Bil'im

©David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D.,
Professor of Biology and Chemistry
University of Cincinnati Clermont College,
Batavia OH 45103
Bil'im is in the background.
The barrier wall erected by Israel
is in the foreground.
This page has been accessed Counter times since 21 July 2006. 
21 July 2006
The barrier wall is in the forground,
illegal Israeli mining and beyond,
newly constructed Israeli settlement

The people of this brave village stand as an example to the world of how non-violent resistance can successfully resist injustice and military might.  Israel has been confiscating all "unoccupied" Palestinian land.  Israel defines "unoccupied" as any land on which no occupied structure exists.  Thus, olive orchards, vinyards, agricultural land, grazing land are all being confiscated.  These ancient Bil'im olive orchards, lovingly tended for many centuries (see the terracing in the third picture) are all officially "unoccupied":


 

Once "unoccupied" lands are confiscated, Israel nearly always refuses to grant building permits to Palestinians, but readily grants them to Israeli settlers to erect new settlements, thus ever increasing Israeli lands and ever diminishing Palestinian lands.

This process was being inflicted on the village of Bil'im, a village of 1,500 residents.  They embarked on a long series of imaginative non-violent protests.  Israel's response was to occupy the village, place it under curfew, tear gas the citizens, including tossing tear gas into their mosque.

I stayed with the Samara family, and was treated to feast after feast.  They were the most generous and congenial hosts one could imagine--demonstrating that famous Middle Eastern hospitality is indeed world class.

Children of Bil'im, when offered crayons, drew, with no prompting what so ever, scenes of Israel occupation, and the construction of the barrier wall.  Behind the Samara home, children played soccer on a rocky field.  We got historical background on the local resistance to the occupation from a number of experts.

Towards evening, the Earlham group hiked out along a ridge towards an Israel mining operation wich is in violation of international law.  We passed through the remnants of ancient olive orchards (many were chain sawed or bulldozed down. Many of the most ancient trees (known by name to the Palestinians) were stolen by the Israelis, to be replanted in the new Israeli settlements as decorative trees in traffic circles ...). Protestors chained themselves in the trees to prevent them from being chainsawed. You should see the video of this rape of the land. 
The one you see below is at least 1,000 years old.  The next image is a hole from which an acient olive tree has been stolen.

You can see the barrier erected by Israel which separates the citizens of Bil'im off from their agricultural land.  We passed through an Israeli checkpoint (no pictures allowed)  You can see the village of Bil'im in the background.  We got a lecture on the history of the Israeli take over of the land from a Fatah candidate for local elected office.  (He was not elected--the people voted for Hamas candidates out of protest of corruption in the Fatah party, and because Hamas took many positive steps to assist citizens and students with the problems they face.)
 

If you look towards the west, you see the new construction of several new Israeli settlements.  The 3rd and 4th pictures were taken the next day and show also a huge mining operation with Israelis operate, in violation of the Geneva Convention which states that occupying forces will not exploit or take natural resources from the occupied country:

After Israel declaired the agricultural land "unoccupied", the citizens of Bil'im were able to bring rudimentary building materials onto the site and erect a shelter.   Since its erection, the shelter has been occupied 24/7, making the land officially "occupied."

At sunrise the next morning, I found an egg "factory" next door, and a view of the VERY twisty-turny road we traversed on in our SPEEDY taxi to Bil'im.  A trip to remember!

Mr. Samara and I spent some "quality time" before breakfast touring his garden, the first plant is Mulukhiyya, a green used as seasoning in a number of Palestinian dishes. The second image is zahtar, a delicious form of thyme, served with sesame and salt by dipping pita in olive oil and then in dried zahtar--yum) picking okra.  He demonstrated his technique for grafting grape vines.  We visited his daughter-in-laws goats and were then were served a typical (lavish) Palestinian breakfast.

We took a tour of Bil'im, past policital slogans painted on walls (this one promotes Hamas) and visited the mosque into which Israel had tossed tear gas.

Eating again????  A fabulous lunch indeed, with the proud patriarch beaming next to his VERY hard working wife.
 

I was fortunate to be able to see Palestinian White Cheese being prepared by Mr. Samara's daughter-in-law.  This cheese is typically served every morning with breakfast.  I will soon post the recipe on my cheese page.

Young men of the Samara family with which I stayed, including Walied Samara (right) who taught me several new steps to the Debki--the national dance of Palestine.  THANK YOU Walied--I loved the dancing!

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