Today the small Jericho enclave administered by the Palestinian Authority is surrounded by an Israeli trench that restricts the freedom of movement of the town’s 20,000 citizens, as well as its ability to expand.
Palestinian exports from the Jordan valley, once a chief source of fruit and vegetables for the country, are funneled through Israel’s Hamra crossing to the northern West Bank. Sun and heat spoilage is high for soft fruits and vegetables due to delays at Hamra.
Muhammad Njoum, who heads the Jericho office of the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees, says that, until 2000, Palestinians cultivated 40-50,000 dunums (10-12,500 acres); today the figure is just 3,500 dunums (875 acres).
“The springs have dried, there has been a 15 per cent drop in rainfall, and Israeli cultivation takes most spring water. Al-Auja river [a main source of irrigation water] is also dry,” he says.
While Palestinians face drought now and Israeli settlers could do so in the future, Palestinians also contend with eviction. Njoum observed, “Israel has issued demolition orders for every single house and shelter” in the area under its control. “Demolitions are not [necessarily] connected to demolition orders but are taking place in politically important locations.”
He rejects Israel’s claim that “security” is behind its determination to retain the Jordan valley. He holds that if this is Israel’s justification, its army should be deployed along the Jordan river border with the Hashemite kingdom, not in the middle of the valley.“Why are the Israelis expanding settlements and planting palm tree jungles that make perfect ambush areas [for Palestinian fighters]? This is not security. Why are they taking huge amounts of water and urging Israelis to settle in the Jordan valley? Why are they cancelling entire Palestinian hamlets (small villages)?
“They want to make the Jordan valley part of Israel and a main sector [in the Israeli economy] with a majority Israeli population and a majority of Israeli landholdings.” ...
Near Jericho, the encampment of Farisiya, a rock-, rubble- and rubbish-strewn location where, on June 14th, Israeli bulldozers flattened the homes of 18 families.
Since then a few shelters for people and chickens have been erected using metal supports and loose-weave black material normally covering greenhouses where plants needing shade are grown.
Three women dodge the noon sun under a small tree, a boy shows off his orange plastic toy bulldozer, the only item he salvaged from the wreckage.
Along the broad Israeli highway, we speed past Israel’s fat caterpillar greenhouses and vast green palm plantations that are drinking up the valley’s water. At Jifliq, the West Bank’s food basket, we make for a larger encampment demolished on December 24th last year and rebuilt by its inhabitants. Located across the road from the lush, walled garden of an Israeli settlement and just behind an Israeli greenhouse complex, the sun-bleached encampment is on privately owned Palestinian land confiscated five years ago but returned by order of Israel’s high court. The contrast between the two communities is striking.
While mature trees shade the prosperous settler compound, straw has been laid on the sheet metal roofs of Palestinian animal pens to deflect the rays of the sun. “Two hundred people, 20 families, and 3,500 goats and sheep live here,” says grey-bearded Adnan Dais.
“We are all from Jifliq, from the same clan. The Israelis came without warning and bulldozed the pens over the heads of the sheep and goats, 30 died . . . We get our water from tankers. We have a well but the Israelis blocked it up.”
He gestures toward a huge pile of twisted pipes, logs, plastic, and palm trunks.
Once fertile valley dries up as Jerichoans face drought and demolition - The Irish Times - Tue, Jul 19, 2011