Burin (Yitzhar)

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Irit Segoli, Nurit Popper (report and photos); Translator: Tal H.

An invisible border prevents Deir Al Khatab villagers from accessing their own olive groves.

Deir Al Hatab – meeting with A. from the village. He tells us about blocking actins that took place during recent nights. Last night the army blocked entry to Deir Al Hatab until 4 a.m. On the previous night soldiers stood at the junction between Salem and Deir Al Hatab but allowed vehicles through.

We asked A. to accompany us in order to see the hidden barriers in the areas between his village and the settler-colony of Alon More nearby. Since it was founded in 1980, the villagers have been prevented free access to their olive groves and the holy site on Kabir mountain – Maqam Sheikh Bilal. A. showed us the tracks  out of bounds for Palestinians since 1980.

We drive through the village and reach its south-eastern outskirts near the girls’ school. The school yard is fenced, and constitutes a signal. An imaginary line from this fence to the track is in fact the “border”, beyond which they are not allowed to proceed. “I can only go so far”, he points to the unseen border line. He makes several steps beyond it. “Here is a ‘dead’ area, I am not noticed. But if I walk another 50 meters along this track, the army will show up right away.” The entire area is surveillance electronically. The track leads to Ein Al Kabira spring. In Irit Segoli’s report of November 9, 2016, this spring is mentioned:

Both sides of the track and all the way to road 555 are planted with olive trees belonging to Deir Al Hatab villagers. They are officially allowed to harvest their olives near the settler-colony, but in fact are not able to do so because the settler-colonists prevent it. The army is supposed to enable the work but does not do its job.

A second track goes through the village, north of the first one. The track that leads to road no. 555 is clearly seen on the map. A small dirt pile is evidence of the border. Everyone in the village knows they may not go beyond it. Even the children are aware of this. Here is where people used to walk from Salem and Deir Al Hatab to the holy site of Maqam Sheikh Bilal.

En Makhna – We have visited this place before as well. This water source is located on Ab Ismail hill near Huwwara checkpoint. A luscious willow tree spreads its shade over a structure that serves as a bathhouse. Two skullcapped youths were filling plastic containers with spring water flowing from a manmade ditch to a cemented hole near the “bathhouse” and loaded them onto a donkey. They are from the illegal settler outpost Giv’at Sneh Yaacov up the hill, which they call “Ronen”. Cameras recorded boys of the same age a few months ago hurling stones at local villagers in the fields of Bourin village. The boys we met warned us not to enter the site. It is for men only. While we stood there a smiling man arrived there, to bathe. He told us he lives with his wife and daughters in one of the outgrowths of settler-colony Itamar nearby. They are originally from the US. His wife is a ceramist.

We decided to accept the settler-colonist’s invitation and visit there. It was an opportunity to see Maqam Al-Sheikh Ahmad located inside Itamar’s juristdiction. We heard about this site from Dror Etkes who has begun to map the Muslim holy sites throughout the West Bank. The guard at the settler-colony gate wondered what we were doing there. He appeared to be deliberating whether to let us in. The settler-colonist’s presence, waiting for us on the other side of the gate, won his trust and he let us in.

Maqam Al-Sheikh Ahmad – on the top of a hill, 850 meters high, is an open structure with 4 arches, covered by a conical dome painted green. It contains a tomb, and is surrounded by a wall that defines its borders. The structure and wall are plastered. There are no visible remains of ancient building stones.

This gravesite, sanctified by the Muslims of the area, has been ‘Judaized’ and is now attributed by the settler-colonists of Itamar to Judge Gideon’s tomb. The illegal settler-outposts scattered on hill tops along vast areas around Itamar are named Gideons. This is how a new narrative is created to fit the myth they wish to promote.

The hill overlooks a beautiful landscape. The towns of Beit Furik and Beit Dajan are spread at its feet.

Burin – On the hill upon which the settler-colony of Yitzhar was built, mostly over olive groves belonging to Bourin villagers, works are in process to straighten terrain over waste piles recently disposed there. The purpose of these works is not yet clear.

One of the shortcuts to road no. 60 and the olive groves on its other side is still blocked.

Maqam Al-Sheikh Ahmad
Nurit Popper
Waste piles from Yitzhar disposed on the hillside to create a level the purpose of which is still unknown
Nurit Popper
Entrance to the “bathhouse” in the shade of the willow tree
Nurit Popper