"The Wadi Qana stream nature preserve"
The pastoral landscape only appears innocent. The numerous settlements established on the hilltops since the beginning of the 1980’s overlook the valley. They separate the residents of Deir Istiya and Qarwwat Bani Hassan from their farmland down below. On these lands, they preserved the traditional terrace agriculture of their forefathers and their seasonal habitations. Along with constructing the settlements, Israel declared the valley – the farmlands belonging to residents of the neighboring villages – to be the Nahal Qana Nature Preserve. That declaration didn’t stop the settlements from releasing sewage into the valley for 20 years in order to dissuade the Palestinians from farming. More recently they turned their efforts (in cooperation with all the occupation authorities) to removing the farmers – in the name of the nature preserve – using draconian regulations such as the prohibition of new plantings. This gradual transition from Palestinian agriculture to the “Nahal Wadi Qana Nature Preserve,” for the settlers’ benefit, ostensibly to protect the natural area, is occurring throughout the West Bank at the same rate as the expansion of settlements surrounding the nature preserves (and also within them).
What brought us here today? Two months ago a settler from Yakir felt like constructing a pool he could splash around in, on land belonging to Omar, a resident of Deir Istiya. Omar didn’t take this lying down and the Civil Administration, surprisingly (“nature,” after all), demolished the pool. Members of Engaged Dharma helped remove the rubble and clean the area last week. Until then Omar hadn’t gotten to know Jews other than settlers, soldiers or military police. In gratitude, he invited us (as well as those, like me, who hadn’t helped remove the rubble but had only demonstrated at Haris against the uprooting of 200 olive trees next to the Revava settlement) to a get-together and wonderful meal on his land in the valley. The landscape was glorious, shaded by well-tended oak, lemon and olive trees. His excitement was infectious. We forgot the heat and also, for a moment, the occupation and our part in it.
It was good, sitting in the shade, also to forget aspects of the demonstration held two hours earlier in Haris, that was particularly violent today: the soldiers were intent on finding ways to push and injure people, and one soldier didn’t even hesitate to direct pepper spray right at the eyes of a ten-year-old boy