In June 2002, the government of Israel decided to erect a physical barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank in an attempt to minimize the entry of Palestinian terrorists into the country. This has partially solved today’s terrorist infiltration problem but has caused grief and pain to innocent Palestinians in every area in which it was constructed, along the 1967 Green Line. In the southern region of Mt. Hebron, the movement of Palestinians who are coming into the country to find work has been disrupted. These people and their families are paying the price for the system of collective control that Israel has decided to implement with the erection of the Separation Barrier. Typically, a day’s work in the West Bank for a builder usually comes to about $18, while a day’s work in Israel brings them $60 – $110. Their families have come to rely on this income.
Ironically, these Palestinian men, who are determined to keep providing for their families are the ones who are physically building the State of Israel. They endure terrible conditions as illegal workers, sleeping rough in river creeks, under bridges, on building sites and under highways in the Beer Sheva area, trying to avoid getting caught. If the Palestinians are apprehended, they go through a security check and when found innocent of terrorist intentions, they are sent back to their homes.
And so the wearisome cycle continues. Israeli border patrol police and the army are in a constant but only partially successful race to apprehend these Palestinians. Every wall has its weak points. For a young man determined enough, it becomes a way of life- waiting for the right moment, for the pre paid accomplice driver waiting on the other side, depending on his faithful cellphone and on his buddies, all of whom are adjusting strategies to accomodate for the Seaparation Barrier.
The village of Ar Ramadin in the southern region of Mt Hebron presents a unique example of the kind of effect that the separation barrier has had. The village was established by the Bedouin tribe Ar Ramadin whose former lands, in areas north of Beer Sheva, they abandoned in the face of oncoming Israeli troops in the War of Independence in 1948. The lands the tribe left became part of the new Jewish state and the Ar Ramadin were forced to purchase land from Palestinian land owners in Dahariya, an Arab falachim village 15 kilometers to the north. After the six day war in 1967, Ar Ramadin became part of Israel. The building of the fence in 2002 left the village on the West Bank side.
The people of Ar Ramadin are often exposed to arrests, beatings, and confiscations of herds. Houses and water wells have been demolished under the pretext of lack of licensing, and illegal building. The people are often prevented from working their own fields, because they are located so close to the fence.
As the Arab world is historically changing by the day and the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are on hold once again. One cannot predict what will happen next in this ongoing conflict. It is solely to the credit of these resilient people, the Ar Ramadinim and their heightened understanding of the ironies of history that they have not yet taken on the role that is being pushed onto them- that of a violent resistance.
In 2012 the Israeli government decided to annex land in the southern Judean Mountains of the West Bank.