Netanel Silverman, FoEME’s Israeli Community Coordinator in Tzur Hadassah, reflects on a recent meeting between Good Water Neighbors communities Tzur Hadassah and Wadi Fuqin.
On Wednesday 24.2 we met together – the Jewish residents of Tzur Hadassah and the neighboring Palestinian residents of Wadi Fukin. By “neighboring” I mean a five-minute drive on the main road, yet it took the Wadi Fukin participants more than two hours to make the trip to their ‘neighboring’ friends in Tzur Hadassah.
Our meeting was together, but we arrived and departed separately.
Yes, our Palestinian counterparts all had permits, and no, none of them were ever involved in any illegal activity. Yet they all had to first go to the Bethlehem check point and stand in the long line to enter Israel. After entering they couldn’t come back through the Tunnel Road, which would take them about 15 minutes, but rather had to go all the way around, crossing the whole of Jerusalem on their way and arriving a good hour and half later through the Ein Karem road.
We met as neighbors on the same land, water and landscape, separated by an arbitrary force that ignores all of these natural commonalities.
The evening was a great success- there was a great binational band NAAM (the word means ‘yes’- in Arabic), great homegrown and home-cooked food made by the women center of the Wadi. It was a great opportunity for new people from both sides to get acquainted with each other for the first time.
The main subject of discussion was the Separation Wall, which the army is planning to build between the two communities on the beautiful ridge of the San San. We showed a slideshow presentation, and people from both communities spoke about the subject and the difficult challenges lying ahead. Residents of both communities showed a spirit of commitment to the joint.
The evening is another link in our ongoing campaign to support the natural connection between the two places, which share a common resource of water and a marvelous joint landscape. We are working against the separation because we know that is not only harmfully devastating to the outer landscape of the Wadi, but even more to the inner landscapes of the two peoples, breeding fear, hatred and anger.
“Once,” said Abu Mazen, one of Wadi Fukin’s oldest farmers, “We could travel freely from Tzur Hadassah to Wadi Fukin, but the passing years made the situation worsen until in today’s reality, even when we have special permits to see our neighbors, we need to travel for two hours.”
Our modest evening at the local library at Tzur Hadassah proved to us all that being together is better than being separated, and that hopefully our ongoing efforts to prove that will some how make neighbors neighbors again.
The permanent geographical and ecological scars that the separation wall will leave in the body of the valley and the San San ridge will be but a grim reflection of the scars already evident inside the souls of our neighbors in Wadi Fukin traveling far from their own Wadi for hours only to return to it from a far bypassing road.
Recent press coverage on the joing Wadi Fuqin-Tzur Hadassah efforts to stop the separation wall:
Israeli Palestinian Good Neighbors in Wadi Fuqin (Hebrew)
Green objections to the Green Line: A Struggle for a Shared Environment in the Middle East
Green from anger: Israelis and Palestinians against the Separation Barrier at Wadi Fuqin (Hebrew)
Israelis, Palestinians work together in bid to solve local water shortage