Israelis use Palestinian land near the separation barrier as a cattle pasture (2023)

About a dozen fat cows emerged from an olive grove and nimbly climbed a green hill before disappearing on the other side. On the wide slopes of a nearby hill, 15 or 16 of their sisters were resting and enjoying the sun on a Wednesday early last month.

Their calves didn’t know that their freedom would be short-lived – all the males and about half the females are earmarked for slaughter. According to the Agriculture Ministry, meat consumption in Israel climbed to 196,000 tons last year, up nearly two-thirds compared to seven years earlier.

A few dozen meters from there, a sleepy bull remained alone in the shade of tall pines. It was the end of the iris season on Mount Gilboa in the north, with the last flowers still adorning the sides of an unpaved path on a peak overlooking the Beit She'an Valley to the east.

There, five or six cows stared at a few unfamiliar guests who got out of a car belonging to the organization Kerem Navot, which investigates the Israeli takeover of West Bank land.

Here the land belongs to the Palestinian villages of Al-Mutillah and Jalboun, while the cattle is Israeli. Dry mounds of droppings show that cows regularly roam these routes on the southern and southeastern slopes of Mount Gilboa. Two weeks earlier cows were seen calmly walking around Jalboun's olive grove. The separation barrier separated us, but the cows had no idea they were trespassing.

Cows belonging to Israelis near the separation barrier. Nobody has asked the Palestinians for permission to graze their herds there.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

While wandering almost freely in the Gilboa's pasture lands, the cows enter the so-called seam zone – the West Bank lands caged between the separation barrier and the Green Line.

Nobody has asked the Palestinians for permission to graze these herds on their land, which has served them, their parents and their grandparents for planting, sowing and grazing for decades, and which since the 2000s they've been blocked from, unable to graze their sheep, goats and cattle.

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“Already in 2003, a few months after the construction of the separation barrier on the land of these two villages, we discovered that the [Israelis'] cows were walking around on our land and damaging our olive groves,” said the head of the Al-Mutillah Council, Nasser Menaizel. “These cows are bigger than the olive trees. They don’t eat like sheep, they devour, and along the way they break everything.”

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In fact, each cow weighs about half a ton and each bull as much as a ton – and they can crush the trees along their path. They even eat them. Cows can survive by eating trees, a researcher at the British-Swiss agritech company Mootral once told The New York Times. Mootral investigates whether changes in cows’ diet can get them to emit less methane, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases.

The heads of the two Palestinian local councils told Haaretz that due to the construction of the separation barrier, which significantly reduced the residents' grazing areas, they've had to sell most of their sheep and goats.

Jalboun, whose number of sheep is one-third the size of 25 years ago.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

For example, in Al-Mutillah around 400 sheep remain, about a fifth of their number before the construction of the barrier. In Jalboun, the larger village, the herd of sheep is one-third the size of 25 years ago.

“Almost no cows remain, maybe 20 or 25 in each village,” said the head of the Jalboun Council, Ibrahim Abu Al-Rub. “People keep a cow or two for nostalgic reasons.”

In 2013, because the invasion of village land by Israeli herds continued, the Red Cross helped build low fences around plots registered as private – but not around public land – hoping that this would prevent the trespassing.

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“But every time, somebody cuts the fence,” Menaizel said. “We and the Red Cross fixed the fence, and it was breached again.”

The Red Cross told Haaretz that it helped the farmers place and refurbish fences on Jalboun’s land "to protect the olive trees from destruction. The [Red Cross] is mandated to protect and assist those protected under the Geneva Conventions," including the Palestinians and their property.

"An occupying power is obliged to administer the territories it occupies for the benefit of the occupied communities," the Red Cross added.

A Palestinian olive grove near the separation barrier.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

At Al-Mutillah, Jalboun and wherever the separation barrier was built, no sign shows where the seam line – which is within the area occupied in 1967 – ends and the State of Israel begins.

About 6,900 dunams (1,700 acres) of Palestinian land is trapped outside the separation barrier in the northern West Bank, from the Bezek checkpoint in the northern Jordan Valley west to the Jalama checkpoint, where the northern West Bank leads into Israel. Of this, about 4,900 dunams have been turned into grazing areas for Israeli farmers, as calculated by Dror Etkes of Kerem Navot, who in recent months has been following Israeli cattle's invasion of Palestinian land.

During Haaretz’s first tour of the Gilboa with Etkes, in early February, no cows were seen in the seam-line area. But an inspector from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said the cows grazing there belong to the Ya'arot Hagilboa farm, which is owned by a man named Erez Kahaner. The cows we saw in March were branded with the letter aleph and two serial numbers.

