by Esther Kern and Diane Roe
Every Friday CPTers join Palestinians, Israelis and other international peace activists to harvest stalks of golden hay by hand on the hillside of a farm nestled between the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba and a settlement outpost on the outskirts of Hebron.
The owner of this coveted piece of land is Palestinian farmer Anan Al Ja’abari. Yet, he cannot till most of the fertile soil, nor bring his flock of thirty goats to graze on the land for fear of violence and harassment from the settlers.
His unattended grape vines lie blackened and gnarled on the ground. Trash carelessly tossed away by passersby litters his field. Weeds and thistles grow with abandon. Al Ja’abari’s children have been assaulted and he has been shot at, arrested on erroneous charges, and heavily fined.
The settlers bisected Al Ja’abari’s land with a brick sidewalk and a flight of steps for easy access between the settlement and outpost. Streetlights line the walkway. They also constructed a tent synagogue on his property. The settlers took this land without permission or compensation.
After hearing Al Ja’abari’s claim, the Israeli high court ruled in his favor and ordered the synagogue, sidewalks, and steps to be demolished. Israeli authorities tore down the tent, but settlers rebuilt it within several days, and the settler activity continues as before.
The family can only go onto their land under the protection of CPT and other international human rights monitoring groups. Each time they go, the Israeli police challenge Al Ja’abari to provide documents proving he is the legal owner of the land. Each time, Israeli police and military with an assortment of weapons arrive to keep the settlers at bay. Sometimes people get hurt.
On July 27, one settler attacked two human rights workers with a spiked stick causing bloody head and hand injuries.
On August 31, Israeli settlers assaulted Palestinian nonviolent activist Issa Amro as he helped harvest hay. Even as soldiers prepared to take Amro to the hospital strapped to a stretcher, settler youth came up and poured water on him. That night, fearing further settler harassment, Al Ja’abari asked CPTers to stay with the family in their home.