Notes on the Geography of The West Bank: Northern Countryside
We'll start with the rural north.
North of Nablus, the mountainous West Bank has a few places level enough for cultivation without terraces. The typical crop is wheat or barley, seeded in the winter and planted in strips marking an ancient pattern of land tenure.
A more typical agricultural landscape--indeed, the paradigm of the western slope of the northern West Bank--is olive terraces on the flanks of deep wadis. The terraces have been built on natural benches created by the limestone strata. This particular picture is east of Salfit, one of the premier olive-growing areas of the West Bank.
The relationship between natural and artificial terrace is shown well here.
Freshly repaired terracing west of Jiljilya. Economically rational behavior? Almost certainly not. But then neither are suburban gardens.
Abandoned olive terraces near Birzeit University, on the right. The name Birzeit means "olive spring."
Some of the oldest buildings in the rural West Bank are tombs like this one, freshly rehabilitated by the Palestinian archaeological department. It's just north of the town of Birzeit.
The hilltop location was once the site of a Crusader signalling station.
Security has always been a concern in this part of the world, and it explains the hilltop location of the sheikh's stronghold at Ras Karkar, a village west of Ramalla. An uppermost room gives a panoramic view in all directions. Restored by the Palestinian Authority, it's one of the best preserved structures of its kind on the West Bank.
Industrial civilization arrived on the West Bank during the late Ottoman period with works like this. Spot it?
We're just north of Sebastiya--or a bit farther north of Nablus.
It's a railway grade, of course, and the grove shown two pictures back hides Nasrudieh Junction, a Y on the old Turkish railway from Damascus. One branch extended behind the camera to Nablus. The other went to the coast.
A closer look at the station building.
It's sometimes said that steel construction--roofs of I-beams and concrete--came to Palestine during the British Mandate. Here's proof, however, that such construction technology antedated 1917, for the decaying roof of the station clearly shows the use of steel beams, along with concrete filler.
The same method of roof construction soon appeared in houses (as in this house between Birzeit and Jifna), even though the walls continued to be stone-faced and rubble-filled.
New apartment buildings now pop up in the middle of olive groves, in this case a few miles north of Ramalla.
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