Monday, November 11, 2013

The Trees of Al-Araqib

Al-Araqib, Negev, Israel
November 5, 2013
Sheikh Abu Aziz

We were welcomed with coffee under the tree - the only tree left on their village lands. The rest of the landscape is graded - all dirt now. All traces of their wheat fields and olive groves, the homes and farm buildings, obliterated by the grading of the land. First the planes flew over spraying the roundup and other chemicals that destroyed the vegetation and killed their sheep and goats. This was 1999-2004. Then the soldiers came and demolished their homes and farm buildings. The first demolition was in 1948, but the recent demolitions began on July 27, 2010, a series of demolitions that continue today - 60 demolitions altogether. 

Israel wants the Bedouin to move from their lands for a "park" being built by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Now, this is the Negev. It's a desert. And the JNF is planting trees everywhere. This takes a lot of water, unlike the olive trees the JNF destroyed. 

Next Aziz brought tea for us, all prepared on a small stove under the tree. 

Nearby we could see their current home, which they have set up in the cemetery. A traditional long black Bedouin tent and space for a few livestock to graze outside. 

Aziz told us they used to sell eggs, bringing in 600 shekels a week. They never worried about what they would eat. They had plenty of milk, eggs, cheese, vegetables and camel meat. Now they must buy camel meat at the market and he never knows if he will be able to feed his family and he worries about his children. He spoke to his (maybe 10 year-old?) son and then told us he wants his son to become a doctor and set up the first clinic in Al-Araqib. 

We walked around the area where the village was demolished. All that is left is rubble and a few remnants of plastic shelters on wooden frames. We saw broken tiles and I picked up a piece to bring home. It is a decorative piece that may have been a floor tile. 

All around us, on the north, west, and south we could see the JNF trees, planted to reclaim the village lands for a "national park." I took a video of the a trees, stretching as far as we could see in the distance. We watched the sun set over the desert and the JNF trees - a species of tree not native to the land. The beginnings of a vast forest. 

Aziz said he cannot understand why they uprooted his plant theirs????

He says The JNF trees stand like police over their land, where his family has lived since 1905. He showed us the area where his grandfather's house was. He asked us to tell President Obama to stop Israel from passing the Prawer Plan to remove them from their land. Tomorrow the Knesset begins debate on the Prawer Plan. You can write President Obama too: 

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