Baladi vegetables from Wadi Fukhin, a Palestinian village southwest of Bethlehem

This article appeared in Haaretz about the pleasures of baladi [or, authentic home grown from the countryside] vegetables from a Palestinian West Bank village near Bethlehem.

Of note: the vegetables have to be smuggled past checkpoints to get to Jerusalem.

Sometimes, they are confiscated.

Without further comment, here is an excerpt from the Haaretz story:
Since the village was founded at the beginning of the 16th century, its farmlands have been shrinking. This was a natural process through the generations, as in the feudal estates of medieval times, when the laws of inheritance reduced the area received by each family head. In the 20th century the problem was compounded by complex geopolitical developments.

The Israeli army captured the village at the end of the War of Independence in 1948 and it became part of Jordan in the armistice agreements. In 1953, the villagers fled to refugee camps after an Israeli reprisal raid. For 20 years, they would sneak back to their fields to continue working them, until the Israeli government allowed some of them to return to their land – occupied by Israel following the 1967 war.

Since the end of the 1980s, 9,000 of the farmers’ 12,000 dunams (4 dunams = 1 acre) have been appropriated by Israel in order to build the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city-settlement of Betar Ilit.

The intensive construction of the city’s neighborhoods not only brutally wounded the natural ridgeline; it also hemmed in the vanishing valley from its eastern side and is blocking the natural runoff of rainwater to the village springs, which are, as a result, gradually drying up.

Only by adhering to ancient village traditions has Wadi Fukhin (population: 1,200) been able to preserve the enviable patterns of working the land that the whole world is now trying to emulate. This is small-scale agriculture, using ancient seeds of fruits and vegetables indigenous to the region, chemical-free. The traditional fertilizer was and remains the organic compost of goat droppings – most of the fellahin were in any case too poor to buy any other fertilizer.

The Friends of the Earth organization, which took the village under its wing in genuine admiration of the undeclared and vanishing nature reserve, taught the villagers additional techniques of ecological and organic farming. Those who love the earth are easily persuaded to keep it clean; some of the villagers have become true zealots not only of traditional farming, but also of “modern” organic methods.

The village’s vegetables were long famed in the markets of Hebron and Jerusalem, and fetched very high prices. But the only market currently open to produce from the village is in Bethlehem, where, the farmers complain, prices are lower.

The villagers could make a living from the burgeoning market for organic produce in Israel, but a checkpoint blocks their way…
Continue reading Baladi vegetables from Wadi Fukhin, a Palestinian village southwest of Bethlehem

IDF increases West Bank roadblocks 3% in last six months, UN says

Next week [26 September], the Quartet will meet at the United Nations in New York. Will they discuss this just-issued UN-OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report)???

Even the Jerusalem Post writes this: “The IDF has increased the number of West Bank roadblocks by three percent in the last six months, according to a UN report cited by Israel Radio on Sunday. The report stated that there were currently 630 roadblocks in the West Bank, around a third of them manned. It also said that some three fifths of the West Bank security fence had been completed and that 80% of it had been constructed east of the Green Line“. This article can be viewed here.

The full OCHA report can be read here.

The report states:”Overall, the freedom of movement of Palestinians within the West Bank and East Jerusalem remained highly constrained and neither territorial contiguity nor the pre-2000 status quo was restored” [n.b., these are Roadmap requirements] …

OCHA also reports that: “In its latest survey of the West Bank and East Jerusalem on September 2008, OCHA observed 630 obstacles blocking Palestinian movement, including 93 staffed [n.b., this is a rather dry and bureaucratic description — these “staffers” hold weapons in their hands, and sometimes, even when things are quiet, and they are bored, they even point them at people] and 537 unstaffed obstacles (earthmounds, roadblocks, barriers, etc.). This figure represents a net increase of 3.3%, or 20 obstacles, compared to the figure reported at the end of the previous reporting figure on 29 April 2008″[n.b., since the Annapolis process began]. This total does not include 69 obstacles in the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron City (H-2), nor 8 checkpoints located on the Green Line [n.b., why not?]. Additionally, the weekly average of random (‘flying’) checkpoints increased by about 10% compared to the first four months of 2008 (85 vs. 77)”.

