Who’s permitted to go to Maqam Umm a-Sheikh and Maqam Sheikh Zeitoun, which are sacred to the villages of Betunya, Beit ‘Ur el Fuqa, and Beit ‘Ur a-Taht? The villages, in the heart of which region Beit Horon settlement has been established, along with the military base and the Ofer military courts?
We went to find out ,and found that not only are they closed to the Palestinians by the separation wall and a security road, but even to harvest their olives they must (after coordinating with all the security authorities) go through the checkpoint of the Beit Horon settlement, and from there through an agricultural gate, located within the settlement, which opens once a year for the olive harvest. And how will they take care of their groves during the remainder of the year? They won’t!
“After the separation fence has been erected in the area in 2000, 8,000 dunums north of Highway 443 were left beyond it, because of their strategic location overlooking the highway and the Beit Horon settlement” (according to iNature, “The Beitunya salient”).
Israeli citizens may visit the fenced-in sites only after coordinating with the Central Command (phone number 02-530-5042) ten days in advance.
We planned to reach the hill and its sites from Beit Horon, but were disappointed. From the Upper Beit Horon fortress they are distantly visible. For example, from the Matat bird-watching site, named for “Matat Chava Rosenfeld, whose vengeance is with God," who “was raised on this hill,” and while we listened to the muezzin from the Beit ‘Ur al Fuqa mosque on the ridge across the way.
The questionnaires the mustachioed guide distributed to the girls from the religious seminary on the steps of the amphitheater at the Matat bird-watching site included this question: “Why do you think Judah Maccabee decided to attack the Greek army here?”
In 1968 Dr. Ze’ev Vilnay published Judea and Samaria – The West Bank. In the four pages about Beit Horon we read: “The Beit Horon rise has been the site of many battles, from ancient times to the Six Day War. Joshua Ben Nun pursued his defeated enemies here: ‘And he pursued them up the Beit Horon rise and smote them…’ “ (p. 57)
Here’s what I think:
“The Upper Beit Horon fortress” isn’t a metaphor, but a reality that I haven’t yet seen in the Occupied Territories: buildings set close together that often recall the Taggart police compounds, 62 of which were built by the British during the Mandate, surrounded by the settlement, which is in turn surrounded by the security road running between two more fences.