Forgetting how many of the West Bank settlers are Americans is easy. At least, until you listen to their Hebrew or hear some of the nicknames they give. “Havat Lutzifer” is a good example. It is a made-up name combining the Hebrew “Farm of” with the Hebrew closest pronunciation of the Western name for Satan, “Lucifer.”
The Farm of Lucifer is an illegal outpost placed near the Susia settlement in Mount Hebron. The farm was established by Yaakov Talya in the 1980s and is known also as Talya Farm and Nof Nesher (Eagle’s Landscape). The hill it sits atop is often called “Lucifer’s Hill.”
The sites mentioned are just south of the Palestinian town of Yatta, about 10km south of Hebron, the largest city in the area and home to the most extremist settlers. Some of the Palestinians in Yatta believe to be descendants of Arabian-Jews tribes.
Why “Lucifer’s Hill?” The farm and hill are located near an area the IDF has drily called “Zone 918.” It is one of the largest free-fire zones of the Israeli army. Had the settlers foolishly identified their real allegiance?
Dry as Hell
In the southern half of the West Bank, Mount Hebron has a peculiar shape. It is closer to a high-plateau than to the regular shape of the mounts in the northern West Bank. Next to the Judea Desert, the area is high and surprisingly cold and windy at night; though during the days it obeys the expectations, becoming a scorching desert. Water is a premium resource.
The Palestinians living in the rural areas surrounding Yatta are trapped between settlements, outposts, and the free-fire zone. More often than not, they live in tents or “Khirbet”## ruins.
They live in such poor conditions because the Israeli Administration refuses to allow them the construction of proper structures. If constructed, the IDF is quick to demolish them.
Most of them are shepherds. Every day they must cross the firing area on their way from their night shelters to the water wells and the animal’s feeding grounds. “Yummy!” said an IDF sniper. “Let’s eat sheep today,” he added to his friends while aiming his American gun at the nearest walking-kebab.
“The Government won’t vomit at any dirty bureaucratic trick”
The title of this section translates a report on Zone 918, prepared by Haim Levinson for Haaretz, and published on September 28, 2013. “The Government won’t vomit [in disgust, idiom meaning that they will commit any crime] at any dirty bureaucratic trick aimed at keeping Bedouin and Palestinian shepherds away from their homes,” was part of the troubling subtitle.
Ali Awad owns a herd of over 1,000 sheep. Despite being wealthy, he lives in a cave within the fire zone, and every morning crosses it with the animals. In the afternoon, he takes a tractor and travels to bring water from a-Tawani. When the army exercises, almost every day, it closes the road, forcing him to make a 15km detour, instead of the regular 2km way. He complains of helicopters practicing emergency landings near his wheat fields, “The wind generated from a single landing destroys an entire field,” he says. Since the area is ruled by the IDF, there is no point in complaining to the authorities.
Despite being on the desert’s edge, the fire zone is populated by almost 1,300 Palestinians and Bedouins, who face systematic abuse by the IDF and the settlers. Both are trying with all their forces to intimidate the denizens out of their homes. Abu Jundaya, from Tuba, lost an olive orchard to the settlers, after they successfully blocked his access to it (see Agricultural Annexation Faster than Settlements for the technique details). In 2000, the IDF issued a demolition order; he lost two houses and an animal’s shelter. Since then he lives in a tent.
The issue reached the Israeli Court. Nearing the end of 2013, there are no signs that a verdict would be issued in the near future. There is no rush; meanwhile the IDF can play with fire. This month, the state must answer the Supreme Court regarding a negotiation offer with the denizens of Zone 918. In any case the court, recognized as corrupt by politicians and army officers as one, is unlikely to reject the IDF crimes.
Zone 918 was confiscated by the IDF in 1999, which immediately destroyed the villages in it and expelled its denizens. The following year, the Second Intifada started. Unable to deal with all the violence on the ground, the IDF was forced to abandon its cherished fire zone. The denizens returned, though they didn’t rebuild their homes. Later on, the IDF returned and created the incredible situation in which an area inhabited by civilians is used as a free-fire zone. What would happen if the German Army would treat similarly a Jewish neighborhood in Germany?
Trapped between Lucifer’s Farm and Free-Fire Zone 918, Ali Awad is a good shepherd, daily refusing to give Lucifer, who turned out being Zionist, the violent victory it so desires.
Roy Tov is the author of “The Cross of Bethlehem.” His website is Words from a Christian Israeli Refugee.