Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Battir's NYTimes's 'Sprightly elderly woman'

The New York Times (finally) has reported on the Battir/Betar water story and it's petition to UNESCO as a world heritage site deserving of protection (I blogged previously here).  They want an ecomuseum. The claim is that village's

ecological and environmental equilibrium will continue to be threatened and its residents denied the chance to enjoy their natural heritage and sustain the land.


water flows through a Roman-era irrigation system

And I just loved this portrayal of a

sprightly elderly woman, a distant relative, skipped down to a nearby plot across the railway track

Skipping?  Exactly how elderly is she?

But let's return to what is supposed to be fact rather than literary fiction.

First, let's identify the site more historically correct:

Tel Betar (Khirbet el-Yahud) is situated southwest of Jerusalem near the Arab village of Bittir, its northern side flanking the Rephaim Valley...Khirbet el-Yahud is unanimously identified with Betar, the last stronghold of the Second Revolt against the Romans, where its leader, Bar-Kochba, found his death in 135 CE. The ancient name was (p)reserved in the name of the Arab village Bittir, and the Arab name of the site - Khirbet el-Yahud, that is "The ruin of the Jews", keeps the memory of the Second Revolt. The identification is supported by the results of the surveys and the excavations. The Roman siege of Betar in 135 CE, the conquest of the settlement and the slaughter of the besieged, including Bar-Kochba, which put an end to the Second Revolt, is mentioned in both Jewish and Roman Sources - The Talmud and the Midrash, and Eusebius (3rd-4th centuries CE) in his book on the history of the church.

Now, let's get factual on Battir's irriagtion situation:

Battir has 12,000 Dunums [dunam is 1,000 square metres (10,764 sq ft)] of arable land. 4,000 Dunums are cultivated. Of the cultivated land, 50 Dunham are near the spring and cultivated with the water of the spring. From the remaining 8,000 Dunham of arable land that are not cultivated, 5,000 Dunham are not cultivated due to lack of water. The majority of the agriculture land relies solely on rain...

In other words, the system irrigates .0125% of the total.  Just over 1%.  (See this: "Correction: Palestinians-Troubled Terraces story - In a May 11 article, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that the agricultural terraces in the West Bank village of Battir cover 2,000 hectares, or about 800 acres. The correct figure is 800 hectares, or nearly 2,000 acres.] C'est toute.  And

Battir households are all connected to the water supply managed by the municipality of Battir. This water is supplied by by The Israeli water company ‐ Mekorot

And it has been since 1973 that

 the village of Battir did most of its growth (p. 14)

Yes, there is a water problem at Battir.  But it is a waste-water disposal problem:

Battir, like most of the villages in West Bank, has no sewerage network. Most families therefore depend on boreholes (cesspits) for their black wastewater. These boreholes [see below] are the main contamination source of the spring water as many of them are not pumped and none of them are sealed against leaks. According to the same survey, 80% of households have separated pipes systems for black and grey water3. While the black‐wastewater is directed to the boreholes the gray water is used for irrigation in the proximity of the house without any treatment. More than 50% of households never pump out their borehole. Only about a quarter of the households pump out their boreholes in a monthly basis, the rest pump out their boreholes on a time range from 2 months to 5 years. The pumped out solid waste is conducted by a truck owned and operated by the municipality. This truck pumps‐out only or mostly the solid waste. In most cases the solid waste is taken to a treatment facility at some cost. Yet, many cases were reported about the drivers disposing the solid waste in the Wadi (dry streambed) near Battir.

According to that NYTimes' report:

...the villagers and conservation experts fight to save what they say is a unique living cultural and historical landscape. 

With all that sewerage, what exactly at the villagers conserving?

And then there's the Israeli, Gidon Bromberg, director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, described as "an organization that works to promote cooperation on environmental issues in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories". He was quoted as saying

“there are alternative ways to bring about security without destroying 4,000 years of cultural heritage for the Israelis, the Palestinians and all of humanity.”

Wait.  4000 years heritage?  What happened to the Romans?  They are from 2000 years ago [Roman rule began in 63 BCE]

But to return to conservation:-

The Battir spring has discharge rate of about 40 cubic meters per day according to my measurement. While visiting the site, I measured 1 liter discharged every 2 seconds (times 43,200 seconds – half of the days seconds). Yet, the secretary of the municipality estimated the springs yield at 150m3/day in the summer and 250m3/day in the winter...Some residents take water from the spring in buckets for domestic use and a common yet unlawful practice is the use of the wells waters for washing personal cars.

