Once again we picked olives at the farm of Mohamad Abu Dia near the Efrata Settlement. His family is still well, after four years since the last time we saw him. If you followed our last trip, you know that an Outpost Settlement sprang up next door to him in the mid 2000’s. Four years ago, there were only temporary, mobile homes called ‘caravans’ here. Today half of the residences are permanent buildings, and there is a Talmud School at the top of that hill.
In addition to olive groves, Abu Dia’s family farm features grapevines, cauliflower, tomatoes, and a lovely tree-lined lane. We were happy that the weather was cooler and easier to pick olives in. The highlight of the day came with a generous lunch provided by the family in the simple shade of their patio. Stuffed grape leaves, stuffed squash, spinach bread, and yoghurt. Our leader gave a presentation on the history of the region, and the tragic losses the family has experienced with incursions of the IDF into Bethlehem.
Because Abu Dia’s farm is between this Outpost next to Efrata and the next Settlement over Majdal Oz, it is a prime suspect to be confiscated by Israel to link these two Settlements in this fertile West Bethlehem area. All of the other farms have been confiscated already, and it won’t matter that Abu Dia’s homes were built before 1967. But if he tried to expand his home for his extended family, it would give Israel the ‘right’ to demolish the homes and confiscate the land.
Israel will claim it as ‘state land’ because it is not inside the already shrinking Bethlehem district and Abu Dia and his family have only West Bank identification cards. It doesn’t matter that Israel has moved the borders, or that this land is well within the internationally recognized Green Line. Israel’s policies and behavior since 1967 have shown a consistency in transferring Palestinians into smaller areas of land while robbing them of building rights, voting rights, water rights, and the same access to the holy sites that other Palestinians inside Israel enjoy.
On the way home, we drove past the Keep Hope Alive planting fields of the last two years. Our Bay Area group has sent a team every February since 2008 to plant olive trees . We were told that two weeks ago 120 of these planted trees have been cut down or destroyed by local Settlers or – as the locals have also witnessed – the Israeli Defense Forces themselves. While the land and the trees belong to a farmer whose previous trees have already been destroyed, we can’t help but feel that a part of our own mission means little to the Israelis who insist that this land is only their home.
Thinking about all of these issues: What do you call such a well planned out process of moving an indigenous people off of their historic lands?