Gate that was erected to be precursor to the wall the Israelis plan to build here from Cremison monastery through to Al Walaja village.
The apartheid wall, also referred to as the "separation barrier", which Israel is continually constructing throughout the West Bank will trap 14,000 Palestinians between the wall and the Israel/West Bank border. For more info: http://www.ifamericansknew.org/download/apartheid_wall.pdf
Beit Jala is a beautiful village right next to Bethlehem with a gorgeous view of the hills and farms of the West Bank. Van Poolen painted this scene from the balcony of a restaurant which grows its own organic vegetables on the terraced fields just below the restaurant.
Israel plans to construct the apartheid wall near the base of Battir village's intricate agricultural terraces which have developed a complex ecology over the several centuries of their use by Palestinian farmers. This year, this unique landscape was designated a World Heritage site by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/new-palestinian-world-heritage-site-under-threat-of-defacement/
One year previous to my visit here, this wildlife refuge thrived with multiple species of insects and small animals and beautiful plants, shrubs and trees. Biologist Mazin Qumseyah repeatedly visited this site over the years because he could gather many specimens. However, when I visited the field with Mazin, he was shocked at the low level of water in the creek. He attributed the lack of water to the increase in settlements on the hills above the wildlife refuge, the evidence of which was the presence of PVC pipe in the creek taking water uphill.
Mazin Qumseyah was very excited to find a rare rodent, the small, clever, usually-too-crafty-to-be-caught shrew!
Mazin Qumseyah takes several students in the field with him to do research on the biodiversity of Palestine. Here, one of his students has the rare, intimidating scorpion in a jar.