Cherry Plantation Burned in Settlement as Hay Torched in Southern West Bank

Settlers claim arson, say fire damaged trees worth thousands of shekels ■ In South Hebron Hill, where the hay was burned, graffiti sprayed saying 'We will reach everywhere'

Cherry plantation in Kfar Etsion, May 23, 2018
ירון רוזנטל

A cherry plantation caught fire in the Kfar Etzion settlement in the West Bank. Settlers claimed it was arson, since the conflagration erupted late at night and along the outer fence of the plantation.

The fire damaged cherry trees and thousands of shekels worth of equipment, according to settlers. The annual cherry festival was slated to begin next week in the settlement.

Also Tuesday overnight, bales of hay were torched in the South Hebreon Hills, in the southern West Bank. Graffiti was spray-painted on a nearby wall, saying: "Enough with the agricultural terror" and "We will reach everywhere." According to the Tag Meir organization, which tracks hate crimes in the West Bank and Israel, the arson took place in area C, which is under Israeli control. Police opened an investigation into the matter.  

On Tuesday, Hundreds of grapevines were vandalized in a Palestinian vineyard near the West Bank town of Halhul outside Hebron in the West Bank.  A similar incident occurred last week, as 300 vines were pulled from the ground in a vineyard in Hebron. The vineyard was almost completely destroyed, as the vines were cut to the root, and the roots were pulled from the ground. A graffiti was sprayed on a rock nearby, saying: "We will reach everywhere."

In April, a vineyard was vandalized in the Tomer settlement in the Jordan Rift. No suspects have been arrested thus far in either of the cases.

The Gush Etsion regional council said several tons of cherries were stolen from the plantation in the past. Council head Shlomo Ne'eman said: "We are witnessing repeated, organized attacks by Arab outlaws against Jewish farmers. These are not bored teenagers, but no less than a grievous offense against the people of Israel and Israel's sovereignty. It cannot be that a Jewish farmer won't be able to process his soil. The outlaws are persisting in their traditional effort to expel the people of Gush Etsion from their land, and we declare that they will find us standing here on our values and our land forever."

2018 has seen an exponential spike in hate crimes compared to 2017, according to information published by Shin Bet security in April.