The ruins of Deir Sam’an Castle and the spread of settlements
On 14 November 2019, the IWPS team picked olives in an amazing place under the magnificent and ancient Deir Sam’an Castle, which was a Roman Fortress and a Byzantine Monastery, with the owner of the land Fares al-Dik and his mother.
This beautiful land is surrounded by three illegal settlements:
Paduel, which is across the valley facing Fares’s land, was started as a small religious settlement in the early 80s and it has massively expanded since. Infamous Ariel Sharon called it ‘The roof of Israel’ when he visited.
- Alei Zahav – located a short distance away on one side of Fares’ land- was started around the same time.
Leshem is a much younger addition, built next to the other side of Fares’ land. Building started in 2010 and now reaches around 800 housing units.
The land these three illegal settlements were built on belongs to the Palestinian villages of Kufr al-Dik and Deir Ballut, which are located on the Green Line where the border between what is now Israel and Palestine, should be.
And there are more settlements nearby!
Bruhin settlement stole the land as well as the name of the nearby Palestinian Bruqeen village, and is a short distance from the Ariel settlement Industrial zone linked with the Ariel settlement, and is also almost linked to the Tappuah settlement. You get the picture.
If you look at the map of this area it is obvious that Israel’s grand plan is to merge all these settlements together with those in Jordan Valley and cut the north part of the West Bank in two. From the Deir Sam’an ruins one can see Tel Aviv’s tower blocks, which are only a few kilometres away. Connecting what is now Israel to the illegal settlements all the way to Jordan would be a consolidation of the significant territory taken illegally by force.
Fares stopped his car on the street and we all had to walk up the steep hill. It was quite a distance for carrying olive harvesting stuff and food for the day, and especially for Fares’ mother who has health problems and can only walk short distances with a walking stick, before she has to rest. Fares could have parked his car only a short distance away from his olives, but a year ago the occupation army locked the gate they had “allowed” him to build and which he had had to find funding for. No explanation was given.
Fares’s land is strewn with beautifully carved rocks, unceremoniously discarded by the Israeli archaeologists who in 2015 took over the Sam’an Castle- without its owner’s permission. For several years they unsuccessfully looked for traces of Jewish history. When none was found, the site was left unprotected with parts of the Castle including chunks of its columns and bits of its mosaics disposed among Fares’ olive trees.
The Israeli state archaeologists left and only reappeared when Fares decided to plant some almond saplings among the olive trees on his land. They banned him from doing so because of, in their words, ‘the historical importance of the site’, which they previously so carelessly vandalised and abandoned.
Fares considers the castle on his land to be a world heritage and wants to make it available to everybody to visit. He asked the archaeologists and the occupation authorities for the maps and other documents, which would legitimise his planting ban, but those were not provided.
Not surprisingly, when the illegal settlement of Leshem started in 2010, Fares and his castle had to endure years of explosions used to prepare this very rocky land for the settler homes. Explosions ‘rocked’ the castle but that was not of concern to the archaeologists.
There are stories of workers being sent home when the explosions uncovered historical sites while Leshem was built. This will hopefully resurface in some other, better times for archaeology and human rights.
Click the link below to see a video from 2015 with Fares ad-Dik talking about his land, Deir Sam’an and the expansion of the illegal settlements