“Each family here gets water one day a week, but the week lasts eight days since there are eight families,” Kayan Manasra, the Palestinian Coordinator of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME), a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian NGO, told The Media Line. “There are 13 springs and seven are still in use. We farm here the same way we are doing for thousands of years.”
Battir, with its 6,000 residents is in Area B of the West Bank, meaning that Palestinians provide municipal services such as garbage pickup but Israel is responsible for security.
Most crops are grown on terraces — small plots surrounded by stone walls on the slopes of the hill. Conservationists say the farming methods are the same as those used in ancient times. Residents here are hoping that the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will designate the village a World Heritage Site. Earlier this year, UNESCO gave Battir the Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes.
Battir also has a Jewish connection. Once a Jewish village, it was the site of the defeat of a Jewish revolt against the Romans led by Bar Kokhba in the Second Century. Archaeological artifacts show the site was inhabited since the Iron Age. Today, some 4,000 residents live mostly by farming.
Now, they fear that Israel is about to construct the barrier it is building in and around the West Bank right through the village lands, which some fear could end this way of farming.
“The barrier will disconnect part of the farming lands from their owners and disturb the landscape,” Gilat Bartana of FOEME, told The Media Line. “An appeal against the barrier was rejected so building could start anytime soon.”
Building the barrier has already begun in the neighboring village of Wallaje. The Israeli Supreme Court rejected several appeals and the planned route of the barrier will completely surround the village. Omar Hajableh, 47, told The Media Line that the barrier will run very close to his house on the outskirts of the village. He says he will not be able to reach his 450 olive trees.
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