And hygiene:

... The use of these boreholes has already caused pollution of water springs in the village, according to the results of regular pathogen tests carried out by the Palestinian Ministry of Health from 2006 the Battir Spring has a concentration of fecal coliform bacteria 230 colonies/100ml. I also obtained a report (annex 1) from 2009 that shows, the fecal coli‐form bacteria at the spring were TMC (to many to count) and for E. Coli in the range from 20‐40 colonies for 100mL. Correspondingly, reports of recurring incidents of water borne diseases amongst children are reported by the local clinic. In the past years cases of amoeba have been registered with the village clinic due to drinking spring water. In May 2010, 50 cases ameba were reported in the boy’s school. The affected groups were student’s ages 6‐14 years old were affected. In the same month in the girl’s school, 3 students as well as some mothers reported cases of Ameba...it should be mandatory to inform clients of the necessity to wash the vegetables harvested with this water. Also, the grey water used in proximity of the house might also contain pathogens that may have a negative effect on human health. This contamination might occur as a result of washing parts of our bodies after being exposed to pathogens in a way were the pathogens are transferred into the water.

According to BBC,

A simple system of manually diverting water via sluice gates means that fruit and vegetables from the small plots on the lower slopes are renowned for their freshness and quality.

It's not UNESCO that Battir's residents require but the World Health Organization .


P.S.  I overlooked this in Isabel Kershner's story:

 Until the late 1940s, Battir was the last stop before Jerusalem on the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway.

Well, if we recall Mandate history, can't we add this from August 18, 1939

and this from October 19, 1937

and this

The railroad suffered numerous terrorist attacks during the 1960s prior to the Six-Day War, especially due to its proximity to the Green Line and the Arab village Battir. On October 27, 1966, one person was injured from a bomb that was placed along the route.

History can become, er, complicated.


Following the suggestion of a commentator, I went to this book, The World of Ancient Israel Sociological, Anthropological and Political Perspectives by Ronald E. Clements and I found this information about terracing:

In short, Romans-Shmomans.  It was the Hebrews.  Especially important in light of how the "reality" is propagated as in AP:

Terraces are a common Palestinian farming technique in the hilly West Bank terrain.

Edelstein, G., and Gat, Y. (1980-81). ‘Terraces around Jerusalem’, Israel – Land and Nature, 6 (2).
Ron, Z. (1966). ‘Agricultural Terraces in the Judean Mountains’, Israel Exploration Journal, 16.

After the destruction of the First Temple.

The impoverished Jews and the foreigners who settled in abandoned Jewish territory could not, however, maintain the terraced hill farms and orchards. When the exiles returned, they found the land forsaken and desolate. They proceeded to repair the terraces, to restore the agricultural installations and to plant vines and fruit trees.

The Pals. disagree:

Ghattas Sayeg presents irrefutable evidence in his "The Origin of Terraces in the Central Hills of Palestine" that the use of terraces in Palestine were not a function of the Israelite invasion and settlement in Palestine under Joshua. The Israelites were nomads, while terraced agriculture required extensive experience and studied familiarity with the Palestinian landscape.

And this, too:

Palestine’s cultural heritage embodies several components, such as archaeological and historical sites, traditional buildings, unique places of aesthetic value, sacred places, ancient roads, natural and artificial caves, cisterns, agricultural terraces and watchtowers, ancient rock-cut tombs and cemeteries, olive and wine presses, as well as a large number of artifacts and other movable objects of historic, scientific or aesthetic value.

So what happened to the Romans?  They only dealt with the water?

P.S.  Friends and I in Battir in late June 1967:


CAMERA mentions me.

As does On the Contrary.

And also Jonathan Tobin at Commentary.

And also here.

And Caroline Glick, who mentions me:

...a central goal of Palestinian propaganda, and advanced by all relevant sectors of Palestinian society, is to rewrite history and erase the Jews from the history of the Land of Israel.

And rather than call them on this intellectual crime of literally biblical proportions, the Western media collaborates with them. For instance, on Tuesday, the New York Times published an article about the efforts of the Palestinians from Battir, an Arab village southwest of Jerusalem, to have their ancient terraced irrigation system recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They claim the designation is necessary and urgent because if they don’t get it, Israel may build a portion of the security barrier through the village and harm the irrigation system.

Isabel Kershner, the Times’ reporter, referred to the irrigation system as “a Roman-era irrigation system.”

