sure no one else comes, especially to the flatter more desirable fields. Since the settler is the only one who is ever around Majed asked him why he would do such a thing as kill his trees. The settler told him that he did not do it is was one of Majed´s neighbors who did it. Thinking back over the empty fields we traveled through to get here it is hard to imagine who this imaginary neighbor could be or where he would have come from.
Majed´s father and grandfather lived here on this land year around. We see the foundations and remnants of several cottages. They had everything they needed right here. There is water in the spring down in the valley, they grazed cows and sheep and they grew wheat, fruit and vegetables. They had no need to go to Aqraba. They stayed on the farm in this beautiful little valley. But now the family is not allowed to live here.
We see a few tired almond trees and it is explained that they used to grow almonds. This area used to grow 14 tons of almonds a year. But almonds take a lot of care and now since the settlers harass and threaten the farmers they can not give the almonds the care they need so they have mostly died. Now, those who can plant olives. Olives can survive without being fussed over.
|This amazingly small ditch catchs the rain water and funnels it into the cisteren|
|captured rain water saved for irrigation|
This land was all part of the life in Aqraba. They all had farms here and most people in Aqraba live out here for 4 months in the spring. Some, like the Banijamas, stayed all year. As we walk around Sammi collects leaves to roll warak dawali, a mustard for salads and other greens. They say the people in Aqraba will be surprised because the plants in this protected valley is a month ahead of Aqraba.
Across the stream on the opposite hill we can see a cinder block house, the only house around. This was another family that lived out here year around. In 1967 when the owner died his son moved in. But the Army would not let him stay so the house and land have been vacant since then.
We hear that even shepherds can not use this land. Some settlers surrounded a shepherd armed with stones and axes, they hit him many times and tied his hands – they were going to kill him. Word got to Aqraba and the villagers ran to his rescue and saved him. Since then no one has been allowed to enter the area.
|Track that goes around hill to next valley where his uncle owns, but is not even allowed to go to it.|
Majeds uncle owns land in the next little valley, like this one, with a spring, but bigger and nicer. We can see a track on the hill side on the other side of the stream that leads around to his family farm. Last spring 15-20 people went over to his Uncles place. When they came back there was a group of settlers standing in the parking area shoulder to shoulder blocking the way back to their cars. They asked Why are you here¨ They were looking for a confrontation. ¨We just visit our land.¨ The settlers called the army and said the Palestinians been over yelling and throwing stones at settlers. The army came with guns and believed the settlers. They tried to arrest and take two people of our children, but we were able to keep that from happening. Before the soldiers left they said next time don't come back here.
We heard that in 1969 a helicopter flew over this whole area spraying it all with herbicides. These fields were all in wheat but it all died. After killing the crops they declared much of it a closed military area and no one is allowed to be in it.
I heard Majed yelling a hello at someone across the valley and talking with them, but I could not see anyone. When I moved to where I could see him I realized he was just talking on his cell phone.
At one point I could see a half dozen people on the far hill. When I pointed them out no one said anything but there was a new tension in our group and people moved visibly faster. But when I pointed it out to Majed he said they were Palestinians on the path to another valley. Then everyone relaxed. But it pointed out to me the apprehension everyone lives under.
|piled rocks tell shepherds that there are crops here and not to grazz anmilals|
|Flowers bloom in any crak in the rocks|
|Majeds family has used this tree for a hundred years, resting, eating, having coffee under it|
|looking down the valley. the far hills are in jordon|
|looking up the valley|
|Land that was all farmed by Aqraba residents. Now they cant use it.|
|the road home|
|The road home|