Replanting Saffa Begins as Activists Evade Israeli Military
Today, Saturday January 2, 2010, 15 Israeli and international solidarity activists joined members of Palestine Solidarity Project and members of the Soleiby family to plant over 100 olive and fruit trees in the Saffa valley. This was the first day of replanting the area, where more than 600 trees and grapevines were destroyed in the past year by Jewish Israeli settlers from the nearby Bat ‘Ayn settlement.
Any activity on behalf of the farmers in the Saffa valley has been repressed by the Israeli military, who have declared the area a “closed military zone”, preventing farmers and activists from entering, for most of the last 9 months, while consistently allowing the right-wing settlers to enter the privately-owned Palestinian land with impunity. Today was no different.
Israeli activists coming from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem discovered that the Israeli military had set up a checkpoint at the entrance to Beit Ommar to try to prevent them from entering for today’s activity. They were forced to take the long way in but managed to enter Beit Ommar. Farmers in Saffa then informed PSP members, who organized the planting, that 3 jeeps of Israeli soldiers were near the entrance of the valley and, after checking the farmers’ ID’s, asked if they were expecting international or Israeli activists. With that in mind, the group of solidarity activists took a more circuitous route into the valley, managing to get to the area of planting and avoiding the Israeli soldiers.
After some time planting, they were eventually approached by the military and Israeli civilian police who told them it was a “closed military zone” and that they had to leave or risk arrest. The group ignored the order and continued to plant. They successfully planted all of the trees they brought that day, while the settlers had to content themselves with shouting at the group from their homes on the hilltop. With the help of other organizations and NGO’s, including Israeli organizations Gush Shalom and Rabbis for Human Rights and the YMCA in Beit Sahour, as well as over $1000 from private supporters all over the world, Palestine Solidarity Project has organized with the farmers of Saffa to plant hundreds more trees in the coming weeks, to replace what was destroyed by settlers.