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Posts Tagged ‘South Hebron Hills’

After last week’s violence in Safa, it seems that the IDF has come to an agreement with the residents and will permit the farmers of the town to work, but no one else will be allowed in the agricultural area.  Therefore, Ta’ayush agreed to not go to Safa, hoping that the farming would resume without problems and that our activities there had indeed been successful.

Instead we went to accompany Palestinian shepherds from the small village of Tu’ba  who wanted to graze their goats near the chicken houses of the settlement Ma’on.  There was little vegetation to graze in the area, and even less in places further from the settlement.  Our group was a few hundred meters from the settlement itself, and the chicken houses were only inhabited by chickens, so we were not very close to any settlers.  Nonetheless, settlement security came to the area and called in the IDF, Border Police and civilian Police.  They declared the area a Closed Military Zone and said we had to leave in 5 minutes.  No explanation was given even though we repeatedly asked for one.  Luckily, by that time the goats had nearly finished their grazing so we were not upset about leaving.

We received a phone call that some Palestinians in the village of Sha’ab al-Buttun had been attacked by settlers from Mitzpe Ya’ir, so we gathered in our cars and went there.  By the time we arrived the settlers had already left, but the Palestinians showed us some video they had taken on a phone.  Apparently, 3 settlers entered the village and went inside the homes of a few residents.  They also hit some of the Palestinians, one of whom showed us the welts on his arms.  Perhaps most disturbingly, the settlers also broke the legs of 3 of the Palestinian’s sheep.  We will try to file a complaint and hopefully be able to press charges against the settlers.  There is a chance of some success because their faces are on video.

Finally we went to visit the small Palestinian village of Susya, where the Border Police and IDF had followed us.  After drinking tea and some discussion, it was decided to go up to Givat HaDegel, the illegal outpost built by settlers from the settlement of Susya on private Palestinian land.  The soldiers and Border Police were already at the outpost when we arrived, ready with an order for a Closed Military Zone.  At least 15 soldiers and Border Police prepared to eject our group of 15 from the area.  After a brief argument, we went back to the village of Palestinian Susya and said our goodbyes

IDF soldiers on Givat HaDegel

IDF soldiers on Givat HaDegel

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Most of the group continued back to Jerusalem after this, but I went to Beit Ummar with two others from Ta’ayush to say hello to Issa (a Palestinian Ta’ayush activist) and to see if the Palestinians in Safa were able to do their work.  We found that the farmers were able to work today without any problems, which was very positive news.  However, we also heard that the IDF had destroyed part of the walls on either side of a path leading to the farm area and also destroyed a few fruit trees.

Apparently, an army vehicle became stuck in a ditch in the farmland area.  To get it out, the soldiers decided to bring  a bulldozer, which then destroyed part of the walls on either side of the path, leaving rocks and rubble in the road.  Another vehicle had driven in between the fruit trees, at least one of which was totally destroyed, and two or three others were seriously damaged and did not look to me that they would survive.  I don’t think the soldiers intentionally did this damage, but the way they did it indicates that it does not matter to them.  They did not make efforts not to damage property, and there was no discussion with any of the Palestinians about it.  This destruction didn’t take place during a military operation or any kind of emergency, it just was easier for the soldiers to do their work this way.

(Photo by Mairav Zonszein)

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Another illegal outpost of some interest is Nof Nesher, also called Lucifer Farm.  I want to make clear that Lucifer Farm is a name the settlers themselves use, not some nickname the Palestinians came up with.

Here is a sign near Lucifer Farm.

Lucifer Tower

Lucifer Tower

The sign says Lucifer Tower in large print.  Above in smaller print it says ‘tradition/heritage/source  national water company’ (I am not sure which meaning is intended for the first word, possible all of them).

The Lucifer Farm is apparently home to only one family.  It was founded by Yaakov Talia, who, according to David Shulman’s book “Dark Hope”,  is a South African who converted to Judaism at the end of apartheid, and moved to Israel.  What does that say about the settlers in South Hebron?

Here is the settlement.

Nof Nesher/Lucifer Farm

Nof Nesher/Lucifer Farm

At the top of the hill is the settlement, and I want to point out a couple things in the picture.  It may be difficult to see, but along the left side of the dirt road there is a low cement barrier, and in one part there are rocks serving the same purpose.  This barrier was constructed to prevent the Palestinian’s sheep from grazing, and it also limits their freedom of movement significantly.

Also, note the power lines and radio tower.  All of this was built for one family – living in an illegal settlement.  It seems like an illogical use of resources beyond even the issue of legality, which is clear.

More on the Tour to come…

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On Saturday I was given a sort of tour around the South Hebron Hills.  I saw some new areas and learned more about the history there.  It was a tough day mentally – hearing upsetting stories, and seeing the difficulty of Palestinian life in this area first-hand.

I will break up the day into a few posts.  First, the road to Avigail.

One of the most affecting parts of the day involved driving on the paved road leading to the illegal outpost Avigail.  When I say ‘illegal outpost’, this means it is illegal under Israeli law, not just International law.

The terrain around the outpost is rocky and hilly.

Avigail in the distance

Avigail in the distance

The road at the bottom leads all the way around to Avigail, which is a fair distance.  Here is what is amazing about this road.  It was originally built by local Palestinians to lead to their villages.  There are a few small villages in the area, I have been to one of them, Jinba.

Anyway, the Palestinians built this road with their own money.  According to haaretz the outpost was built in 2001, and The Washington Post reported in 2002 that Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the settlers there to be evacuated. I guess the IDF is still waiting for the right moment to make the settlers leave.

In the meantime, the road was paved with money from the Israeli government, and the Palestinians who had originally built the road are no longer allowed to drive on it.  You can see on the picture above that the terrain is rough.  There are now no roads leading to the Palestinian villages near Avigail.  As I mentioned before, I have been to Jinba, one of the small villages nearby.  The drive to get there – over rocks and hills – was like being on a roller-coaster.  For all practical purposes, these villages are inaccesible by car.

More to follow soon…

The Road

The Road

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