Green Groups: Wadi Fukin Under Threat From Fence Route

The Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin, located in the Judean Hills, is liable to be seriously damaged by construction plans for the neighboring settlement of Upper Betar and by the West Bank separation fence, a section of which is slated to be built next to the village, according to an environmental group called Friends of the Earth Middle East.

The organization - which brings together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists and is a member of Friends of the Earth International - joined with a group of residents of Tzur Hadassah, a nearby Israeli community located just inside the Green Line, to ask Defense Minister Amir Peretz this week to work to change the construction plans and the fence route.

The section of the fence near Wadi Fukin, which has become known for its ancient and unique agricultural system, is due to be constructed shortly. It is slated to pass along the northwest side of Wadi Fukin, adjacent to the village's houses. A few months ago, residents of several Pal estinian villages in the region petitioned the High Court of Justice against the fence route, but the court has yet to rule on the petition.

Upper Betar, meanwhile, is planning a major expansion, along with a new road that will pass through the Palestinian village's agricultural lands.

The work that has been done so far to prepare for the construction has already caused extensive damage to Wadi Fukin.

The petitioners argued that allowing the settlement expansion and the fence construction to go through would turn the village into a narrow enclave surrounded by construction on one side and the fence on another.

The construction, they said, would prevent rainwater from trickling into the springs on which the village's agricultural system is based and could even cause the springs to dry out altogether. In addition, they argued, construction within the agricultural areas would destroy one of the last remnants in the Judean Hills of the traditional agricultural system used in the village, a system that is thousands of years old.