January 19, 2006 – Ancient Agricultural Terraces Threatened By Settlement


19 January 2006

Nestled in the Jerusalem hills, south of Jerusalem and west of Bethlehem is a small Palestinian village called Wadi Fukin. There is no signpost marking the location of this village of some 1200 residents, but the village is well known as the best example of traditional farming throughout the region. For thousands of years the agricultural terraces built in this valley have been maintained in a unique system of over a 100 pools collecting spring water and then channeling the water to irrigate the terraces.

Yet much of this village and its unique cultural landscape are now threatened by settlement activity. The Israeli Ultra Orthodox settlement of Beitar Elite is located above the village to the east. The expansion of the settlement now taking place is at the expense of the village and threatens to destroy the ancient agricultural terraces. Millions of cubic meters of earth, removed in housing site development in Beitar Elite is being illegally bulldozed down the slopes of Wadi Fukin threatening the land and livelihood that supports the village farmers. In addition, a new settlement road and the building of the separation barrier all about to be implemented threatens to dry up the 10 springs which feed the extensive farming irrigation system which winds around the valley.

“Present plans to envelop the village of Wadi Fukin are unacceptable to Israeli residents of Tsur Hadassah”, says Mike Leiter, an EcoPeace Middle East project staff person. “Water is the basis of life. Because we Israelis and Palestinians share the same water resources if we destroy the resource for one side in the end we will come to destroy it for ourselves too,” continues Mr. Leiter.

Through the project residents of both communities have come to understand their interdependence over water and in the process, through meetings held, come to see each other as neighbours rather than combatants. In Tsur Hadassah hundreds of residents have signed petitions in favour of stopping the destruction of Wadi Fukin and residents are active in lobbying all levels of Israeli decision making to help their neighbour.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East, says, “we have gone to the IDF, to the Civil Administration and to all other relevant governing authorities to try and stop the destruction and we will continue to do so until we get the results that benefit both communities”.

EcoPeace Middle East is a regional organization of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmentalists that work on trans-boundary water and environment issues as a tool for peace building. The Good Water Neighbors project focuses on the shared water sources of paired communities on differing sides of the Green Line, strengthening environmental awareness as well as coexistence issues.

Please contact Mira Edelstein, 054-6392937, mira@ecopeaceme.org for more information.