Tradition vs Apartheid


It was nearly dark when we arrived for dinner in Battir, a village near Bethlehem.  As we descended the stairs to the Terraces Cafe, we could dimly discern all around us the two thousand year old stone structures from which the Cafe took its name, and the imposing Roman-era pool at its edge.

Battir is known for its beauty and its water. An ancient complex irrigation system has long fed the terraces and enabled equitable water distribution among village farmers. We heard from Cafe owner Hassan Muammar about the struggle to save the village from being carved up by Israel's Separation Wall.  In 2014 UNESCO accepted the argument that the village's traditional agriculture system deserved recognition and protection, and declared Battir to be a World Heitage site, forcing Israel to abandon its Wall expansion plan.

Battir may be graced by seven healthy streams, but this does not mean its residents have year-round water to drink. For Israel prevents them from pumping or storing their water. Once the harvest is over, and irrigation channels swell with winter rains, they must watch streams cascade through their valley to the floor below.  There the water is pumped and stored by Israel's national water carrier Mekorot and sold back to Battir's residents. 

Being an UNESCO World Heritage site known for its rich water resources cannot protect Battir from Israel's Apartheid water policies.