Jerusalem: Olive Trees = Peace
By Ed - Jerusalem
Today I traveled to Beit Surik, where the villagers were organizing a rally against the "security wall" being built by the Israelis. Beit Surik is a village of about 4000 people who make their living from the surrounding land, where they grow food for their families and produce to sell. The route of the wall surrounds the village, cutting the villagers off from their farmland, their water supply and even their rubbish dump.
The rally took place on a hill overlooking the village. From the summit I was shown where the wall will run, jutting out from the village to surround the out lying houses, cutting every village off from the bulk of their land. It will even run directly next to the high school, hardly the ideal learning environment. I can also see several newly build Israeli settlement on the surrounding hills. Apparently many of them are currently empty.
A local man proudly told me that the area is famous for it's olives, but if the wall is built it won’t be for much longer.
I spoke to a 19 year old university student from the village, and ask him what he'll do when the wall is built, he just shrugs his shoulders. A friend of mine spoke to a local farmer, who currently has enough land to provide for his family of 40. Only his, his wife and one of his daughters have the required permits and papers to travel to Jerusalem. If the family are no longer able to farm the land the only option he sees is going to beg in Jerusalem.
At a press conference after the rally the villagers voiced their concerns about the wall. They claim:
- That as the wall cuts deep into Palestinian Territory, as agreed by the 1967 UN agreement, it destroys any dream of a viable Palestinian state, that stated aim not only of the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, but also of the UN, EU, USA and Russian "road map for peace"
- It will destroy communities and families. (There's a strong Tradition of people marrying into families in neighboring villages. The wall, which leaves some villages on one side and some on the other, will divide families and well as communities.)
- It will devastate the Economy of Beit Surik. (Currently almost entirely based on agriculture. With unemployment currently at around 70% any damage to the local economy may be fatal to the survival of the village.)
- The health of the villagers will suffer (The wall will cut them off from their supplies of water, will cut them off from their rubbish dump and the garbage will collect in the village and maybe most seriously , as the villagers have no running sewerage system, sewage water that is currently collect by trucks will collect in the village, as the wall will block the roads to the village.)
-That houses will be demolished to make way for the wall. (A neighboring village has just received notice that several house in the village will be demolished to make way for the wall.) The villagers I spoke to see the wall as yet another attempt by the Israeli state to take more Palestinian land. The village is just North East of West Jerusalem, and close enough for the land to be very valuable for the Israeli state.
When I arrived in Beit Surik I went for a coffee in a local coffee shop before the rally. The conversation moved from the rally to the previous Intifada (Palestinian uprising). One of the men in the village tells me that about 20 of the villagers are still in Israeli jails since then, 13 years later. I ask him how he feels about that. With a shrug of his shoulders he says that when the wall is finished the whole of the West Bank will be a prison.
The Israeli government states that the wall is a security measure to prevent suicide bombings. An elderly Palestinian I speak to offers an alternative out come; "when they build a wall by a mans house and cut him off from his land, where he gets his food from, they force him to die. Will he chose to die on his own or take others with him?"
While walking back from the rally to the center of the village I past the village community centre. Outside hangs a banner reading "OLIVE TREES = PEACE".