The report continues: “The number of obstacles at any one time is indicative of the access situation, but does not capture the full picture of the system of obstacles and restrictions. There is a whole range of measures including the Barrier [n.b. while I appreciate the capital B here, why does OCHA not call it The Wall, to follow the example set by the UN’s highest judicial organ, the International Court of Justice?], restricted roads, permit system, age and gender restrictions, and closed areas, which layered upon each other, consolidate into a comprehensive system fragmenting the West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

OCHA continues, very drily,: “The Barrier plays a very significant role in this system … separating Palestinians from their land and creating enclaves isolated to some extent from the rest of the West … During the reporting period the GOI [Government of Israel] continued investing in transportation infrastructure throughout the West Bank [n.b. territory that the GOI occupies, and to which it does not hold title …] An Israeli military expert estimated the cost of constructed and planned and ‘fabric of life roads’ and Barrier gates at 2 billion NIS. Extensive works were also being carried out to expand and renovate key checkpoints…”

In the last paragraph of this report, OCHA says that “In reflecting on more than seven years of restrictions, what was once a short-term Israeli military response to violent confrontations and attacks on Israeli civilians has developed into an entrenched multi-layered system of obstacles and restrictions, fragmenting the West Bank territory and affecting the freedom of movement of the entire Palestinian population and its economy. This system is transforming the geographical reality of the West Bank and Jerusalem towards a more permanent territorial fragmentation”.

So, where is Condoleezza Rice? Where is UNSG BAN Ki-Moon? Where is Tony Blair?

Military Zone - anyone entering or damaging the fence endangers his life

And, shall I just remind you that my residential neighborhood, full of lovely houses and gardens and where the World Bank has its offices and where there are two prestigious private schools, and which is now officially or unoffically annexed to Jerusalem by The Wall [or what OCHA calls a Barrier], is still a “MILITARY ZONE” [NOT closed, or operational, or anything like that — just a military zone] where “ANYONE WHO ENTERS — or damages the fence [SIC !] — ENDANGERS HIS LIFE”.

And, therefore, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the CHECKPOINT is still there — and not only that, it has changed from one to three lanes, and the lines are longer than ever, and it usually takes 25 minutes to pass through — under gun point, of course.

UPDATE: There are hardly ever fewer than ten to twenty cars waiting to get through this checkpoint at any given time, day or night. Today, there were huge trucks waiting in line — and trucks were never before allowed to pass through the checkpoint going in the direction of downtown Jerusalem. And, there were three extremely rude and bad drivers who cut in line in places ahead of me, as I waited nearly 35 minutes to get through this afternoon. I called Smolik, a checkpoint liaison person with the Border Police who has sometimes helped before. At least, he’s someone to register a complaint with — the worst thing is to feel so much at the mercy of this awful situation, with no procedures that are clear (except total and unconditional submission), and no redress. So, complaining to Smolik makes it seem as if one is regaining a little bit of dignity in one’s life, even if it rarely ever results in any improvement. He said today, however, that he was unaware that all kinds of other traffic was now passing through this checkpoint — he said he thought it was still just for the residents of this area!!

Last night — we are told now — the general closure was lifted

One of the bad things about this occupation is that no one ever really knows what’s going on, or what will happen to his or her life.

The IDF spokeperson has now announced this morning that : “The general closure of the Judea and Samaria region and the Gaza Strip was lifted yesterday, March 9th, at midnight, following security assessments. Throughout the closure, the passage of the following cases was permitted: medical personnel, NGO members, religious workers, humanitarian cases, teachers, lawyers and prisoners’ families on their way to court, residents of Jabal Mukabar, Beit-Safafa, Hizma and Bir Una, as well as Palestinian workers under the auspices of District Coordination and Liaison offices”.

But what are all the planes and helicopters flying overhead?

In normal places, that means normal civilian activity.

Here, it generally means trouble.