Sabry Manasrah has been working in Jerusalem for twenty five years, but his heart has always been with his family’s
land in Wadi Fuqin, a small village of 2,000 in the Occupied Palestinian Territories with a strong agricultural tradition.
“In Wadi Fuqin all of our lives is about caring about the land; planting trees and caring about the land,” Manasrah
says. "We must have land,” he continues, "Without land, we are nothing.”
Wadi Fuqin is sandwiched between the Green Line and one of the West Bank’s largest settlements, Beitar Illit. Ninety
percent of Wadi Fuqin is located in Area C. Last September, 1,000 dunams of Wadi Fuqin’s land was declared State
Land. The Israeli NGO, B’Tselem, issued the following statement in response: “...it appears that the purpose of the
current declaration, as others before it, is to clear the way for developing nearby settlements...moreover, the location
of the lands that have been declared state land suggests an intention to create territorial contiguity between Israel
and the nearby settlements of Beitar Illit, Gva’ot and the Gush Etzion bloc, in a manner that would effectively erase
the Green Line in the area.” Wadi Fukin, like many Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank, is becoming an
In 1967, during the SixDay War, part of Sabry Manasrah’s family fled to Jordan, leaving behind their land. This land,
planted with over 2,000 sage and thyme plants, was watched and cared for by the remaining family. In 2010, he
purchased 17 dunams of this land from his cousins in Jordan and slowly began to plant olive, almond, and fruit trees.
An adjacent plot of 60 dunams continued to be shared by the family.
Shortly after Sabry began cultivating his 17 dunams, he was given notice that his property and his relatives’ property
had been declared State Land by Israel. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel uses an interpretation of the
Ottoman land code from 1858 to confiscate land from Palestinian owners and villages. This law states that if a piece
of land is not cultivated for three successive years, it may become property of Israel. These lands are then used to
expand illegal Israeli-only settlements and the roads that connect these settlements. Even though Sabry and his
family’s property had been planted with sage and thyme, and were the legal owners of the land, Israel considered it
abandoned. Furthermore, they waited until the land had been cultivated extensively before declaring it State Land.
In 2011, Sabry took his case to the Israeli court, but the judge ruled in Israel’s favor. “It’s not State Land,” Sabry
says, “They’ve stolen the land. The judge gave it to them. This is something normal, to give it to them.”
In the early morning hours of June 15, 2015, 3 bulldozers, several workers, 20 Israeli soldiers, and 5 military jeeps
turned up on the Manasrah property and began to destroy nearly 800 mature olive, almond, and fruit trees, a well,
stone terracing, and fencing. When Wadi Fuqin residents turned out to protest, the soldiers fired tear gas and sound
bombs. Sabry estimates the loss of income to his family at $30,000 nis, or $8,000 USD.
An adjacent piece of Sabry’s 17 dunams, separated by a village road, was not bulldozed. It’s filled with grape vines,
peach trees, lettuces, and cucumbers. Vegetables and fruit picked in the afternoon will be served for dinner that
evening. On this land, Sabry’s grandchildren trail behind him in an idyllic setting learning the rudiments of farming,
but the thuds and hammers from nearby Tzur Haddassah punctuate the air. As does the drone of an Israeli
helicopter, scouting for more land that is either “uncultivated” or cultivated “illegally,” and therefore subject to a State
Land declaration and imminent destruction.