Land grabbing in the Palestinian Territories: the story of Abed Al-Rabbeh

Dear Reader,

Tuesday, January 29, the website reads as follows:
The United Nations Human Rights Council issued a report stating that Israel is violating international law in the Palestinian Territories, and that Israel “must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers” from the West Bank and stop further settlement building “without preconditions”. We have seen headlines like this one for years, at least since the construction of the separation wall and the first settlers arrived which has caused the infinite struggle that Palestinians are enduring still today.

However, I feel it’s more personal to try and relate my personal experience in the West Bank, how I saw the settlements damaging and causing enormous difficulties to the Palestinians, and how I met the most remarkable personality I could imagine in such region: Abed Al-Rabbeh.

It was after a week I was working in Beit Sahour, one rainy morning our friend Alice decided to take us to Al-Walaja – a town north of Bethlehem – to pick up oak seeds up on a hill nearby, and so we did. Mounted on a rocky jeep, went along a rocky road, our driver listening to funny reggae, and we reached the woods surrounding the area of Al-Walaja, and Abed’s house.

Al-Walaja Hero Palestine Stanito© Stanito, 2012

The guy who inhabits this remarkable hill is Abed Al-Rabbeh, a true hero in the Palestinian territories, he lives on the verge of a hill overlooking East Jerusalem

© Stanito, 2012

and the Gilo settlement (up on the hill)

© Stanito, 2012

Very charismatic and dedicated to simple farming life, Abed cultivates his lands with olive trees and other crops, he raises chickens, rabbits and has a white-grey donkey grazing along.

© Stanito, 2012

For the past 15 years, Abed has chosen to live by himself in Al-Walaja while his wife and sons stay at the Dheisheh refugee camp. This refugee camp is only a few minutes drive from his farm but as it has happened in several occasions, whenever he left his land to visit his family he had found burned trees and wrecks.

He defends his little farm from the constant warnings of land confiscation imposed by the Israeli government given the fact that his land is currently located on Area C, with a direct view on East Jerusalem and in an area which is part of a current settlement construction plan. Because of this particular location, Abed is subjected to all sorts of restrictions that have made his life more difficult as he lives isolated from electricity, water, he doesn’t have access to a sewage system, and the impossibility to build a house led him to live inside a cave.
The Gilo settlers are not the only problem for Abed, as below you can see the separation wall stretching from the bottom of the hill.

West Bank Separation Wall Stanito© Stanito, 2012
Little and warmly decorated, his cave walls are covered with books, photos, articles, all written proofs of his widely known struggle to keep his land from Israeli authorities. He offered us hot tea while I checked his 5 guest-books filled with support words from visitors of all over the world.

Image© Stanito, 2012

Outside there is a pavement and a canopy made by volunteers, buckets to catch rainwater and plants.

Image© Stanito, 2012

The compost toilet

Image© Stanito, 2012

and the donkey

Image© Stanito, 2012

This emblematic hill is the last remaining piece of what used to be Al-Walaja village, and because of the settlement building expansion, most of its former residents now live in the surrounding areas of Beit Jallah and Dheisheh. But Abed decided to stay as his true mission is to defend the land that he rightfully owns. With the settlements expanding everyday more, he will struggle with even more difficulties:

1- The impossibility to obtain planning and building permission: as the Israeli Civil Administration built over 18,000 settlements in the area, only 91 Palestinian applications were approved in 2011. And because of this problematic situation, many Palestinians are denied permission to invest in infrastructure, or repairing roads, or laying pipes to obtain water and electrical power.

2- He and many more Palestinians are forced to build illegally – many buildings demolished: because of the constraints in building, many Palestinians are forced to build their homes illegally, and since illegal constructions are threatened with demolition, the result is that most of these Palestinians residents take the risk to either live “illegally” or become homeless.

Following the Palestinian admission to the UN as a non-member state, following the violation of the Rome Statute and now the Fourth Geneva convention, I believe that maybe Abed now has a better chance to stand up and say “This is my land”.
abed my land
For more information about Permaculture projects in the West Bank:

31 thoughts on “Land grabbing in the Palestinian Territories: the story of Abed Al-Rabbeh

  1. Thank you very much for sharing! Humanity and dignity are well reflected. The injustices against Palestinian people are a reality that must end.

  2. Grazie per questo post bellissimo. Forse il piu’ bello che ho letto quest’anno. Ti sono grato specialmente per aver condiviso la storia straordinariamente dignitosa di Abed. Vestito di quella dignita’ che spesso i Palestinesi in Israele posseggono.

    1. Gianfranco, grazie mille per i complimenti, é un piacere condividere esperienze di questo tipo. E ce ne sono delle altre che presto metterò su!

  3. I wish media was more objective. Thank you for sharing this information with those (like me) who are unaware of the real situation. Beautiful story, human focus, excellent wording.

  4. These are the kinds of stories we need to read in America, to put names to the faces around the world we are condemning with sanctions, blockades and military “interventions”. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your contribution Neil, and I’m glad you had the opportunity to meet such an amazing person. By the way, I liked your website, very nice and complete.

      1. Thanks for that, it’s a new site with lots of work still to do. I often think about Abed who was due in an Israeli court in December 2012 for building without a permit, a charge which related to two small shacks on his land. I often wondered what the outcome was?

        1. In the end it was good news because they allowed all his buildings except for the cave, which he has to go back to hear about in April…….we’ll see!
          The Wall still goes up of course and we don’t know what will happen with the Givat Yael plan…..

  5. this is beautiful . please please please republish it here with it’s beautiful stories ::: ::: you can just create a user id and publish it … i will have to approve the article, then will empower you to publish without further approval any time you wish. of course ping back to your site here.

    1. Thank you for your comment Cassandra, he is indeed a true hero, hopefully one who’ll endure until his dream comes true.

  6. One thing I do not understand. What does the palestinian goverment do for this brave man? I understand that electricity is suplying by Israel, right?
    Regarding the wall, the owfull wall, don’t you think if extremist palestinian put down their arms, than Israel will have no need to do such things in order to defend his population?
    BIg problem there, but Abed you know Peace its depending only on palestinian.

    1. Hi Odette, thanks for your comment.
      What does the PA does for this man? Basically they provide for the basics needs for him and his family despite the obvious limitations. That’s how I got to meet him.
      No, the electricity does not come from Israel, especially not to him.
      As per the wall I’m sorry to say this but Israel-Palestine is like the old saying “quién nació primero? La gallina o el huevo?”, it has always been that way, that is why I state clearly that telling their story will change dramatically depending on which year your start counting. And by this I mean, sure, Palestinians should stop throwing rocks, but Israelis should stop jailing, beating kids, and burning trees and houses in the West Bank. So the question is, who started? And the answer I’m afraid is very subjective.
      Peace depends on both, not the Palestinians alone. So, what has Israel done on it side to achieve this? Truth is since Rabin, not much. And neither the Palestinians.
      I hope this answers your questions.

  7. Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It will always be helpfuul to read articles from other aauthors andd use
    soomething from their websites.

  8. Maybe you could meet some of the Israelis blown to bits by palestinian terrorists. Or do a nice fluffy story on the stabbing victims.

    1. Hi Robert,
      I see what you mean and it’s sad to say that victims and criminals are in fact on both sides. However, this story is about Abed only and not the Palestinians in general. And he was a victim of perpetrated abuse and vandalism.

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