Settlement landscape in Palestine is not hard to read because it is intended to dominate and intimidate. The settlements occupy hilltops to command a dominant viewpoint all around. The windows of the buildings face out to have as many eyes engaged in this monitoring as possible. They are close together for safety, built behind defensive walls on land cleared of trees. There’s little left to tell you that the land was once farmed by Palestinians. Even the slow-growing olive trees have been cleared to make way for fast-growing pines.
The pines are cultivated for timber but they also serve to make the settlements look established. And they remove a resource from Palestinians. Locals told us that the Israelis had sedated and removed even the local wildlife, like deer and eagles. I have not been able to independently verify this account but the absence of wildlife was notable.
In this valley, though, one farmer has kept a foothold. Using Ottoman-era documents to demonstrate ownership, the family have been able to cling to their land. Their goat pen is visible at bottom left above and below.
Thousands more were not so ‘lucky.’ Their land is gone, appropriated or made useless. The Bedouin at al-Aqarib have similar documents that have not helped them. Land is, in the end, what this is all about.