Kahaner says he has about 500 head of cattle and they graze only in the area leased to him, in Israeli territory. “The aleph branding isn’t mine. We’re not supposed to have cows anywhere [in the seam-line area],” he said by phone. “These areas don't belong to the State of Israel, so why should anyone graze there? I don’t know what you saw and where you saw it, but I don't think you saw cows there. And if you did, maybe a fence had been breached.

Israeli cows near the separation barrier on Palestinian land.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

“The fences, especially fences built by the Palestinian folks, which they try to maintain, are in very bad shape. When they made them we saw that there was a problem; they didn't use high-standard materials and did very poor work. A winter and a summer go by and these fences are finished. Corrosion.”

When asked if the cows come by themselves, he replied, “That could happen,” but he added: “I don’t know about such cases.”

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In the seam-line area in the southern West Bank, Israeli-owned cows graze on land belonging to the town of Idna. This is only about 108 dunams, trapped beyond a high concrete wall with barbed wire at the top. But the loss is no less painful.

While the residents of Al-Mutillah and Jalboun don’t know who the Israeli cows belong to, in Idna they know that cows from Moshav Amatzia invade their land. "We used to work in Amatzia," an elderly Idna farmer said last month, referring to himself and a comrade.

Shimi Rosen, who is responsible for Amatzia’s cattle, confirmed that out of about 500 cows, around 50 graze on Idna’s land. “After all, the residents of Idna don’t go out there with their sheep; they can’t go there, they can’t graze animals there,” he said.

He said that grazing there is done with the authorities' approval, “only on condition that we don’t enter the grove and damage their olive trees.”

Rosen added that because he has been in charge only for a year and a half, he doesn’t know which Israeli entity gave permission. He referred Haaretz to the moshav’s financial manager, whose first name is Yossi, but he declined to give his last name or answer questions on the subject.

Jalboun and a sign written by settlers announcing a spot where Israeli soldiers can come for refreshments.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

Etkes says that several times he has noticed cows from Moshav Amatzia roaming in Idna’s olive grove, not just the grazing land surrounding it. But in Idna the people are more concerned about the sheep interlopers in the north of their land. They know that the owner is a Bedouin from the Negev, but they don’t know who he is, the farmers said.

Down south in Idna, the local Palestinians know that cows from Moshav Amatzia invade their land.

The villagers are worried mainly about fires; at least three have scorched their groves beyond the wall in the past eight years, ruining soil as well as trees. Do these blazes originate at the Israeli army firing zone that was declared in the 1970s on the village's agricultural land?

“Several times, when we were working in the grove, soldiers were training near us with live fire,” one of the farmers said. Could the fire be ignited by a different source? They don’t know.

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They added that often, when they arrived for the olive harvest, most of the olives had already been picked. Here, as everywhere beyond the separation barrier, Israel has increasingly restricted farmers from reaching their plots and has granted far fewer permits to this end, which are valid for fewer days per year to far fewer people.

“We overcome one obstacle [receiving a permit] and immediately a new one crops up,” Menaizel of the Al-Mutillah Council said. In Jalboun, where the built-up area is nearer the separation barrier, one particularly painful problem is the army's injunctions against construction.

At one time the ban applied to buildings 150 meters from the fence; now it's 200 meters, said Abu Al-Rub, the head of the Jalbun Council. But on the other side of the barrier, the Jewish communities are clearly expanding.

On the Israeli side of the Green Line, the Israel Land Authority allots grazing land to cattle farmers. The authority told Haaretz that in 2021 about 1.6 million dunams had been allocated for grazing, not including seasonal grazing in areas run by the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, about which no details have been released.

A cattle crossing near the separation barrier.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

But in the West Bank the requests for allotting land for grazing are sent to the military’s Civil Administration, which did not respond to questions on whether it had allocated land of the villages Al-Mutillah, Jalboun and Idna to Israeli cattle farmers.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, the number of heads of cattle earmarked for slaughter in Israel jumped to 110,000 this year from 70,000 two years ago.

Still, most of the meat consumed in Israel is imported. Only 39 percent of the meat consumed by Israelis is slaughtered here, after most of the animals are stuffed with antibiotics on torturous journeys from Australia and Europe. Of that, only 12 percent of the animals graze in nature during the first months of their lives, before the male calves and about half of the females are transferred to be force-fed, against their nature and needs.

