Hamra (Beqaot), Tayasir, Tue 22.1.13, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
The Jordan Valley is green and remarkably beautiful. Water flows in the canals and the sheep can eat their fill. A marvelous sight.
A conversation with Mr. Zuaba’a Bisharat
The photo: Only the settlements are green – this is a photo of a new shed at the Tomer settlement. We turned onto an unpaved road up the hill to where the extended Bisharat family lives. Mr. Bisharat is active in Jordan Valley Solidarity. His compound comprises tin shacks and areas covered by plastic sheeting and netting. He recently was connected to the electric and water grids with the help of the new governor of Nablus, a Christian from Tubas living in Ramallah who is very desirous of developing the region. He gets water from a well which had been destroyed by the Civil Administration and then rebuilt.
Participants in the meeting included the householder, his wife, one of his daughters, one of his sons and his son’s friend. Bisharat has eight sons, some of whom moved to Tubas, three daughters and 46 grandchildren.
The discussion began with complaints about recent difficulties when crossing through the Hamra checkpoint. The reservists now manning the checkpoint may be the source of the problem. Inspections that haven’t been conducted for months but have been reinstate make crossing difficult and, according to the complaints, the soldiers behave very rudely.
The family has lived here since 1967, cultivates about 70 dunums on which they grow wheat. Mr. Bisharat says the land has been registered in the tabu since Ottoman times. Prior to 1967 (the Six Day War and the capture of the Jordan Valley), Jordan began surveying and registering the land, but the war’s outbreak interrupted the process. Mr. Bisharat emphasizes that he possesses an extract from the land registry books. He says the Palestinian Authority is helping him much more than it did five years ago. Mrs. Bisharat, on the other hand, said that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t help at all. Mr. Bisharat said that many notables visit him, including Salam Fayyad, foreign ambassadors, etc.
They say the Kingdom of Saudia donated $100 million to the Authority.
Mr. Bisharat said that in the past month many demolitions had been carried out in the area because winter is the season for army maneuvers. In the past the residents were sent away during maneuvers and were allowed to return after they ended, but recently they haven’t been sent away but instead their residential compounds and animal pens are demolished completely to prevent the Palestinians’ return. He said that in the past he’d been offered money if he would allow the army to establish an observation post on his land, but he refused. He claimed that he was offered $1 million for the deal. He and his neighbors are determined to remain under any condition, despite all the difficulties.
Photo: Three detainees in the checkpoint’s shed.
We planned to stop briefly to see whether there had been any significant changes in the checkpoint’s procedures. As soon as we arrived we learned of four detainees who had been “waiting for the Shabak” for hours. One of them had forgotten his ID at home, and the three others weren’t told why they had been detained. We contacted various offices to find out what was going on and speed their release. Only after an hour and a half, after we went “upstairs,” were they released five minutes later. And we wonder: What would those men have done had we not happened to stop there, and what changed in the five minutes during which the senior command staff intervened?
With respect to the complaints we heard: The pedestrian crossing has in fact been moved from one side to the checkpoint area. Men in a bus from Nablus on a pilgrimage to Mecca had to get out and cross on foot; the women were allowed to remain in the vehicle. We saw no other changes.
The construction boom in the settlements and the visible expansion of their cultivated area makes clear which way the wind is blowing. Large areas have been declared firing ranges; we saw soldiers training at many of them. The Palestinians’ living area here shrinks from day to day, as well as their ability to earn a living.
Almost no traffic at the Tayasir checkpoint, manned by reservists. They came over to find out who we were, offered us chairs to sit on (a hint that we’re ancient???) and suggested we park the car inside the base. Their enthusiasm might have diminished had they realized we were a mixed Palestinian-Israeli group!
Summary: Would that were I a goat or sheep in the Jordan Valley these days. They’re the only ones who have freedom of movement, a warm coat and a full stomach!