Gush Etzion is a group of Jewish settlements south of Jerusalem, between Bethlehem and Hebron. Attempts at Jewish settlement in the area began in 1927. 4 kibbutzim were established between 1943–1947 but were destroyed during the Battle of Gush Etzion during the War of Independence in 1948.
After the 1967 Six Day War, Jewish settlement in Gush Etzion was renewed, and since then another 14 settlements and 10 outposts have been established. According to the info-icon of the Civil Administration, Gush Etzion is now 7 times larger than its historic area, and the Jewish lands purchased before the evacuation in 1948 constitute less than 15% of the large settlement bloc of the Gush Etzion Council today, which Israel demands to annex in the permanent agreement with the Palestinians.
The Palestinian localities in the area are concentrated in enclaves, the largest of which is in the east - the Bethlehem area, which includes Beit Jala, al-Khader, Beit Sahur and more. To the west are settlements such as Husan, Nahalin, Al Jaba'a and Batir and small and ancient agricultural villages such as Shushahala, Khalat Sakaria and more. These are scattered on the last agricultural land left by the Palestinians in the area. In the 2000s, many illegal outposts sprang up, taking over private Palestinian land under the auspices of the administration and the army, trying in an extremely violent way to evict farmers from their land and homes and thus expand the settlements. Watch the video about the harsh reality in the Shushalah and Makam Nabi Daniel area.
During the 1990s, the new Road 60, most of which is forbidden to Palestinian traffic, was paved, and a separation wall was built next to it. Access to many of the Palestinian villages and agricultural lands in the area was blocked, and a buffer was created between the villages themselves as well as between them and the lands they owned. The layout of the settlements and the network of roads and checkpoints in the entire Etzion area indicate the intention to create a territorial and transportation continuum between Gush Etzion and Jerusalem.
Machsom Watch members have been active in the for many years. We talk to the Palestinians at intersections, DCOs, villages and Makamim (ancient Palestinian heritage sites) and try to publicize the looting, apartheid and violence they are experiencing. You can read about their activities in the attached reports.
in 2021, after many years of negotiations, the Civil Administration issued a new plan for the central village of Khirbet Bet Zakariya, including construction permits. The adjacent settlers protestated and asked the minister of defence to cancel the permits. Our members are in contact with the village and are trying to involve other organiztions and use public opinion and to stop this cancelation.