Yesterday, April 29, the Yanoun Team 48 set off for the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley is beautiful. There are steep hills and mountains that descend from the West Bank. Across the valley, further to the east, the mountains in Jordan rise steeply. It is a land rich in human history and biblical experiences. The Jordan River was the site of Jesus’ baptism by his cousin John. And the Jordan Valley was home to 360,000 Palestinians before the 1967 occupation of the West Bank by the Israelis. Now, there are only 64,000 who remain.
We had received a call from the Jordan Valley Solidarity Movement that evacuation orders had been delivered to families in two Palestinian villages: Ein Al Hilwa and Khirbet Samra. The movement is located in the Friends House, a stopping point for independent international travelers.
As we made our way to the villages beyond the Hamra Checkpoint, we were stopped by the Israeli Army, asked for our passports, questioned as to our reason for trying to enter the area, and turned away. Clearly the military does not want international organizations observing the displacement of Palestinian villagers or the damage caused by the military exercises.
Everywhere you look, as far as the eye can see in the Jordan Valley, there are greenhouses and oases of green, water-rich Israeli settlements. These settlements are different that the ideological settlements with which we contend in our placement. The government heavily subsidizes “economic settlers” in the Jordan Valley. They are given Palestinian lands, almost unlimited water pumped from the large eastern aquifer, equipment, agricultural supports and chemicals, roads and other infrastructure. And these supports continue for 10 years.
The land is zoned as Area C, under complete Israeli administrative and military control. I will post more about the Oslo Accord of 2004 and the division of the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C in a later blog.
In Area C, Palestinians have a very limited access to water, no infrastructural assistance for roads, health clinics, and new schools, and cannot improve or repair their homes and lands without receiving one or more of 110 different types of permits from the Israelis. And only one (1) percent of permit applications are ever approved. This health clinic was built to serve local Palestinians and then was promptly demolished by the military. An attempt to rebuild is the result in the following photo. Outcome: no clinic.
Compounding this existence is the fact that many areas are classified as “military zones” or “firing zones”. Within military zones, Palestinians are routinely given demolition orders for their homes, tents (in the case of Bedouins), animal shelters, pumps, and other improvements, such as health clinics or additions to schools.
In the case of firing zones, Palestinian villages are given evacuation orders for 24 or 48 hours. Residents must leave their homes, and the military makes no provision for shelter, food or water. The military then enter the villages and conduct training exercises with live ammunition and hand grenades, firing into homes and leaving unexploded grenades behind. There are no provisions for supplying the evacuated families with shelter, food or water.
We will return to the Jordan Valley as soon as we are able, and will visit with the families whose lives have been impacted and record their stories and feelings. And I will report to you on the facts of evacuation orders and military training exercises within populated areas.
Please pray for these people and the peace that seems out of their grasp. Only world opinion and action will change the behaviour of those occupying this territory.
Ma’a salama – with peace,