By Maan Rimawi
RAMALLAH, Monday, February 24, 2020 (WAFA) – Early in 2004, the Israeli army took control of Wadi al-Natuf (or Natufian Valley), in the north Ramallah village of Shuqba, under the pretext it was state-owned.
The valley was quickly zoned as an industrial area. Israeli quarries took advantage of this decision and immediately began to pillage the rocky archeological site taking advantage of its rich soil. Almost 3,000 dunums of land, some of it agricultural, was quickly ruined.
The archeological landscape of the valley has changed from the explosions and roads built in it. Two Israeli quarries were set up at the site to excavate the land with an Israeli army tower to protect them. What has survived thousands of years of the historical Natufian Valley, was wiped out in just 16 years of Israeli control.
The Natufian culture existed thousands of years before Christ, according to historians. Its communities were the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region that founded the city of Jericho in the West Bank, the oldest inhabited urban area on earth.
Dorothy Garrod, a British archeologist, discovered the Natufian culture after excavating Shuqba cave, known as Wadi al-Natuf, in 1928.
The explosions in the valley for the quarrying factories caused damage to nearby homes. Residents complained to the Israeli military government but all their attempts to put a stop to the quarries have failed. Instead, they were not allowed to reach their lands near the quarries or to build on them, and anyone who builds there would have his building demolished.
The daily explosions in the mountains to shatter the rocks have damaged many homes in that area, said Adnan Shalash, head of Shuqba village council, not to mention the noise, disturbance and pollution they cause to the environment as a result of the dust they generate.
“All this is to force the residents to leave their homes,” he said, adding that the valley, which once was a scenic area, has become dangerous due to the big holes in the ground, some of them more than 15 meters deep.
“Previously, Wadi al-Natuf was an agricultural area with trees and pastures. It was the only recreational area for the village. Water would flow from Shuqba toward the western villages. Eventually, the Israeli occupation diverted the water to prevent it from reaching the nearby villages,” said Shalash.
Residents fear the nearby illegal Israeli settlements would eventually be linked to Wadi Natuf, which means it would become off to the Palestinians inhabitants of that area.
Shuqba has a population of 5000 people, who, like most Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank, have to bear daily Israeli army harassment, including closure of roads that force residents to take longer and rougher alternative routes to reach their destinations.