Hundreds of Palestinian activists took part in a protest camp in early February in Ein Hijleh, an abandoned village in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. The camp launched the Melh Al-Ard (Salt of the Earth) campaign, an initiative that focuses on contesting Israeli policies aimed at Judaizing and annexing the Jordan Valley.
Above: On 31 January, over 300 Palestinian activists launched the first day of the campaign in Ein Hijleh. Residents of the village were forced to leave back in 1967, when Israel began its illegal military occupation of the West Bank. In a statement written by the Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee, organizers declared: ‘We, the participants, announce that we hold tight to our right to all occupied Palestinian lands. We refuse [US Secretary of State John] Kerry’s Plan that will establish a disfigured Palestinian state and recognizes the Israeli entity as a Jewish State. Such a state will turn Palestinians living inside lands occupied in 1948 into residents and visitors that can be deported at any time. We affirm the unity of our people and their struggle, wherever they are, for our inalienable rights.’
Above: An activist from the South Hebron Hills village of Al Mufaqara, situated in the south of the West Bank, lays palm branches over the exposed roof of a home. Like Ein Hijleh, the tiny village of Al Mufaqara is located in Area C, one of three administrative divisions created by the Oslo Accords. Area C covers over 60 per cent of the West Bank and is under full Israeli military and civil control.
Above: Palestinian youth use palm tree logs to cover the exposed roof of an abandoned building. All week men, women and children worked to revive the village. They also planted trees, held cultural events and discussions and baked bread.
Above: Palestinians gather in front of members of the Israeli military who had entered the village on the first night of the camp. As soon as they arrived, the Israeli forces erected checkpoints in the surrounding areas to keep journalists and activists from reaching Ein Hijleh. Most people attempting to enter the village after the first day were forced to walk two kilometres from a nearby church to avoid the Israeli soldiers and border police.
Above: The Israeli military and border police patrolled the outskirts of Ein Hijleh every evening for the duration of the camp, occasionally firing flares and fireworks late at night. Palestinian activists prepared fires such as this one to provide light in case of a military raid.
Above: Young Palestinians confront Israeli soldiers and border police as they confiscate food and water from activists and journalists attempting to enter Ein Hijleh on Sunday 2 February. Although Israeli forces detained activists and stopped transport that was being used to deliver food and water and confiscated the supplies, items were smuggled in on horseback from nearby Jericho.
Above: Decorations adorn an old home in Ein Hijleh as part of the work to clean and revive the area, which consists of several deserted houses and a collection of palm trees. Much of the surrounding land has been seized by the Israeli forces for ‘closed military zones’ and Israeli settlement expansion.
Above: Youth from Aida Refugee camp march together with activists toward Route 90 for a morning action on the 5th day of the campaign. Palestinians who do not live in the Jordan Valley must obtain a permit from the Israeli authorities in order to travel on this main highway, which runs north through the Jordan Valley, even though it is situated within the 1967 Green Line.
Above: Participants representing West Bank towns and villages chant following the action in which they confronted Israeli forces along Route 90.
Ein Hijleh was eventually raided by Israeli military and border police around 2am on 7 February. Some 41 people were injured in the process of being arrested and had to be hospitalized. The rest were bussed to the nearby city of Jericho where they were later released. Parts of the protest village were then bulldozed by Israeli authorities.
Ein Hijleh is the second protest village to be erected by Palestinian activists and subsequently evicted. Bab Al-Shams faced the same fate in January 2013. The activists say there will be more camps to come.