Israel has expropriated a natural spring in the occupied West Bank village of al-Walaja, making off-limits a site long used by Palestinian residents for picnicking and swimming.
I have only been to al-Walaja twice. On the first occasion, in 2006, I was a volunteer with the YMCA of Palestine, helping to harvest olives from fields that al-Walaja’s Palestinian farmers could no longer access without threat of arrest or worse due to their proximity to Israeli settlements.
On that occasion two soldiers from the Israeli army turned up. They were pleasant; they seemed amused at our presence – eccentric foreigner “do-gooders” come to help the undeserving. They stayed but 20 minutes and left with a smile and a laugh.
A week later the fields we had harvested were declared a “closed military zone” by arbitrary edict of the occupation. No one, except those who could obtain an authorized military permit, could now access them.
Effectively, the farmer we had helped with the harvest had his lands seized because we had helped him. The unofficial policy of keeping him off his lands was formalized into an official policy of keeping him off his lands.