The Jordan Valley is the eastern strip of the West Bank. This area comprises almost a third of the West Bank. The area is inhabited by about 10,000 Jewish settlers, about 65000 Palestinians inhabitants living in settlements and about 15000 scattered in small groups herding sheep and goats. Most of the lands are prohibited for Palestinian inhabitants. Israel is conducting a de facto annexation of the land and has instituted a regime that exploits the resources of the area extensively.
Taking over Territories
Starting from 1967 there has been a takeover of land by various means. Significant areas were designated as belonging to Israel and transferred to the Jewish settlers. Large areas were proclaimed abandoned property after refugees left. Other areas were designated military fire areas even though there is virtually no military activity in the area. (picture of a fire area near the tent encampment). One-fifth of the area was declared a nature reserve
Taking over of Water Sources
Most of the water sources in the area are under Israeli rule. The division of water is not done on an equal basis. Most of the water is directed towards the Jewish settlers and facilitates intensive agriculture in large areas. Deep drilling has dried up most of the wells that have served the Palestinians for generations, up to the Israeli conquest. This situation has caused the Palestinians to abandon completely areas that they killed in the past or to go over to less profitable cultivation. The situation is most difficult in those areas where shepherds tend their flocks – they have a bare minimum of water for existence. (photograph of drilling for water)
Building Restrictions and Destruction of Existing Buildings
Israel prevents the development of Palestinian settlements by means of building restrictions. In recent years the policy of the Civil Administration has been to destroy structures.The small communities of shepherds are the most vulnerable. Living quarters, sheepfolds and huts used for animalsare destroyed again and again, sometimes several times within a year. After each bout of destruction the entire population, men women children, the elderly are left without a roof over their heads. In summer the temperatures maybe 45 degrees centigrade; the winter can be freezing cold. Many of the inhabitants are Bedouin who has been chased from their homes first in 1948 and then in 1967. They have no alternative place to live.
Checkpoints. Israel has set up checkpoints between the mountains the valley in spite of the fact that things are quiet there. Four of these checkpoints are still in existence. Tayasir. Chamra. Ma'aleh Ephraim and Yeitab. At these checkpoints, all Palestinian vehicles are checked and only inhabitants of the area, holding permits, are allowed to pass through. This causes great difficulty for everyday life since most of the health and educational facilities are outside of the area. The checkpoints also affect the inhabitants living in the hills since they are not able to get to their lands in the valley. There is also a serious impediment to the social and family connections between the inhabitants of the valley and those of the mountains. Recently the checkpoints are manned only part of the time. (photograph of a checkpoint)