Hamra (Beqaot), Ma'ale Efrayim
Last week 20 Bedouin families from Malih, in the north, have received eviction notices. It’s one more in the long series of demolitions of Bedouin homes in the Jordan Valley. Their poverty is extreme, they barely make a living from raising sheep and cattle, and they have no water or electricity. The Civil Administration, acting on behalf of the army, offers them no alternative housing or way to make a living, so it’s clear to everyone that they have no choice, they’ll somehow manage to continue living there, even out in the open. This policy can be understood only as another way of embittering their lives, which are difficult in any case, out of heartlessness, as if they weren’t human beings like us.
The legal basis for the eviction notices is that the Bedouin are living on a firing range, to which entry is prohibited. All the land in the northern Jordan Valley is a firing range. In other words, the entire population is subject to eviction at any moment. We haven’t heard of any settlement that has been similarly affected in the least – quite the opposite. They’re expanding.
About three months ago the Civil Administration demolished tent encampments of five families from Fasail Wasta, in the central Jordan Valley. There’s a standard procedure in such cases – the threatened residents contact the Palestinian Authority, which refers them to an Israeli attorney who begins legal action to delay the demolition. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.
The large number of cases over the years indicates a consistent policy by the army to undermine the way of life of the Bedouin in the Jordan Valley by demolishing homes, false arrests, confiscation of property and livestock, and imposing fines, as well as many other injustices.
Za’tara (Tapuach) checkpoint
No soldiers, other than in the observation tower at the junction.
09:55 Ma’ale Efrayim checkpoint
We saw a soldier behind the building. There were apparently soldiers in the observation tower.
According to the internet, the village has more than 1000 residents. The army has demolished village buildings in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2012. The location became widely known when the school was demolished. The reason – it had been built without a permit. Because this is Area C (as are 92% of the Jordan Valley), it is controlled by the army, which is the only authority who can issue construction permits and which usually denies Palestinian applications. Almost all construction after 1967 is illegal and subject to demolition if the army decides to do so. Apparently demolitions continue. H. reported that three months ago he and four other families lost their homes. Most of the demolitions are carried out in the part of the village called “Fasail Wasta” (the middle portion), where Bedouin live in temporary structures.
We met a settler from Tomer, adjoining Fasail, who’d come to the village on business. He said the village developed only because of its proximity to the settlement, which provides work. We asked how much they’re paid per day; he began squirming and became defensive. “Actually, I prefer Thai workers; they’re productive. The Palestinians aren’t efficient, partly because of the extreme heat. I see a boy, give him a job just so his family will have some income. They work 8 hours, but it’s as if they worked 3…” etc. etc. He never told us what they’re paid.
Yesterday (May 11) The Marker published a shocking article by Tali Haruti-Sukar about the conditions of employment of Palestinian workers in Jordan Valley settlements. They’re paid NIS 8/hour, with no benefits – it’s slavery. That settler told us that agriculture doesn’t pay here (despite the scandalous wages – RT), and of 228 residents of Tomer only five farm. The rest work in Israel. According the Wikipedia, they cultivate 4200 dunums and most are engaged in farming.
When we left Fasail, going north, we saw an impressive Palestinian initiative east of Highway 90, opposite Fasail and extending north, called “Pal Gardens,” operated by Palestinian Gardens – Solidarity of Sinokrot Agriculture. It covers 300 dunums; they grow peppers, tomatoes and dates. It’s managed jointly with local residents, provides 50 permanent jobs of different kinds and employs 200 seasonal workers. The produce is exported. Farther north along the road are large grape and date farms, apparently owned by Israelis (paying workers as described in Haruti’s article).
12:20 Hamra checkpoint
Today cars heading west, to Area A, under Palestinian control, were the ones carefully inspected and their passengers’ IDs checked by computer. A car had been detained when we arrived; a line of 8 vehicles heading west has formed, unusual for this hour of the day. Ten minutes later the driver’s documents were returned; shortly afterwards another car was detained off to the side for about ten minutes, and this continued to happen for as long as we remained at the checkpoint. The line of waiting cars remained long, and the duration of their wait also increased. I asked the checkpoint commander what was going on; he said they’re following orders from the Shabak.
It’s an “agricultural gate” which is supposed to open three times a week for half an hour in the morning and in the afternoon. It’s part of a barrier preventing vehicles from driving west from the Alon Road, stretching from the Hamra checkpoint to the Ro’i settlement and cutting off Bedouin on one side of the road from those on the other. Those who live east of the road can’t work lands to the west and can’t freely access the town of Tamun which is a regional center for basic services such as schools, clinics, a market, bank, etc. The crossing timetable makes utilization of such services impossible. But even that minimal access isn’t provided: the checkpoint has been closed for more than a year.
The checkpoint was established to divide the Jordan Valley from the remainder of the West Bank and make the lives of the valley’s residents so difficult that they’ll leave – consistent with the aspirations of all Israeli governments since the occupation began to annex the Jordan Valley and empty it of Palestinians. But life goes on, and local residents struggling to survive find ways to get around this checkpoint, reach Tamun and beyond, over barely passable tracks, damaging their vehicles. That’s what the occupier’s policy costs them. Now a ditch has been dug along the “Burma Road” to prevent people from getting around the checkpoint.
The Palestinian olive grove adjoining the vineyard belonging to the Ro’i settlement
Whenever we pass we visit the grove; we’d help plant it last month together with dozens of Palestinians from the area. It was an initiative intended to prevent the Ro’i settlement from stealing the land belonging to a resident of Tubas. The saplings are in excellent shape. The Ro’i settlers erected a barbed wire fence around the grove, which adjoins its own. It seems whenever Israelis and Palestinians come into contact, the Israelis erect a separation fence – also between Israeli grape vines and Palestinian olive trees.
We saw no soldiers at the Ma’ale Efrayim checkpoint on our way back, nor at Za’tara junction.