Day Two of the Freedom Ride included a visit to Fasayel, a remote village in the Jordan valley, of which 95% is under occupation.
It used to be a popular tourist destination and described as the bread basket of Palestine due to all-year farming its climate supports. Now it is littered with checkpoints making travel slow and largely farmed by Israelis.
And on a different and unexpected note the Tower Hamlets delegation were delighted to bump into an old friend Marwan Wishahi from the Jenin Refugee Camp.
Marwan amazingly tracked them down after hearing they were on the tour! You can see him third from left in the picture.
Sybil sent back this report after visiting the villages of Yarza and Fasayel:
“We have been the guests of the Jordan Valley Solidarity group – a Palestinian grassroots activist movement covering the vast area in the east of the West Bank along the river Jordan.
“There are 56,000 Palestinians and 6,500 settlers in 37 illegal colonies. Before 1967 there were 320,000 Palestinians living here. But with 95% of the land designated ‘Area C’ – under full Israeli military control – Israel is free to steal the land for itself.
“Thirteen per cent of the population controls 86% of the land. Settlers or colonists have the right to build what they like under full military protection, and with considerable Israeli state subsidy.
“The main aim of the Israeli occupation is to drive Palestinians out of their villages and into the towns, or further afield.
“We met a man whose 12 year old son had been killed by a land mine some years ago – the Israelis take no responsibility for the mess they leave.
“We saw vast fruit plantations – grapes and dates- run by settlers and Israeli agribusiness. However, 70% of these settlers have homes elsewhere in Israel – they are not here to live but to exploit these fertile lands. Forty per cent of Israeli date exports to Europe are grown here.”
“A Jordan Valley Solidarity activist, Abu Sakr, had his home demolished for the 8th time in Dec 2015. Everyone we spoke to had sad and shocking stories to tell. If an area is declared a CMZ, then the Israeli army is free to demolish Palestinian homes and businesses without a permit.
“In Fasayel, a small village controlled by the Palestinians (Area A), but surrounded by Israeli settlements) we spent two nights in a community centre built in 24-hours using local materials! The idea is that the roof goes up first so that a demolition order is not needed. Animal shelters and water cisterns are not so lucky – they are just bulldozed on a whim.
“Jordan Valley Solidarity uses local and international support to build houses and schools – although two of their six schools have been demolished. While Israel can demolish properties without a permit, it is almost impossible for Palestinians to get one to build or extend their homes.”
“Water is the key to all this. It can cost Palestinians US$8 a cubic metre to import the stuff. In Yarza we saw a water tank that had been demolished without warning a few weeks ago, while down the road an extensive pipeline takes water from Palestinian land to feed the tiny – but very aggressive – hilltop settlement of Mashiyyot and the military base nearby.”
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