- Title: This land is mine! - Israel's settlers, and the Palestinians they live among
- Date: 9th September 2019
- Summary: MAALE ADUMIM SETTLEMENT, WEST BANK (JUNE 2019) (REUTERS) ISRAEL FLAG SIGN READING 'MAALE ADUMIM' HOUSES
- Embargoed: 23rd September 2019 07:12
- Keywords: Israel Palestinians settlements annexation West Bank settlers Jews Arabs
- Location: RAS KARKAR, ELKANA, HAVAT GILAD, MAALE ADUMIM AND BEITAR ILIT, SARRA VILLAGE, HILLTOP ONLOOKING MAALE ADUMIM AND WADI FUKIN, WEST BANK / AERIALS OVER HAVAT GILAD, MAALE ADUMIM AND BEITAR ILIT, WEST BANK/ GRAPHICS
- City: RAS KARKAR, ELKANA, HAVAT GILAD, MAALE ADUMIM AND BEITAR ILIT, SARRA VILLAGE, HILLTOP ONLOOKING MAALE ADUMIM AND WADI FUKIN, WEST BANK / AERIALS OVER HAVAT GILAD, MAALE ADUMIM AND BEITAR ILIT, WEST BANK/ GRAPHICS
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA00BAVXRD53
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT INCLUDES IMAGES WHICH WERE ORIGINALLY 4:3
Their people's link to the land goes back to biblical times, say the founders of an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Their Palestinian neighbour, says the land who belonged to her ancestors has been raped.
Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank are one of the most heated issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians want the area, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, for a future state.
Israel has built more than 120 settlements there, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the run-up to a September 17 election, has renewed his pledge to annex them.
Most of the international community sees the settlements as illegal and major obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace, a view Israel disputes.
Itai Zar and his wife Bat-Zion established Havat Gilad in 2002, on a land Zar says was purchased by his father and slated for settlement after his brother was killed in a Palestinian attack.
The settlement, a cluster of prefab huts sprinkled across a hilltop deep in the West Bank, is home to about 50 families.
"This land is mine and I was deported from it and this land awaited me for 2,000 years and the People of Israel returned because God has decided," Said 41-year-old Bat Zion Zar.
"The amazing thing is that Trump believes in what Batzi (Bat Zion) is saying now," her husband added.
But for 53-year-old Montaha Turabi, who saw the settlement's growth from her Palestinian village Sarra, across the way, the ongoing expansion of the settlement is nothing less than rape of the land.
Israel's settler communities are hardly homogeneous. Some settlers are driven by burning ideology. Others are just looking for a cheap apartment. Some of the settlements adjacent to Israel are seen by many Israelis as just regular towns, unlike the more isolated enclaves deep inside the West Bank.
"I don't feel like a settler," said Michele Coven-Wolgel, a 60-year-old lawyer from Maale Adumim, a large settlement about 15 minutes' drive from Jerusalem. "Should we be annexed? Yes, we're a city of 41,000 people, we're a city, we have a mall."
Against the backdrop of desert hills, the villas of Maale Adumim provide their inhabitants with a comfortable life. Education is good and transport to the city is easy.
Ali Farun, 74, from the Palestinian town of al-Azariya, about 1.5 km (one mile) from Maale Adumim has little hope of the territory ever coming under Palestinian control.
"It doesn't matter if they annex it to Jerusalem or if it remains West Bank - they control it, one way or another," said Farun.
Beitar Illit is a settlement built for Israel's fast-growing ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
According to Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlements watchdog, Beitar Illit saw the most construction of all Israel's West Bank settlements in 2018.
It's densely built apartment blocs and Dollar stores seem a world apart from Havat Gilad's huts and dirt roads. And unlike the Zars, residents cite financial concerns for moving here.
"We're not here for ideological reasons," said David Hamburger, 36, a Beitar Illit shop owner. "There's no way for us to buy houses anywhere else besides settlements."
With large families, seven children on average, high unemployment and poverty, the ultra-Orthodox Jews seek cheap housing that will allow their close-knit community to live together.
For Mohammad Awad, a 64-year-old farmer from Wadi Fukin, a Palestinian village next to Beitar Illit, it makes no difference why people come to live in the settlement.
"It's impossible to have peace between us because the main conflict between us is on a piece of land which they took by force, so how can I let a person steal my land, live in it and enjoy it, and live with him in peace? But the strongest wins." he said.
(Production: Rami Amichay, Dedi Hayoun, Mohammed Abu Ghaneyeh, Ashraf Abu Sawish, Lianne Back, Mustafa Abu Ghaneyeh)
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None