Khirbet Bet Zakariya - “Ganz considers cancelling building permits he granted Palestinians”

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Mustafa (driving), Rikki, Nurit, Irit (reporting and photographing) Translator: Charles K.

The news that brought us back to Khirbet Beit Zakariya this time was the following:

“A few days ago, Defense  Minister Ganz visited Gush Etzion and met with representatives of the Israeli residents to understand from them why he’s being asked to cancel the construction permits for Palestinians and toured the area of Khirbet Zakariya.  At the end of the visit Ganz informed the residents that he understands the issue is complex and sensitive.”  He “is considering canceling the construction permits he recently granted Palestinians for Khirbet Bet Zakariya in Gush Etzion.”  Ze’ev Kamm reported this information Sunday morning, 19.9.21, on Reshet B’s “Haboker Hazeh” radio program.

No one contacted Abu Ibrahim, the head of Khirbet Zakariya’s municipal council, nor was he informed of Ganz’s visit and that Ganz is considering canceling the Master Plan provided to Abu Ibrahim by the Civil Administrationinfo-icon.  As far as the Defense Minister is concerned, the only “residents” are the Gush’s Jewish settlers.  We heard how insulting that was from Abu Ibrahim, how Ganz ignored him when we met him in his living room, which also serves the Khirbet Bet Zakariya municipal council.

What would canceling the Master Plan mean for Palestinians?

This:  Continuing demolition of buildings, with the excuse that no (approved) Master Plan exists.  Without a Master Plan:

1. Construction is prohibited and buildings systematically demolished by the Civil Administration everywhere in Khirbet Bet Zakariya (350 residents), Khalat Balut (80 residents), Wadi Shahat (130 residents), Khalat Afna (80 residents) and Khirbet Shafa (100 residents), and the Christian farm belonging to the Saras family.

2. A sign identifying the village can’t be erected at the entrance. 

3. A safe entry road can’t be paved to the village.

4. A clinic can’t be built.

5. The minaret under construction for the Nabi Zakariya mosque can’t be completed – the only mosque in Gush Etzion, whose construction was halted 36 years ago by the order of the Civil Administration, and all appeals were rejected.

תכנית המנהל האזרחי לבניה בחרבת בית זכריה
בניה מסורתית עתיקה באבן ללא בטון בחרבת בית זכריה
פגישה עם ראש הכפר אבו איברהים

Expropriation and erasure of Palestinian heritage

Before 1967 the neighborhoods of Khirbet Bet Zakariya were spread loosely over broad areas of Gush Etzion.  The farmers lived on their land and built their homes among the vineyards, the fig groves and vegetable crops.  They would assemble for prayers at the Nabi Zakariya mosque in Khirbet Bet Zakariya, beneath the broad shade of the “Nabi Zakariya oak”, the ancient, sacred oak planted on two dunums of waqf land (according to Abu Ibrahim).  They enjoyed the natural surroundings.  From there they could continue to another holy site surrounded by oaks:  Nabi Daniyel - or to springs on the lands of Khirbet Bet Zakariya and Bet Umar.  Today the sites are part of the KKL’s Etzion Forest, entrance to which is the road to the violent settlement of Bat Ayin.

Jewish settlers have completely taken over the “Nabi Zakariya oak" and over Nabi Daniyel.  Nabi Daniyel has become a gathering place for settlers from the Sde Boaz outpost, and the Nabi Zakariya Oak has become an educational site for teaching about the Jewish history of Gush Etzion.  Add the prohibition on constructing a minaret for “Nabi Zakariya,” the only mosque in Gush Etzion, and everything is ready for the invitation to the Defense Minister to reject at the last minute the local residents’ final hope – approval of the construction Master Plam.

From 1948 to 1967 the huge “Nebi Zakariya Oak” symbolized the yearnings of Jews evacuated from Gush Etzion in 1948; it was known in Israel as “the solitary tree.”