Our van rattled from side to side as it climbed the rocky road up the dusty hill. At the top of the hill we were met with the scattered remnants of a water tank, which until minutes before was storing one million litres of water – almost half the amount of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. This tank supplied water for Palestinian families, livestock, and farmland in the area. Without this tank, nearly 500 people now lack adequate water for their basic needs and livelihood.
Remnants of the water tank near Khirbet Yarza after it was destroyed by the Israeli military
Men from the area sit on the edge of what was the base of the water tank near Khirbet Yarza. The tank supplied water to families, farmers, and grazing fields nearby in the Jordan Valley
This was just one of several water tanks in the Jordan Valley which the Israeli military demolished in the crucial days ahead of the planting season for Palestinian farmers. Three days earlier, a water tank the same size had been destroyed. This tank, near the village of Bardala in the northern Jordan Valley, provided water for 25 families – water they used in the home, to drink, and to nourish almost 100 acres of cucumbers, aubergines, and other crops.
The farmers were forbidden from the area while three power shovels and bulldozers worked – the Israeli military declared it a closed military area for 70 minutes while the tank was demolished. For reasons the farmers in Bardala could not understand, the soldiers also destroyed the beehives next to the water tank.
Communities in the northern Jordan Valley were not surprised at the timing of these demolitions. The coming weeks were to be the start of the planting season. But without water, farmers cannot plant. Without fields to sow and harvest, day labourers are left without an income.
The Palestinian farmers did not know what they would do without their main source of water. Many cannot afford the price of buying and transporting the amount of water they need for their families, let alone for farming their land.
Rubble of the former water tank in Bardala behind scattered remnants of destroyed beehives
A few weeks later, we met a man named Mursheid after his family saw 250 of their olive trees uprooted by the Israeli military. The military also destroyed four water cisterns that morning. Two of the cisterns held 50-70 cubic metres (50,000-70,000 litres) of water. The two other cisterns were empty, as the family had not yet planted olive trees in that area.
Mursheid and his family have proof of ownership of this land from the British Mandate (colonial) government, which began after World War One, as well as from the time when Jordan ruled the region from 1948. He asked a soldier why they were on his land, and the soldier replied, ‘it’s not your business, it’s our land.’
Tyre tracks leading to the demolished olive grove on the hills near Tammoun.
Mursheid stands next to a cistern, demolished and filled with dirt and uprooted olive trees from his family’s land. The few dozen olive trees that Mursheid and his family have left can be seen in the background.