Turmus Ayya, Marda Permaculture Farm

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Dvorka Oreg, Ana Shidlo, Tzipi Eynot, Dalia Kleinman, Aliyah Strauss (reporting)

Turmus Ayya, a small Palestinian town, about half way between Nablus and Ramallah, is trying hard to protect the lands of its farmers from the encroachment of the Israeli outpost Adei Ad. The settlers claim that they have rented the land from the Israeli government. The farmers have papers to prove they own and work the land.

Marda, The Permaculture Farm, is a fascinating place where we could all learn about sustainable farming practices.

Turmus Ayya:W., the deputy mayor of Turmus Ayya, welcomed us to his office. He told us something about himself. He is a civil engineer, educated at the University of Chicago, where he received his degree in 1980. He has worked in several South American countries.

He has also been an activist for 'Palestinian Rights in Israel', on the subject of discrimination and house demolition. He has taken part in workshops on this subject in Palestine and in many countries of the world.

The pressing problem in the area of Turmus Ayya is from the Israeli outpost, Adei-Ad. Ten days earlier two bulldozers arrived and began to clear land that is south-east of the settlement Shilo and west of the outpost Adei-Ad. They were working on 300 dunams of land which the settlers said they had rented from the Israeli government; the land belongs to people in Turmus Ayya and Qariyut. W. called the DCO, but he said he could do nothing. Farmers in Turmus Ayya and Qariyut have papers proving that they are tilling their land. He has also contacted the Red Cross for help. The bulldozers have stopped their work, but the settlers said they would return to continue working. W. says that people from Turmus Ayya would go out to the fields to prevent the clearing of the land. He says that the farmers in the town and village have filed 93 claims to land occupied by Adei-Ad, but nothing has come of any of the claims; Adei-Ad is expanding. "In our experience no one has managed to do anything," he said. We said we would give his telephone number to Yesh Din.

By way of illustration of what really happens, W. tells us that 15 years ago the DCO declared the settlement of Eli, north of Turmus Ayya, to be illegal; the next day the settlement was connected to the electricity grid and water network.

W. answered our questions about the army: The army comes to the entrance to the town on an irregular basis. A month ago they came every day for a week and set up a checkpoint at the entrance. They checked all the cars going in and out of the town, especially young people in the cars. Sometimes the army blocks the road for a while, and sometimes they drive around the town.

W. says, "What we, the Palestinian people, want is to live in freedom. We want to live as neighbors with Israel, on 22% of our historic land (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). Now it seems that Israel is willing to negotiate on 10% of the area."

In Turmus Ayya 95% of the people have American citizenship. The American embassy takes care of many problems, but not problems related to land, its ownership or its use. In the cases of land conflicts with settlers, Israel has a 'mandate' and is the arbitrator. (W. tells us that he has seen, with his own eyes, settlers attack US embassy representatives by throwing rocks at them.) About 18 years ago, a member of the city council showed his American passport to an Israeli soldier at the entrance to the town. The soldier disdainfully threw the passport into the mud at the roadside. When the American embassy representative heard about this action, he was surprised,

There are about 4000 people living in Turmus Ayya now. About 7000 people consider themselves connected to the town but are living overseas, in the USA, and several South American countries. These people living outside the country keep a very strong relationship with their homes, and come to visit regularly. W. has 6 children; 2 sons are studying in Tennessee, 3 children live in South America, and only one son lives in Turmus Ayya.

On our way from Turmus Ayya to Marda, we passed the settlement Shilo. Along the road into the settlement we saw 6 or 7 large busses parked. Then we saw a banner proclaiming, "Welcome to the B'nai Akiva Youth Movement on Tu B'shvat." We saw large numbers of young people walking from the settlement to the busses. They must have done a tour of the place.

As we passed Za'atra (Tapuach Junction) we saw no unusual activity there.

Marda:The Permaculture Farm, Palestine Branch

M. welcomed us to his farm. There have been other visitors from Machsom Watch at the farm so  this report will be brief. At the entrance to the farm M. showed us something he had just acquired. They were four very big, old, square metal containers. They had once contained tar that was used for making asphalt for road building. Now they were empty and sold off as useless. M. would begin filling one them with food waste from his kitchen. As the waste decays it gives off a gas which can be used for cooking or heating. He will set up one for his home and teach other people how to set up units like this in other places. Free gas! What could be better? He has applied for funds to set up 6 or 7 similar systems in Palestine.

Another attraction is his 'vertical garden'. It is made of old tires placed in a ring with more tires on a tier above until there are about 4 tiers of tires. The space in the middle is filled with earth as are all of the tires; it becomes a small hill. Vegetables are planted in all of the tires and at the top of the hill. The tires create a micro-climate. During the day they absorb the sun's heat and keep the plants warm when it is cold. In summer the tires give off the heat at night and create dew for the plants. There is a hanging sign that reads 'The Global Village Institute, Marda Permaculture Farm, Palestinian Branch'. Palestinian teachers are sent to learn from him. We could all learn a lot from him.

The one big problem that he talked about is the sewage that flows from Ariel into the fields of Marda. During the week of heavy rains the whole village could smell the stink from the sewage.

 On our way into the territories we saw the big pipe that contains the sewage and waste from the Barkan industrial area where the water-fall used to be. As we left on the same road we saw that there was now a new water-fall about 200 meters from the old one.