11 June 2012
Beit Iksa, a small Palestinian village of 2,000 inhabitants located six kilometres northwest of Jerusalem, is a community under threat. Not only is the village unable to develop: its residents are under constant pressure to leave the land.
Sitting almost entirely in Area C – the majority of the West Bank under complete Israeli control – Beit Iksa is only accessible through a checkpoint located at the northern side of the village.
The village, made up of agricultural and grazing land as well as built-up areas, has lost 40 per cent of its land to Israeli settlements Ramot, Har Samuel, and Giv’on Hahadasha. In addition, 66 per cent of the remaining land to the planned construction of the West Bank Barrier.
Lands at risk, unemployment continues to rise
The current closure regime prevents workers from accessing labour markets in Israel, which was once a steady source of income for many families. As a result, unemployment has risen to nearly 50 per cent, which compounds the problems associated with the village’s loss of land.
In hopes of addressing these economic troubles, UNRWA’s job creation programme (JCP) has furnished Beit Iksa village council with labourers, tools and materials that will help construct four greenhouses over two dunums of village lands, and a 350 m3 cistern to harvest rainwater and irrigate plants.
Today, the greenhouses in Beit Iksa are already producing all sorts of vegetables, most notably tomatoes and cucumbers, which can be marketed locally. The project continues to employ JCP labourers on a regular basis, and serves as a model of local economic sustainability that can be extended to other locations in the West Bank.
“The project will help employ 15 to 20 farmers in our village, which suffers from such high unemployment”, says Omar Hamdan, head of the Beit Iksa village council. “In addition, it will allow us to make use of land at risk of confiscation.”
Strengthening community roots in the land
The project forms part of UNRWA’s strategy to address protection threats in vulnerable communities, and is one of several tailored projects by the Agency’s job creation programme. These aim not only at addressing the economic consequences of the Israeli closure regime, but also at strengthening communities’ capacity to sustain traditional livelihoods, to resist pressures leading to forced displacement, and to prevent further violations from occurring. The targeted communities are located in areas near East Jerusalem, Area C (especially the Jordan Valley and South Hebron Hills) and other areas near settlements and the Barrier.
The activities of UNRWA’s job creation programme are made possible through the generous contributions of governments including Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands, and the United States, in addition to funds from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).