But as the bloggers Yisrael Medad and Elli Fischer pointed out, it is a Jewish irrigation system from the Second Temple period. And while Battir is a reasonable candidate for World Heritage Site status, it is first and foremost a Jewish heritage site. Battir is the Arab name for the ancient Jewish village Betar, the site of Bar- Kochba’s last stand against the Roman Empire.

It is the last place where Jews were sovereign until the establishment of the State of Israel.

But Kershner didn’t mention any of that.

Doing so would lead to too many inconvenient truths – about the nature of Palestinian nationalism, about UNESCO, about Jewish rights to the land. So the historical significance of Battir was left unreported, and the nature of the irrigation system was reported incorrectly.

On the face of it, it can be argued that the Western media’s willful blindness towards Islamic Jew-hatred and its influence on world affairs are part and parcel of the Western elite’s collective refusal to recognize and contend with the implications of the phenomenon.

But this is too forgiving.

Policy-makers who ignore Islamic Jew-hatred are doing so because they are trying to sell their policies. What’s the New York Times’ excuse? The media are supposed to report facts, not shape perceptions. The facts, not the perceptions are supposed to inform policy.

That is, they are not supposed to collaborate with policy-makers, they are supposed to inform policy-makers and the general public.



Anonymous said...

the ancient agricultural terraces were made by Jews. For details see writings by Menashe Harel

Anonymous said...

HELP the Palestinians! Save BATTIR! Contact UNESCO...

Enough of barriers... No more walls...

Bruce Epstein said...

You are mentioned in Commentary:


Anonymous said...

I am wearying a Bar Kochba coin around my neck. It is from a large cache of coins hidden in Betar, the last stronghold of the Jewish rebels. They never came back to collect it.

Anonymous said...

I am wearying a Bar Kochba coin around my neck. It is from a large cache of coins hidden at Betar by the Jewish rebels. They didn't make it back to collect it and use it to keep on fighting the Romans. Too bad.

Pamela said...

The hatred and contempt dripping from your prose is deeply unattractive. You must have a very dark place in your soul to harbor so much hatred for people you don't even know. I've been to Battir -- it's a gorgeous village, very hospitable and quirky. I have lovely memories from the town.

I hope some day you'll get to know your neighbors instead of demonizing and dismissing them. Maybe three ghosts will visit you and help you have a change of heart. One can hope.

YMedad said...

Pamela, since most of this post is quotes from others, and since nothing drips from my prose, other than a concern for the truth, I don't accept your criticism. If you had responded to the facts and claims, well, that would be another story. And you saw that I, too, was in Battir? Anyway, remember, Hope is our national anthem.

Pamela said...

The way you refuse to believe that an elerly Palestinian woman can skip is weird, for one thing. I've met elderly Palestinian women, especially those close to the land, who can skip across the stones, harvest olives, and dance the dabka. I hope I'm as sprightly when I'm elderly, inshallah.

You totally dismiss the danger Israel poses to their way of life, you totally dismiss their centuries of history, you imply they are unhygienic barbarians (who therefore don't deserve the land, I suppose -- never mind that many Israeli settlements dump their sewage onto Palestinian villages and farmland, or in the case of Hebron, on Palestinians' heads from their perches over the Old City), and you don't seem to realize that the 4000 years of history being threatened INCLUDES Roman and Jewish history (and Byzantine and Ottoman and...).

It has never ceased to amaze me to what lengths the Israeli government is willing to destroy and desecrate the Holy Land in order to "redeem" it, or to what lengths people like you go to to deny the Palestinian connection to their homeland, which is undeniable.

It's partly yours, but it's not solely yours. You have a claim, but you don't have the only claim. I really do hope you can some day see your neighbors as equals who have a lot to teach you if you will listen. I learned a hell of a lot there about how to be a happier person and lead a better life. It's something priceless. You have it right in your backyard, and all you do is denigrate them. It's very sad.

What were you doing in Battir when you were there?

YMedad said...

Weird? I wrote "Skipping? Exactly how elderly is she?" and by me, 70+ is elderly so I think I wasn't refusing to believe but questioning if she really was elderly. I lived in Jerusalem's Old City for a year among Arabs and I did not see elederly Arab women skipping.

Israel poses no "danger". We have only brought to this land improved hygenics and health, education, improved agricultural work, science, etc.

As for claims, too long fopr here. Just one thing - note that all the world knew and agreed that then Palestine in 1922 was to be the Jewish homeland. "Arabs" weren't mentioned except as "non-Jews" and not because they hated them but they agreed that in the new Middle East, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Arabs were to receive the chance to establish multiple states (they did set up eventually over two dozen) and the Jews were to get just one - and even that they want to detroy.