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Notes on the Geography of The West Bank: Israeli Settlements

Palestinians not only suffer from military occupation but see their country steadily lost to ever-encroaching Israeli settlements.  Ironically, it is job-hungry Palestinians who actually build those settlements.

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The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 1

The gate to Metzad, a small settlement northeast of Hebron. The gate itself is strictly standard-issue, identical to the gates at almost every Israeli settlement on the West Bank. It's power operated and controlled from the guardhouse.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 2

Metzad again. The fencing is impressive but atypical. Most West Bank settlements are now so old that the original chain-link fencing, though topped with barbed wire, is hardly a serious barrier.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 3

The settlements stand in stark juxtaposition to the surrounding Palestinian villages--and usually on strategic hilltops overlooking them. Here, Betar Illit stands on a ridge overlooking an orchard belonging to Nahalin, a village southwest of Bethlehem. Relations between the two are not good. The Palestinians see the settlement and think of how their land was stolen; residents of the settlement, on the other hand, will casually dismiss Nahalin as an "Arab village," so insignificant that its name is not worth mentioning.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 4

A lawn behind a home in Betar Illit. In the distance is Nahalin, at the foot of the Judean Plateau. The pine forests on the distant slopes are part of Gush Etzion, the first post-1967 settlement.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 5

El'azar, part of Gush Etzion, rises above terraces belonging to villagers from El Khadr. The valley is the Wadi el-Biyar, "the valley of wells." The name refers to ancient Roman shafts sunk to a tunnel that once carried water north to Solomon's Pools.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 6

A Roman road winds along a hilltop north of Nev'e Daniel, whose watertower dominates the skyline. Villagers from El Khadr tend the vineyards on either side of the ancient road.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 7

Most settlements begin like this, with rows of mobile homes. Years later, permanent housing may be built.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 8

Sometimes, the mobile homes stay in use for a long time.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 9

Over the hump: simple but permanent housing, with flowers and children.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 10

The high end: a backyard at Har Gilo, high above Bethlehem and with a superb view west toward the Mediterranean.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 11

A Jordan Valleys settlement: simple, but by Israeli standards offering room to breathe.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 12

The Jordan Valley settlement of Almog relies heavily on vacationers who rent cottages by the day.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 13

In 1999, construction continued in Almog.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 14

Within a few years, gardens will make the new homes attractive.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 15

It looks like drab public housing anywhere, but this is the standard apartment building at Kiryat Arba, the settlement adjoining Hebron.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 16

Nowhere in Palestinian Hebron is there anything as green as this--or as reliably served by water mains.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 17

A playground at Tekoa. In the background rises Herodion, atop whose modified slope Herod built a palace where he supposedly is buried. The frontier atmosphere is strong in settlements like these, detached from the more populous settlement blocks farther west.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 18

You'll look a long time before you see anything like this in a Palestinian village.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 19

Ariel has the luxury of a swimming pool.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 20

The Dead Sea, on an unusually clear day, looms behind Ma'aleh Adumim, a settlement east of Jerusalem--and the West Bank's biggest. The town was in the world press in 1999, when a Burger King franchisee led the company to believe that the settlement was in Israel, not the West Bank. A threatened worldwide boycott of Burger King got the company's attention, and the Burger King went away.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 21

Ephrata, the biggest Gush Etzion settlement.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 22

Housing at the north end of Ephrata. The picture was taken from a road used by the residents of Wad er-Rihal, a small village whose residents were afraid that the growth of Ephrata would sever their road link to Bethlehem.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 23

A boundary marker, poignant because Ephrata marches inexorably northward over lands that Palestinians insist is theirs.

The West Bank: Israeli Settlements picture 24

Most settlers commute to jobs in Israel, especially Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Most often, they travel by public bus, here escorted to Hebron's Kiryat Arba by a jeep. The metal screen on the front window protects the bus from rocks. Settlers often replace the original windows of theire cars with thick plexiglas ones.


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