Saturday, April 17, 2010

Know Your Arab Neighbor

A few weeks ago, in an article about bringing more Jewish traffic to Eastern Gush Etzion, I also started to write about some of the Arab towns that are located there: .
This week, as we came back from Eastern Gush Etzion, I noticed a lot of new signage on the roads there. The signage was in Arabic - not Arabic and Hebrew, or more commonly Arabic and English, just Arabic. So, I can't tell you what they said or who put them up, but they did the job. They made the road in SouthEastern Gush Etzion seem... well, more Arabic. Bad news for our Jewish brethren who call beautiful SouthEastern Gush Etzion home.
New Neighbors
There are some other changes in SouthEastern Gush Etzion. Bedouins have moved onto the hills parallel to Meitzad and Pnei Kedem. The Bedouins have set up two large tents very close to Pnei Kedem.
Once thought to be quaint National Geographic poster-boy types, the Bedouin have proven to be problematic in the Negev, where they are involved in thievery, smuggling and security threats to the Negev communities.
Driving from Beersheva to the Negev or Maaleh Adumim to the Dead Sea, we can see the spread of the Bedouin along the hilltops, creating their own Bedouinistan.
Marah Rabah Cutting Down Gush Etzion
Among the new signs on the Eastern Gush Etzion, there actually was one in English - Marah Rabah. Marah Rabah is a small industry town.
Located 12 kilometers south of Bethlehem, and only a few moments passed the T Junction on the southwestern side, Marah Raba is home to almost 1500 people, and a two-year old soccer team. More importantly, it is home to a three-year-old stone company - Jerusalem Stone Co. for Marble, which its website described as "one of the leading companies in the field of stone & marble industry in Palestine."
Producing marble stone of all kinds, sizes and required thickness, Marab Rabah's quarry is digging 100 meters into the Gush Etzion hillsides, removing stone blocks for sale to Germany, Saudia Arabia, Jordan, and Petah Tikvah.
Recently, Women in Green co-founder Nadia Matar participated in a tour of GE quarries and discovered that the "tremendous quarries that have been built by the Arabs in a patently illegal manner, on state lands and on the lands of Gush Etzion. These quarries irreversibly harm the landscape of our land." I do not know the legality of Marah Rabah's quarry, but I assume the regional council knows.
Nadia added, "A national and ecological crime is being committed, quietly, behind the main roads. No 'green' is alarmed by the sight of the unbridled behavior of the Arabs as they dig stones from our hills, unrestrained, with no control or supervision.
In addition, Nadia explained, "The debris from the stones that is ground up with water, is used to build ramps that presumably 'prove' ownership of the land. And so a double and redoubled crime is being committed."
The issue of illegal stone quarries must be addressed immediately before the Arabs create even more environmental disasters.
I have just written to Gush Etzion Mayor Shaul Goldstein about these issue, and I'll keep you posted.

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