Wadi Qana: Occupation's impact on a peaceful land

by Ecumenical Accompanier last modified 26 April 2018 12:20 pm
Wadi Qana: Occupation's impact on a peaceful land

Jordan Valley, West Bank, Palestine, July 2017. Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC

25 April 2018

Wadi Qana and the politics of nature (Part I)

Although idyllic Wadi Qana is barely 50 km from the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv as the crow flies, the gap is great.

Rizeq, our local contact in the nearby village of Deir Istiya, leases grazing land there. Together with three friends, he owns a small herd of goats. The herd sleeps in a large cave that serves as a shed, with an entrance enclosed by walls and gates. Rizeq and his partners built a small hut nearby out of field stones for storing tools and spending the night.

In December, Rizeq received a demolition order – a summons to raze the hut himself. Otherwise, it would be demolished by the authorities. Not only has Wadi Qana been declared a nature reserve, but the valley also lies in the C-zone of the West Bank that is completely under Israeli control and for which building permits are virtually never granted.

It all happened on the 11th of February. In Rizeq’s words: “At 7 a.m. soldiers came to the small turning leading up to the path to my shed. They blocked the access using large boulders. The noise woke me up. After they finished blocking off the path, a group of soldiers approached my house. An officer offered his hand for me to shake. I refused and said: “I can’t shake the hand of someone who has come to destroy my house.” The officer replied: “So you know why we’re here?” I nodded.

The officer told me to collect my personal belongings and move away from the hut. I stuffed everything into a box and went down to the main road to put it behind a boulder. When I tried to come back to tend to the goats that had already fled the shed in all directions, the soldiers stopped me. They had handcuffed Ismael, my young helper, to stop him from looking after the animals. I became angry and got into an argument. I remembered how I had already lost five goats, which had apparently been killed by settlers because they had reached the settlement fence. After a heated exchange of words, the soldiers finally let me gather the herd together and let Ismael go.

As I hurried up the mountain, they started in on the demolition, so I didn’t see it with my own eyes. I managed to gather the runaway herd together and make my way back to the cave. I could only watch as they continued with the demolition. The officer warned me not to rebuild the hut and said they would be back in three months to check. Then they loaded the demolition waste on a truck and drove off.

Not only will I have to pay for the demolition and the fine for not complying with the demolition order, but they won’t reimburse me for the loss of a goat crushed by the bulldozer during the chaos.”

Unfortunately, we were unable to observe events on the ground as another group of soldiers cut off access to Wadi Qana itself. Some 20 Palestinians from Deir Istiya and the surrounding area gathered on the road at the park entrance to protest against the demolition. In the heated atmosphere, such protests can quickly get out of hand, but here everything remained peaceful. Nevertheless, the soldiers used tear gas and so-called “sound bombs” to disperse the demonstrators. However, this didn’t work, because the wind also blew the tear gas towards the soldiers.

After the truck and bulldozer had left the valley, the IDF troops cleared the way and the olive trees shimmered in the sun as if nothing had happened.

Ecumenical Accompanier in Group 69.

The continuation of this blog post will be published next week.

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The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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