Despite the barriers and the oppressive separation against which we struggle, this visit emphasizes the important of Israeli-Palestinian meetings.
Two years ago, Israelis from the Yo’av regional council visited Salem’s olive orchards on the slopes of Jabel Kabir. They witnessed and assisted the joint rehabilitation project following the arson and mass uprooting perpetrated by settlers. Then the seeds for the present visit were sowed.
In last week’s visit (Friday February 8), 25 representatives from Salem and Jit (another village in the Nablus region), including the heads of council of both villages, came to our region. Several Villages Group members were among the hosts.
We visited the “Lachish” agricultural R&D station, and the fields of Kibbutz Gat. We focused on options to utilize treated sewage water for farming. We then made a short visit to the “Sedot Yo’av” elementary school, and ended with lunch at Kibbutz Revadim.
A nice dessert for this trip – a pleasant afternoon on the Mediterranean beach at Ashdod.
The visit was a great success, but we missed 18 invitees who were deemed by the authorities to be “Shabak Prevented” (a very broad category that includes anyone who has relatives physically harmed by the IDF or by settlers).
—————————– (official press release from the Yo’av Regional Council
Yo’av Regional Council Hosts 25 West Bank Farmers whose Olive Orchard were Harmed by Settlers
Last weekend, twenty-five farmers from the Nablus region, who suffer chronic settler attacks on their olive orchards and other crops, were guests of Council Commissioner Rani Treinin and Uri Pinkerfeld of Kibbutz Revadim. Uri has been volunteering, together with other kibbutz members, to protect these farmers and assist them with their daily travails.
The guests were escorted by Zakaria Sada of the village of Jit, who is the liaison between Nablus area villagers and Rabbis for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights – two organizations delivering year-round medical and social assistance to the region. Mr. Sada also helped as a translator.
The visit began in a meeting with Yunes El-Azi, from the Arab village of El-Azi which belongs to the Yo’av council. Mr. El-Azi told them about their good neighborly relationship and cooperation with the surrounding kibbutzim and with the regional council.
The farmers then visited the agricultural R&D farm “Lachish”, where agronomist Benny Gamli’el showed experiments design to examine the long-term effect of ongoing reuse of treated water upon land and crops. Mr. Gamli’el also presented an experiment in greenhouse tomato growing, without soil and using only controlled nutrition and fertilization. The experiment resulted in a 40 ton per dunum (about 170 tons per acre) crop.
At Kibbutz Gat, the hosts showed the visitors a treated-water reservoir using water from the town of Kiryat Gat and the nearby Intel factory. This reservoir greatly increases the amount of water available for farming – and thus enables to increase the area of orchards, which are much more profitable than seasonal crops. The visitors commented that the major problem with such projects in their region, is that the Israeli military authorities do not grant licenses to Palestinian rural water-treatment plants.
In his farewell words to the guests – among whom there were two West Bank village heads – regional council commissioner Rani Treinin said that the creation of a reasonable and ongoing relationship which is beneficial to both sides is a very complicated affair nowadays. As an example, Treinin mentioned that being not far from Gaza, his regional council now has to begin planning for the possibility of longer-range rockets being launched from there and endangering some of the Yo’av council villages. On the other hand, the council wants to reach out to the neighboring farmers of South Hebron Hills in the West Bank. “We will make sure this is not your last visit”, he told the guests and added “we should not have to fly to Italy or Spain to meet you – as is the strange custom of national-level politicians.”
From the Yo’av Regional Council, the visitors turned to the city of Ashdod because they wanted to see the sea. “Most of them have never seen the sea, and for many this was their first visit to Israel”, explained one of the group’s escorts, an Israeli woman who participates in their ongoing protection from settler harassment. One such incident happened a day before the visit: 200 young olive saplings were uprooted by settlers.
Ya’ir Barak – Yo’av Regional Council Spokesman