Under the hot sun, a metal railing snakes its way incongruously
through the hills. On one side are olive groves. On the other, huge
banana plantations rear up. This is the Green Line, the 1967 border
between Israel and the occupied West Bank and the setting
for a very unusual meeting between Palestinian farmers and Israelis
from a nearby kibbutz.
The Palestinians are not allowed to cross the railing into Israel,
the Israelis are not supposed to cross it into the West Bank, but
they meet here to talk together across the barrier. The olive groves
belong to Palestinians from the village of Kafin, the banana plantations
to Israelis from Kibbutz Metser. Although they have been neighbors
for half a century, few could remember ever meeting like this before.
The reason for this extraordinary gathering is that the Israeli
government is planning to build a wall to separate them completely.
Not a metal railing like the small section here, which was begun
a few years ago to stop cars crossing, but a full Berlin-style concrete
wall that will carve its way through the hills, complete with pillboxes
and Israeli snipers to shoot anyone who tries to cross it. The official
reason is to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers crossing into Israel.
The wall will not run along the path of the Green Line, however.
Here it will be some 400 to 800 yards east, cutting off the Palestinian
farmers completely from their land for most of them, their
only source of income.
But the Israeli government has run up against an unexpected source
of opposition the people of Kibbutz Metser. There are few
more potent symbols of Israel than the kibbutzim, the communes of
Jewish families which encapsulated the spirit of the young country
in its early days.
"We think if a wall has to be built here it should be built on
the Green Line," said Dov Avital, a leader from the kibbutz. Dressed
in the scruffy gray T-shirt and work trousers of a no-nonsense kibbutznik,
he stood side by side with the neatly groomed Palestinian Mayor
of Kafin, who was wearing a tie despite the intense heat.
"If land has to be destroyed, we offer our own land," Mr Avital
went on. "If a wide strip of land has to be uprooted, we say it
should be shared equally between both sides." In the distance the
Israeli army had already begun cutting down Palestinian olive trees
to make way for the wall.
The facts are stark. The planned course of the wall will cut off
80 per cent of the farming land from the village of Kafin. Most
of the village's 10,000 people will lose all their income. There
are supposedly plans to issue permits for Palestinian farmers to
cross. But according to the Mayor of Kafin, the nearest gate in
the wall will involve a six-mile detour. And there are no guarantees
they will all get permits.
Kafin is not an isolated case. Throughout the West Bank, the wall
will be a disaster for Palestinians. Long sections of it will not
follow the Green Line, but will cut swathes out of Palestinian territory,
permanently cutting off thousands of farmers from their land. Some
Palestinian villages will be stranded on the Israeli side of the
wall, but the villagers will not be allowed into Israel proper.
Some observers believe the reason for not putting the wall on the
Green Line is that Ariel Sharon's government fears that could make
it into a de facto border for a future Palestinian state.
"My father's land used to be over there, on the other side of the
Green Line," said Ibrahiam Suleiman, one of the Palestinian farmers.
"Now they are taking away what was left after 1948 [when the Palestinians
were cut off from their land in the new state of Israel]." He has
six children to support and no means of income other than his olive
One of the Israelis from the kibbutz, Yohanan Margalit, was translating
for Mr Suleiman, who spoke no English. We asked the Palestinian
farmer what he would do. Mr Margalit, the translator, was visibly
shocked at his answer. "He says all that is left for him is to die,"
he translated. "If they take your land from you, what else can you
The Israeli shrugged. "I feel a little powerless to do anything
about this," he said. "You can speak to your government, but they
© 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd