Greenhouse Construction in Beit Ommar Supports Palestinian Resistance
Recently, farmers in Beit Ommar have been trying a new method to defend their land against Israeli colonization. Under the Oslo Accords of 1993, the Palestinian territories were classified into three areas: Area A was to be completely under the control of the Palestinian Authority, Area B was to be under Palestinian civilian control but remain under the military authority of the Israeli Occupation Forces, and Area C- which constituted 61% of the Palestinian land occupied in 1967- was to stay under full Israeli control. This arrangement was a temporary set up pending a final agreement to end the occupation, but it has been in place for almost 20 years. Israel is currently in the process of seizing a majority of Area C through ongoing colonial settlement activities and the expanding apartheid wall.
As part of our strategy to develop the Palestinian land in Area C, mainly in the Beit Ommar area, we have started a land rehabilitation program called “The Greenhouse Project”. The project aims to protect Palestinian land from further confiscation by encouraging local farmers to keep working in close proximity to nearby Israeli settlements, despite the daily harassment by settlers. It also aims to generate substantial income for local farmers, helping them to make a living despite the economic burden placed on them by the occupation.
In April 2012, a Palestinian farmer constructed two greenhouses on his farmland in the southern part of Beit Ommar, near the illegal Karmei Tsur settlement. The Greenhouse Project—as part of the Center for Freedom and Justice’s plan to support the farmers in the Beit Ommar area and other parts of Area C—is a testament to the steadfastness of Palestinian farmers in maintaining control of their land. The first two greenhouses, the initial stage of a project to build 8 greenhouses in total, measure 600 square meters and will be used to grow vegetables. Construction of the greenhouses, made possible by generous donations from the family of Kjetil Bjørlo, was completed on April 22nd 2012 and the first plum tomatoes and beans were planted at the beginning of May.
The greenhouses, constructed by greenhouse specialists, are built only 60 meters from the illegal Israeli settlement of Karmei Tsur that was established on stolen Palestinian land in 1984. Supported by the Israeli army, the settlers have prevented Palestinian farmers from cultivating their land. The greenhouses encourage Palestinians to tend their land, which the Israeli military denies them access to, daily. So far, the new greenhouses have remained untouched by the settlers, providing a successful means of cultivation and also of resisting occupation. Growing crops in greenhouses also allows farmers to produce more than one vegetable crop each year.
When the eight greenhouses are completed, they will provide an important source of income for the village, income that project designers hope will provide for further greenhouse construction through the recycling of investment money: Once the farmer who owns the greenhouses generates enough profit to be able to pay back the loan from Center for Freedom and Justice, the money will be given to another farmer so that he too may benefit from the project.