Testimony: Seizure of land of Hassan Family in the village of Dura al-Qar', for the Bet El settlement

Yusef Hassan, engineer

Yusef Hassan

I live in the farming village Dura al-Qar', which is situated 13 kilometers north of el-Bireh. My father and uncles inherited 120 dunams of land from my grandfather. With all the children, the land is divided among about 100 persons. Our land is located in different sections of the village and has been registered in the Land Registry since the time of Jordanian rule.

Since the Bet El settlement was built to the south of the village, on land of villagers from el-Bireh, Dura al-Qar', and Ein Yabrud, they have gnawed away at our land bit by bit.

It began in the late 1970s or early 1980s. We didn't receive any official order, and now this land lies in the center of the Bet El settlement. As far as I know, nothing has been built on it. When my grandfather was alive, we grew wheat on the land.

We also had 60 dunams of land along the northern and eastern edges of the settlement. At first, we were afraid to go there because it was close to army training zones. Later they didn't let us enter, even though no official order had been issued. We used to grow wheat and grapes there. Also on the land is a religious site called Mazar or Maqam Sheikh 'Abdullah, which we used to visit when we were small. Alongside it were springs where we played and where I went to hunt birds.

Yusef Hassan, with the Bet El settlement in the background. Photo: Silan Dalal, B'Tselem, 29 June 2010.Yusef Hassan, with the Bet El settlement in the background. Photo: Silan Dalal, B'Tselem, 29 June 2010.

In 2000 or 2001, the Israelis decided to build a road linking the Bet El and Ofra settlements. The road is supposed to run through the north of our village's land. They were supposed to expropriate thirty dunams of my family's land for the road. We objected, and no decision has been made. If they implement the plan, Heaven forbid, we would lose the most important land we still have, with its olive, peach, and almond orchards and its grapevines. Our orchards produce dozens of cans of oil a season, in addition to the fruit. This barely meets our consumption needs, and it's not for commercial purposes.

In al-Hadab, next to the northeast border of the Bet El settlement, we have five more dunams, where there are twenty olive trees. From the beginning of the second intifada [in September 2000] to 2004 we were not allowed to go there, for alleged security reasons. The soldiers who guarded the settlement didn't let anyone get close to the area, threatening people with their weapons. Now we can enter without coordination.

In 2004, an acquaintance of ours noticed an announcement, in Hebrew, in an Israeli newspaper that my aunt, Na'imah Zaghlul, sold part of the land. My cousin and I checked and found that somebody had forged the inheritance order and my aunt's identity card to sell 40 dunams of our land in al-Mala'b to some Jew. We filed an objection in the Supreme Court in Israel, but the court hasn't made a decision yet. About a month after we filed the objection, we suddenly got a notice that land was being seized in the area. The seized area included the 60 dunams that had been taken in the 1990s without an order, land that included the parcel my aunt supposedly sold. That's how we finally lost these 60 dunams.

The taking of control of our land had a great effect on me and my extended family. It caused great harm to the livelihood of all the heirs. It also affected us emotionally because it is hard to watch the settlers do what they want with our land while we can't go onto it. We feel helpless.

Besides, we are always tense and worried because the settlers live close by and because of the confrontations around the settlements.

Yusef 'Abd al-Muhsan Zaghlul Hassan, 51, is an engineer and a resident of Dura al-Qar' in Ramallah District. His testimony was given to Iyad Hadad on 17 June 2010 in Ramallah.