RAMALLAH, March 10 (JMCC) - The Palestinian village of Sebastiya near Nablus has been pushing back encroaching Israeli settlers for months. On Friday, however, it held its first demonstration alongside Israeli activists after settlers began dumping sewage on the village farmland, reports the Daily Beast
The village is the site of ancient Roman ruins that were once a major tourist attraction. In early fall, residents told a visitor that they had temporarily blocked a back road to the ruins used by settlers and where the Israeli military wanted to chop down trees.
Just minutes later, a military jeep flying a large Israeli flag provocatively drove up that road to the ruins, which are near the heart of the village.
Israeli soldiers broke up Friday's demonstration towards the nearby Sheve Shomron settlement with tear gas.
“We want to farm our land in peace,” Ahmed Kayed, a resident of Sebastiya and the organizer of today’s protest, told me. “But the settlers are cutting our olive trees, keeping us from our land. Now their sewage is flowing through our land, poisoning it.”
Kayed hopes that today will be Sebastiya’s first of many weekly popular demonstrations like those in Bil’in, Ni’lin and Nabi Saleh. In preparation, he proudly unfurled a sign that read, “This is our land. Get the shit out of here!”
As a village, Sebastiya is known for its picturesque Roman ruins dating back to 800 BCE, making Sebastiya one of the oldest and most historic villages in the West Bank. Before 1967, these ruins were a major tourist attraction of the Middle East. However, since the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) occupied the land, tourism has plummeted with several shops being forced to close, draining the small town’s economy. Once the first Israeli settlement was built in 1975—the second Israeli settlement in the West Bank ever, preceded only by Hebron—the village became characterized by settler violence.
Now it is known for their sewage.
At the demonstration, 150 activists—including Israelis, internationals and Palestinians from Sebastiya and surrounding villages—marched en masse from the village to the valley. On one side of the valley is a grove of olive trees, each of them tagged with a note in Arabic notifying the farmer that it will be cleared. Above the olive grove, the American suburb-like perfectly painted white houses and red roofs of the Shavei Shomron settlement are perched on the highest hill, overlooking the entire valley. IDF soldiers stood guard next to two tanks, midway down the mountain between the Palestinian protesters and the Israeli settlement.