Disappearing Palestinians

Posted on 05 August 2010

Wadi Fukin is a beautiful village in a fertile valley, west of Bethlehem. Two of my sisters-in-law live here having married into local families. Wadi Fukin has an interesting history: it is the only Palestinian village depopulated after 1967 and the villagers were subsequently allowed to return. To cut a long story short, for a number of years local families would return to cultivate the land, they lived in tents, and finally the military governor of Bethlehem allowed them back. But that isn’t the important story now.

Each time I visit I am shocked by the growth of the closest settlement, Beitar Illit, and this time I was absolutely horrified. Last time flats had been built along the top of the ridge, extending the town by at least 1.5 kms. Now, the settlers are in the valley, almost to the bottom and directly behind the local school, the compound in the foreground of the photo.

B, my brother-in-law, believes there is a very clear plan. There’s another settlement behind Wadi Fukin and everyone believes this construction will eventually meet the other settlement and connect them together. This will leave Wadi Fukin stuck in the middle, encircled by very hostile neighbours.

Already many people have left, they see no future here. When I last walked along the valley, so little of the land was still being used to grow fruits and vegetables. The food from the wadi, by the way, tastes amazing. So fresh and healthy, so tasty and pure. There used to be plenty of water to irrigate the bountiful crop. M told me today when she first married and moved here, she could hear the springs at night. Now there is barely a trickle as all the water has been diverted to supply the settlement.

So, what happens to those trapped by this super-settlement? Tunnels will most likely be the answer. Israel seems to like the idea of using tunnels to connect Palestinian areas. Barak touted a tunnel to link Gaza to the West Bank, but that won’t happen. But there are already other tunnels and underpasses to connect Palestinians to Palestinians. It is also the perfect solution to connect Gush Etzion to Jerusalem (route 60), while ensuring that the settlers do not have to set eyes on an Arab and be reminded of whose land they are really living on.

The drive out of the valley takes us by the entrance to Beitar Illit. Just opposite is a lone Palestinian home. The owner is a mechanic and operates a garage from there. As we passed, a long line of settlers were waiting their turn for his services. It’s OK to use cheap Arab labour, of course.

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