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Palestinian Farmer Defies Occupation: From Land Eviction Attempts to Innovative Cherry Farming"

Posted On: 01-05-2024 | National News , Culture , PNN TV Reports , Qarib Stories
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Bethlehem / PNN/ Monjed Jadou - 

Everyone has their share in Palestine, whether it's their home or land, and if everyone preserves their home and land, a significant part of Palestine would remain intact and not lost."

With these words, Omar Hajajleh, a fifty-nine-year-old, began his talk about his resilience and staying power on his land and in his home in the village of Al-Walaja, south of the occupied city of Jerusalem. The village was separated from most of its lands after its occupation in 1948 and the displacement of its residents during the Palestinian Nakba to the small part of their village's lands within the borders of the West Bank in 1967.

Omar Hajajleh, speaking to Palestine News Network (PNN) at the doorstep of his home, which has been isolated from the village's surroundings in recent years, said it has been subjected to campaigns of harassment and terror that no human can endure in order to force him to leave his home located atop a mountain amidst the hills south of Jerusalem, where settlements have been built. 


He remains the sole Palestinian preventing the connection of these settlements, thus obstructing the Greater Jerusalem plan envisaged by successive Israeli governments in the southern West Bank.

Detailing his full story, Omar Mahmoud Issa Hajajleh said, “Originally, I am from the residents of Al-Walaja village. My family was displaced from the lands of Al-Walaja located in the lands of 1948 to these mountains facing the mountain. Here, we hope to return to our original village, which the Israelis declared a military zone and occupied. My family remained in these mountains, which are part of our village, where this new village was built after 1967.”

He added, “We are here, as you see, preventing the connection between the Israeli settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo, as well as the connection between Kiryat Menachem and Har Gilo. Here, we are atop a mountain separating three settlements.”

Regarding his story of suffering and resilience, Omar said it began in 2010 when Israel notified him of its intention to build the annexation and apartheid wall. Representatives from the Israeli government were sent, informing him that his house obstructs the construction of this wall and suggesting he leave.

He added, “The Israelis came and told us that our house is an obstacle and that we should not be living here. They offered us four options: selling the land and house in exchange for an open cheque – we set the amount we want. The second offer was a land swap deal, giving us land twice the size of our land in the A-designated area.”

He said, “After rejecting the offers, they began implementing a policy of terrorism and violence. His wife was beaten by female soldiers in the occupation army, resulting in the loss of their eight-month-old fetus. He himself was assaulted by Israeli soldiers and hospitalized for 72 days due to the beating. Additionally, his children were brutally beaten despite their young age at the time. One of them had his skull fractured, necessitating surgery and 32 days in a coma.”

Describing his life under the occupation's practices during their attempt to force him to leave his land and home, which lasted seven years, he said, “I lived through a phase worse than we can imagine. I call it the bone-crushing phase.”


Amid eviction attempts, our livestock were killed through poisoning, and our crops were sabotaged. They also excavated the surface and walls of the house, which is situated atop the mountain, claiming the area is archaeological and that they are excavating for artifacts, but their true intention was to undermine the house. Rainwater was directed into the house for many years. Moreover, a portion of the wall was detonated near the house in an attempt to demolish it, but the house remained, and Omar promptly renovated it because he knew.

"After seven years of Israeli suffering and persecution, they reached the conclusion that I, as a person, do not want to leave my land. Even after attempting to poison me, which failed as I did not die – they poisoned me when I was sick and hospitalized – they eventually had to reach a solution with me through lawyers. They agreed to build a tunnel with a gate for me, allowing me to stay on my land," he said.

"At first, they suggested keeping the gate key with them and setting specific entry and exit times, but we refused and returned to the courts. In the end, through lawyers, we agreed that we would control the gate and be responsible for who enters, and we would prevent entry into Jerusalem. The house and area are under constant camera surveillance day and night," he added, feeling victorious for remaining on his land and in his home.

Turning suffering into resilience and land retention

Regarding his life after triumphing over the occupation's attempts to expel him, Omar said that since 2010, he has not engaged in any work other than staying on his land and taking care of it, being from a family of farmers. He also tends to some livestock, plants olive trees, and grows vegetables in front of the house, such as zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins, and tomatoes, which they live off. Despite the pain and suffering, his wife planted flowers at the entrance of the house, which were hit as a symbol of their commitment to their beautiful life in this house atop a mountain overlooking Jerusalem.

Omar said he feels immense happiness in the early morning hours when he waters the crops and cares for them, witnessing the beauty of the fruits that he doesn't like to pick. He explained that some farmers rejoice when they harvest the fruits, but he doesn't. Instead, he finds joy only when he sees his son picking the fruits and eating them or when visitors come to the house and enjoy them. However, he reiterated, “I don't pick them because I love seeing my effort and hard work in these fruits.”

Omar then leads us to his cherry tree farm, which he has been cultivating and caring for for four years, expressing his hope that it will start bearing fruit within two years. He considers this project to be innovative and creative in the field of cherry cultivation, which is not widely practiced in Palestinian farms.

Speaking to PNN while in a large agricultural tent erected to shade the cherry trees from the intense heat, he said, “This project is innovative, and I hope to harvest and sell the fruits because it will help me develop and cultivate the rest of my land.”

He added that he planted some olive trees on 12 dunums of his land to ensure that the land remains cultivated and the occupation does not confiscate it, as cultivated land protects itself.

In the second part of his land, where he raises some sheep and cattle, he mentions that he has some female livestock that he raises until they give birth. He then sells the young sheep, which helps improve his financial situation slightly. However, one of the problems they face as livestock breeders today is the high cost of fodder, which is a challenge for farmers these days.

He happily says that he persists and tries to stay and live off his land based on what it produces. With his trees, some sheep, and some vegetables, he aims for self-sufficiency so he doesn't have to rely on anyone.

Omar Hajajleh, the guardian and steadfast defender of his land, concludes his remarks by saying that the message he instilled in his children is simple and short: "This is our land, our home, and our homeland, and there is no possibility that we will leave. He also sends a message to everyone who has an inch of land in Palestine or a home located in a certain area to preserve it, not to compromise on it, not to leave it because we can no longer be displaced again or displaced a second time.

This story was produced as part of the "Qarib" program implemented by the French Media Development Agency (CFI) in partnership and funding from the French Agency for International Cooperation (AFD).

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