Opinion |

The Tragic Hike That Has Nothing to Do With the Landscape and Land

The spring of Ein Bubin, where Rina Shnerb was killed, is still accessible to the villagers of Dir Ibzi. Neighboring springs have been taken over by Israeli settlers proudly boasting that Palestinians are 'rarely seen there anymore'

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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A tour by Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem in Beitillu, West Bank, 2012.
A tour by Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem in Beitillu, West Bank, 2012. Credit: מיכל פתאל
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

In the past 30 years, the illegal settlements of Dolev and Nahliel and the unauthorized outposts between them have taken control of more than 15,000 dunams (3,700 acres) of Palestinian land. Of course, that has nothing to do with the murder of Rina Shnerb last week.

By means of violent attacks, vandalism of property and trees, military orders and locked gates, Israeli citizens and the army prevent residents of six Palestinian villages from accessing their land — groves, fields and grazing areas. The six villages are Al Janya, Ras Karkar, Deir Ammar, Beitillu, Mazra al Qibliya and Kobar. That, of course, has nothing to do with the wounding of Rina’s brother and father, Eitan and Dvir Shnerb.

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Gush Talmonim, as this large area is called, separates Palestinian villages from one another and chops up the western Ramallah district into a number of unconnected enclaves. As we said, there cannot be any connection between these facts and the explosive device that was detonated in that very same place last Friday.

The roads and paths that once connected Ein Qiniya and Al Janya, for example, are blocked to Palestinians. The roads and paths of the area (totaling some 60 kilometers) — official ones built on expropriated Palestinian land, unofficial ones created by settlers — are clear of Palestinian vehicles. The mountains, the hills and the wadis are beyond the pale to Palestinian hikers. But why link all of this to a bomb planted by unknown culprits?

Of the nine bubbling natural springs in the area, that together with their tributaries have provided water to Palestinian agriculture and become sites of relaxation and recreation for villagers and town inhabitants, five have been taken over by settlers. They prevent Palestinians from approaching and using the water. This, too, of course, has nothing to do with Friday’s attack.

On the land of Ras Karkar and Deir Ammar is Al-Nabi Anir mosque, among winepresses, burial caves, ruins and an ancient irrigation system based on the area’s springs. But this treasure was Judaized, and is now called Ayanot Aner. Since the early 2000s, around the time of the establishment of the unauthorized settlement outpost Zeit Ra’anan, Israeli citizens began assaulting Palestinians who went there. The unidentified Israelis, some of whom were armed, attacked shepherds and farmers, stole livestock and damaged olive trees. As a result, Palestinians avoided the dangerous place.

In 2014, teens from the Neria outpost renovated the site “which suffered from neglect,” as the (Hebrew) website Eretz Hamayanot [the “land of springs”] puts it: “Pools were dug, benches put up, paths built and gazebos erected. Now it’s a recreation spot and tourist attraction for Israelis.” Eretz Hamayanot doesn’t mention that the site suffered from neglect because violence of the Israelis deters the Palestinian residents. But in any case, it’s doubtful that the people who placed the explosive device there last Friday were angered by the factual omissions on the website.

In December 2017, the human rights organizations Emek Shaveh and Yesh Din petitioned the High Court of Justice against these acts of robbery. In their petition they quote a key sentence from an August 2016 edition of the Neria weekly newsletter: “We are happy to announce the end of another stage (we are nearing the end) in the renovation of Ayanot Aner. To our delight, the site has become a familiar recreation spot known to the public at large. What is more, our ‘dear’ cousins [referring to Palestinians] are by now hardly ever seen there.” Palestinians don’t subscribe to the settler newsletter, so there’s no reason to assume the people behind Friday’s attack were annoyed by its arrogance.

Ein Bubin, the spring where the father and his two children went for a hike, is near the houses of the village of Deir Ibzi’, which is why it hasn’t been completely taken over from “our Palestinian cousins,” farmers and revelers who continue to use its waters and enjoy their land on Fridays and holidays. Settlers invite the masses to go there and take pride in Zionist presence, but why should we link that to the tragic hike of the Shnerb family?

The takeover of Palestinian land by Gush Talmonim led the six villages to lose their livelihoods, causing them heavy economic damage – so much so that hundreds of families now depend on aid. But what is the connection between poverty, insult, fury and injustice to a lethal explosive device?

Settlers are not content with the existing theft of nature, beauty and livelihood. They want to link the settlement of Halamish in the north to Gush Talmonim by blocking the road to Beitillu and prevent residents of Nabi Saleh from accessing their land. They want to pave new roads (in Ras Karkar and Mazra’ah) and build more outposts. Demonstrations against this plan were repressed by the Israeli army, killing one person and injuring 150. Isn’t it absurd to think that all of the above is motive for placing an explosive device in Ein Bubin?

Those who prepared the bomb certainly know that this is Israel’s strategy in the West Bank. Individual settlements are turned into broad blocs, for Jews only, and are boasting of abundance, serenity, commercial centers, vineyards, orchards, hiking trails and Judaized natural springs.

The contiguous settlements blocs split, squeeze and suffocate the Palestinian enclaves. It’s not the first time Jews are killed in the name of the sacred goal of stealing land, and it won’t stop Israel’s galloping dispossession in light of day. Are Palestinian anger and despair so strong – that they led those who placed the bomb to an act of murder that will achieve nothing?

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