'W. Bank barrier would destroy ancient terraces'

Green group to court: West Bank barrier route would destroy ancient agricultural terraces, pools and small canals.

Battir 370 (photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
Battir 370
(photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
Placing the security barrier in the West Bank’s Nahal Refaim valley would destroy an ancient agricultural system that includes terraces, pools and small canals, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) told the High Court of Justice on Thursday in a written response.
In a nod to a court request to re-route the barrier, the IDF said that it would place a fence in the valley, rather than a concrete wall, FoEME director Gidon Bromberg said.
His organization, in its response to the court, rejected that plan. Through its attorney Michael Sfard, it argued that the barrier – whether as a fence or a wall – would irreparably harm some of the handmade terraces as well as the site’s integrity and its ancient farming system and culture, by dividing the agricultural land.
FoEME asked the court to stop the army from building a barrier in the valley outside of Jerusalem where farming methods have not changed for thousands of years. Jewish history also played out on the valley’s slopes, where Shimon Bar-Kohava waging his final battle against the Romans, Bromberg said.
The Nature and Parks Authority as well as the Palestinian village of Battir, located in the valley, also object to the army’s plan.
The Palestinian Authority has placed the site on its tentative list of places that it wants to register on United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO’s) World Heritage List.
To do so, it must file the request by February 1 of 2014 in order for a separate decision- making body, known as the World Heritage Committee, to debate the matter at its annual meeting in 2015.
But the PA has already said that it may make use of an emergency procedure, which could bring the site before the World Heritage Committee for approval at its annual meeting this June.
A UNESCO spokesman told The Jerusalem Post, that the World Heritage Committee had yet to receive such an emergency request.
In its court response, FoEME said that the court should take into consideration the fact that the site was likely to be placed on the World Heritage List.
The IDF has said that the barrier is needed to complete the security ring around Jerusalem to prevent suicide bombing attacks. It is also concerned about the safety of a nineteenth-century rail line that goes through the valley and is still operational.
In its court response, FoEME said it believed that the line would be stopped within the next five years, because of the nation’s new rail system.
It noted that protection of the rail system was the real reason that the IDF wanted to build a security barrier in the valley.
Bromberg added that he believed an alternative could be found to protect the area while at the same time preserving an important heritage site.