Day four of the Freedom Ride started early with a 7 am wake-up call and an 8 am breakfast at the Bil’in Center for Freedom and Justice. The group then said goodbye to our friends in Bil’in and boarded the bus. For the next two hours, we drove east through the West Bank, winding through Ramallah as we gradually descended into the Jordan Valley.
After getting waved through one of Israel’s notorious flying checkpoints, we came to a fork in the road where we stopped the bus and met our charismatic guide, Rashid Khudiri. Rashid gave a brief introduction to the Jordan Valley. Whereas our previous hosts in Nabi Saleh and Bil’in have chosen to resist the occupation through weekly demonstrations, the situation in the Jordan Valley is quite different. It is much more sparsely populated and the communities here do not receive as much attention as their fellow Palestinians elsewhere in the West Bank. Communities here suffer from a serious shortage of water. As Rashid pointed out, this shortage is not just geographic; it is political, and many of the water wells and springs these Palestinians have traditionally used have been redirected to Israeli settlements.
Continuing on our journey, we arrived in the village of Fasayel. We dropped our bags off at the Friends’ Meeting House and had a filling lunch. Rashid then took the group on a walking tour of the village. As he explained, many of the buildings here are made with mud bricks. Fasayel is a small agricultural community with some 1700 inhabitants. Nestled between the Palestinian hills and the Jordanian frontier, Fasayel’s beauty has also made it the target of the occupation. Only a few hundred meters away sits a newly-constructed Jewish settlement. It was built on land that had previously been used for farming by Fasayel’s residents.
In this part of Palestine, one of Israel’s main forms of harassment and intimidation involves building demolitions. Residents here frequently receive demolition notices for any buildings they construct – houses, shelters, fences, or even power lines and animal pens. No specific date is ever given for the announced demolition, so Israeli forces can arrive at any moment. In some cases, Fasayel’s residents have resisted by taking their case to social media, creating petitions against the demolitions and bringing international attention to their cause.
As the sun began to set over the horizon, we returned to the Friends’ Meeting House for dinner and a film screening, a 2012 documentary about the situation of Palestinians struggling in the Jordan Valley, The last shepherds of the valley. After a brief discussion following the film, the Freedom Riders rested for a long day ahead.
Written by Greg Burris, 2015 Freedom Ride participant