Skip to content or view screen version

Donations campaign to save the cave dwellers of south Hebron, Palestine

Uri ZACKHEM, Ta'ayush: Arab-Jewish Partnership | 19.10.2004 06:34 | Anti-racism | Repression | World

The cave dwellers suffer from settlers, army and civil administration harassment.
The aim is clear - expell them, destroy their humble livelihood so that the area
is annexed to Israel.

The South Hebron mountain region is a rural area with many caves, south east of the town Yata, and extends westward until Beit Jubrin. Apart from Yata and a few other villages, a few thousand people live in small hamlets of four to five families each. The residents started to settle in the area outside the villages since the 1830s, and lived in caves, tents and huts. To this day they lead traditional life, and their livelihood is based on agriculture and tending sheep and goats. Cave dwelling is registered in this area since the first few centuries CE.

Until the war of 1948 the farmers cultivated an area that extended all the way to wher is now the Israeli city 'Arad. Following the war a large part of their land, beyond the border, was lost. After the 1967 war and the Israeli occupation military camps were put up, firing ranges and nature reserves were declared, and the available land diminished further.

In the beginning of the 1980s, the government of Israel started building settlements in the area, and most of them were created in order to create a continuum across the border. The settlements were established on Palestinian land, and meanwhile all the land was declared "state land". In the occupied territories land that belongs to the state is used only for settlements, and never for the indigenous population.

Over the years a few haphazard expulsions took place. Ususally the inhabitants returned back and allowed to stay. However, many hardships and limitations were imposed on them, e.g. the prohibition to construct permanent residence, prohibition of cultivation and grazing in various periods of the year. For the development of Khirbet Susya (ancient sinagogue) in the late 1980s a few tens of families were expelled by the authorities.

In the second half of the 1990s a new form of settlement was created - shepherds' farms of few settlers. This increased the tension between the settlers and the original residents, the Palestinians, and many attacks have been issued by the settlers on the Palestinians. Meanwhile the army continued to demolish buildings, residences and crops.

In the years 1999 and 2001 the army and the civil administration demolished many caves and filled with earth many cisterns. In both cases, only after public campaigns, in which political organisations, writers and publicfigures took part, and supreme court petitions, did the supreme court issue warrents that enable the residents to return to the status quo ante.
Read the full story + the donations call.

Uri ZACKHEM, Ta'ayush: Arab-Jewish Partnership
- Homepage: