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Uprooted Livelihoods: Palestinian Villages and Herding Communities in the Jordan Valley

territoire Palestinien occupé
MA’AN Development Center
Date de publication
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The Jordan Valley consists of the easternmost strip of land in the occupied West Bank, bordering the Jordan River from the Dead Sea in the south to the Beisan crossing in the north. The area compromises 28.5% of the West Bank and is naturally rich in water, fertile land, and other resources. Currently, there are 11,679 Israeli settlers and over 58,000 Palestinians in this vital region, but due to Israeli occupation policies that severely limit Palestinians’ access to their land and resources, the living standards between the two communities are blatantly separate and unequal.

Israel restricts Palestinians’ ability to build in the Jordan Valley, and also their access to water, land, and resources. This has resulted in a stifling of the Palestinian economy and an extremely high poverty rate for Palestinians in the Jordan Valley. A majority of Palestinian villages and communities highlighted in this fact sheet consume a mere 15-30 liters of water per person per day, while the average Israeli settler in the Jordan Valley uses 487 liters per day. In fact, the 11,679 settlers in the Jordan Valley collectively use as much water as the over 750,000 Palestinians in the entire West Bank. In addition, Palestinians’ movement is highly restricted in the Jordan Valley, and they must apply for permits—that are routinely denied—to build any permanent structures. Settlers directly control 50% of the land and the Israeli military controls another 45%, rendering a whopping 95% of the Jordan Valley totally closed off to Palestinian development.

There is a diverse Palestinian population living in the Jordan Valley, ranging from city dwellers in Jericho, to farmers in medium-sized villages, to herders in small villages, to Bedouin in small familial communities. In total, there are 31 Palestinian villages and communities in the Jordan Valley which comprise a total population of 28,177 Palestinians. Twenty three of these villages are located completely in Area C, which falls under full Israeli control. These Area C communities face insurmountable restrictions on their ability to access basic resources, and their ability to build permanent structures, including housing or health facilities, is heavily restricted. This intentional man-made catastrophe must be reversed if the Palestinian population is to pursue self-determination and self-sufficiency using their own resources.

While much information exists regarding the occupied Palestinian territories in general, there is very little that documents the lives of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley. This fact sheet hopes to serve as an important resource providing information about these oppressed communities. Basic statistics such as population, land access, and demographics are provided, along with a description of each community’s history and the major problems that residents face. Each profile includes photos to help acquaint readers with the communities in question. The city of Jericho and the refugee camps of Aqbat Jaber and Ein al-Sultan have been left out as this publication is meant to highlight Palestinian villages and communities outside of the Jericho municipality. In addition, much information about these three localities is available in other publications and reports.

This publication is intended to complement our Cultivating Dispossession fact sheet, which profiles the 31 Israeli settlements and 7 outposts in the same area. Together, these publications highlight to a great degree of detail the vast disparity in livelihood and access to resources between Palestinian villages and Israeli settlements, sanctioned and enforced by the Israeli government and military.
In order to collect the information documented in this publication, over 100 interviews were conducted with village residents and heads of village councils. Because information about these villages is not as centralized as it is with settlements, it can be very difficult to obtain.

Many numbers are estimates; for example, “total land area” refers to the number of dunums traditionally considered to belong to a certain community, meaning there may be occasional overlaps between villages. On the other hand, “accessible land area” refers to the amount of land actually accessible to the community after Israeli restrictions and land confiscations.

It should also be noted that prices for tanks of water apply only to the villages that receive their water in tanks. Villages that receive their water from the Israeli national water carrier,
Mekorot, pay 2.6 NIS for a cubic meter of water, whereas Israeli settlers pay a fraction of this amount. Considering the time and investment put into the interviews, along with reviewing a number of maps and governmental documents, the margin of error for the presented figures is minimal.