Monday, July 30, 2007

Shomron Trip Part VII: The View from Hill 851

Previous posts in this series:
Shomron Trip I: The Ride to Shchem
Shomron Trip II: Mayim Chayim
Shomron Trip III: On Mount Grizzim
Shomron Trip IV: Itamar
Shomron Trip V: Organic Agriculture
Shomron Trip VI: The Hilltops of Itamar

From the bunker on hill 851, one can look out eastward over the Dagan Valley, which is capped on both ends by the villages of Beit Furik and Beit Dajan. Beit Dajan is built over the ruins of the ancient Jewish village of Beit Dagan, the "House of Grain," mentioned in the Talmud as one of the great breadbaskets of Eretz Yisrael.

Beit Furik (foreground) and Beit Dajan (background)

When Israel first captured this area in 1967, Beit Dajan and Beit Furik were in the same situation as Beit Jann in the Galilee. Dependent on natural springs and rainwater for all drinking and agricultural water, the town was severely limited in size. Building technology was, as it had been for centuries in the land, dependent upon simple stone masonry, and agricultural technology had not changed much over the centuries. From 1948 through 1967, during the Jordanian occupation, approximately 200,000 Arabs moved from what would later be called the "West Bank" to the Jordanian capital of Amman and other locations throughout the Arab world. But after reunification with Israel, Israel's eastern border with Jordan moved to the Jordan River Valley and all borders between Israel and the Shomron, the "northern West Bank" fell. Suddenly, the Arabs of the Shomron were free to travel to Israel's booming cities to work in menial tasks. It was a strange mix. Jews who had suffered decades of attacks from these lands, and who had only a few months earlier been threatened with extermination, suddenly found themselves buying from, selling to, and hiring these very same enemies. The rampant illiteracy typical of the Arab world made it impossible to integrate the Arabs into Israel's educated work force, and well as the natural hostility of a humiliated and defeated aggressor made trust impossible. At the same time, Israel needed workers and Arabs needed jobs.

The Arabs, meanwhile, learned new construction and agricultural techniques. Israel attempted to subdue Arab hostility by establishing a "benevolent occupation" under the civil administration. Villages using iron age technology suddenly received electrical power, a limitless supply of drinking water, and first world medical care, as well as potential employment in a first world economy. This situation created a magnet, drawing in migrant workers from neighboring countries by the tens of thousands. Beit Furik, along with all the surrounding villages, grew exponentially, and the "demographic bomb," by which the number of Arabs between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea may soon outnumber the Jews, was born.

Looking out over Beit Furik

A red outline indicates the houses in Beit Furik which existed prior to 1967.

A zoom-shot shows the houses which existed prior to 1967, with stone-arched windows, stone walls, and domed roofs.

Menachem, our guide, points to some of the houses on hill 851. "You'll notice we all have water tanks. In Hebrew, we have the term 'mechabel.' In English it means terrorist, but the direct translation is 'destroyer.' Every few months a mechabel from Beit Furik blows up the pipeline supplying our hill. Of course, the same pipeline supplies Beit Dajan and Beit Furik. We survive on our water tanks for a few days, until a crew from the water company shows up to fix the pipeline. While we're waiting, Beit Furik and Beit Dajan go without water."

While I'm listening to Menachem's explanation, I start playing with my binoculars, fitting them over the lenses.

Beit Furik, red circle indicating the area zoomed in on with the binoculars, shown below.

Zoomed in, there seems to be something going on down there.

Zoomed way way in: anybody up for a round of Hamas-Fatach soccer?

Later, passing through the Beit Dajan valley, we see the wheat being harvested and threshed.

Harvesting and threshing the wheat in the fields.

"Perhaps," Menachem tells us, "some day Jews will be able to grow wheat here too."

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