Al Khader, near Bethlehem, is facing a harsh future as a result of the
construction of the Annexation Wall, as Israeli bulldozers continue to
uproot the town’s farmlands to construct a Wall that will annex most of
the villages’ lands.
Resident Khaleel Ismail Salah, 65, said, while standing is his land slated for annexation, that the Wall is killing the town and strangling it slowly.
Salah’s land is close to Efrat settlement. In the past he used to be able to reach it, but now, six years later, his land has become unreachable unless he rides his donkey or if he walks.
Salah owns 200 Dunams, but since they are close to Israeli settlements, he is unable to have free access to them to farm and plow them.
Al Khader residents are famous for their grapevines. But the siege, the Wall and the inability to access Jerusalem has made the farmers unable to market their grapes and vegetables.
Salah also said that the soldiers are aiding the settlers in their attacks against the farmers and always protect the settlers even as they are attacking the farmers.
“There is a soldier called Hanania, he is the settlement security chief, but he always protects the settlers who attack the farmers and steal their products”, Salah stated, “He threatens to shoot the farmers and attack them, but when they try to protect themselves, the army comes and arrests them or uses force to push them out of the area”.
“Defending our land is equal to defending our life”, said Salah. “The settlers do not like to see our olive trees, because these trees represent our heritage, our past and our roots in this land”.
The army is now installing iron gates in the Wall to control the entry of the farmers to their farmlands and orchards. Every farmer who intends to reach his orchard is required to obtain a permit in advance, which in many cases delays or prevents harvest, since the farmers are unable to reach their lands whenever they need to do so, especially during agriculture seasons.
Several days ago, the army destroyed a well that contained 75 cubic/meters, and uprooted 100 Olive trees in order to construct the Wall.
Resident Mahmoud Ba’ra, said that this incident is only one of dozens of Israeli attacks that have been carried out specifically for the construction of the Wall.
The destruction of the well left the farmers without the water they need for their lands, lands which are their main, and in most cases, their only source of livelihood.
In a separate but similar attack, a group of settlers attacked farmers working in heir fields and started insulting them with harsh curse words especially against the women while the soldiers did not attempt to stop them.
Huda Mousa said that as she and her family were working in their farmland after managing to receive a court order from the Israeli High Court of Justice allowing them to enter their own orchard.
Mousa added that when the family finally entered their orchard they found that the settlers had paved a road and erected a tower on top of the highest hill there.
And as the family started plowing and planting their land, the settlers attacked them and uprooted at least fifty olive trees.
“Our battle with them has been long, we cannot surrender, and we cannot remain silent”, Mousa stated, “We need our trees, we need lawyers and institutions to support us, the farmers cannot live without their lands”.
Adnan Sbeih, mayor of Al Khader, told the Palestine News Network that the farmers are facing all sorts of difficulties as they lose their lands for the Wall and settlements.
“They need support, the Wall has isolated 19,000 out of 22,000 Dunams that the residents used to own”, Sbeih stated, “They only have 3,000 Dunams left. And with the closure and the isolation of Jerusalem from the West Bank, these farmers are now unable to reach their main market, Jerusalem”.
The residents are now facing a real disaster, the Wall and settlements are surrounding them from all directions, and the Israeli procedures, checkpoints and siege are suffocating them.
Residents of Al Khader, as well as the residents of every Palestinian village and town, are being isolated by the Wall that is being built to annex more of their lands, after the settlements already annexed and isolated most of the orchards that the residents once owned.