Israeli cattle ranchers cite consumers' health and better treatment of animals when they criticize the lowering of taxes on imported meat and demand an expansion of grazing areas. It makes sense, then, that when there’s accessible land good for grazing and the owners aren’t allowed to go there, the Israeli farmers are tempted.

And so the Israeli lust for meat plays a role, even if a small one, in the de facto confiscation and annexation of Palestinian land between the security barrier and the Green Line.

The seam-line area includes excellent agricultural and grazing land under private and public Palestinian ownership, as well as hiking routes against a delightful landscape. The land and routes have become inaccessible to Palestinians, including the owners. But Israelis have free access; the only “border” for them is the one that's visible – the separation fence or a high concrete wall reinforced by kilometers of barbed-wire fences.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories responded: “The cases described are known to the Civil Administration agencies and are enforced with the existing legal tools. When handling these cases, an ongoing discussion is held with the residents while providing an explanation on the division of the permitted grazing areas, to prevent trespassing onto private land. When we receive a request regarding grazing and damage to private land, this is handled by the coordination and liaison administrations in Judea and Samaria” – the West Bank.

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Why did Israel build the separation wall? ›

Authorities said the barrier was designed to prevent attackers from crossing into Israel from the West Bank and was never intended to be a permanent border. Eighty-five percent of the still-unfinished barrier is inside the West Bank, carving off nearly 10% of its territory.

What is the wall separating Israel from Palestine? ›

The Israeli West Bank barrier, comprising the West Bank Wall and the West Bank fence, is a separation barrier built by Israel along the Green Line and inside parts of the West Bank.

Why did Israel build the barrier along the border with the West Bank? ›

In June 2002, the Israeli Government commenced construction of the West Bank Barrier as a security measure to protect its citizens from Palestinian suicide attacks.

How much land has Israel taken from Palestine? ›

The 1948 war ended with Israeli forces controlling approximately 78 percent of historical Palestine. The remaining 22 percent fell under the administration of Egypt and Jordan. In 1967, Israel absorbed the whole of historical Palestine, as well as additional territory from Egypt and Syria.

When was the separation barrier built in Israel? ›

Israel began building its separation wall in the occupied West Bank in June 2002, claiming that it was necessary for security.

What is the significance of the wall in Israel? ›

Because of the Temple Mount entry restrictions, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray outside the previous Temple Mount platform, as the presumed site of the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in the Jewish faith, lies just behind it.

What is significant about the Western Wall in Israel? ›

Known as the most holy site in the Jewish faith, its significance lies in the fact that it is the last remnant of the original retaining wall which surrounded the Second Temple, which was built over 2,000 years ago.

How long is the wall separating Israel and Palestine? ›

The Israel West Bank barrier is a wall built by the State of Israel to separate Palestinian territories from Israel. It is built mostly of fences and in some places it is built of high concrete walls. It is 708 kilometers (439 miles) long.

What wall separates Bethlehem and Jerusalem? ›

In the southern West Bank the Wall encircles Bethlehem by continuing south of East Jerusalem in both the east and west. With the land isolated by the Wall, annexed for settlements, and closed under various pretexts, only 13% of the Bethlehem district is available for Palestinian use.

What was the purpose of the Israel Palestine border? ›

The Green Line, separating Israel from the West Bank, was drawn as an armistice line immediately after the country's War of Independence in 1948-1949, following the Rhodes armistice talks which took place between Israel and Jordan.

Does Israel want to control the West Bank? ›

The Israeli government has sought to formally annex the area after having built hundreds of illegal settlements and outposts since 1967, most of which were built either entirely or partially on private Palestinian land and are now home to about 700,000 Israeli settlers.

What are the consequences of the West Bank barrier in Israel? ›

If constructed according to current plan, approximately 85% of the Barrier will deviate from the Green Line and cut through the West Bank and isolate approximately 9.4% of its territory, including East Jerusalem and No-Man's Land.

Are Palestinians allowed to buy land in Israel? ›

non-Jews are barred by law from purchasing or leasing most properties (Jewish National Fund property, "state land," and land under control of the Custodian of "Absentee" Property—i.e., stolen Arab land).

Who owns the biggest land in Israel? ›

While private ownership of land is common (mainly in urban areas), most of the land in Israel (over 90% of the land area) is in the ownership of either the State of Israel, the Development Authority (Rashut Hapituakh, רשות הפיתוח) or the Jewish National Fund.

Is Bethlehem in Israel or Palestine? ›

Bethlehem (/ˈbɛθlɪhɛm/; Arabic: بيت لحم Bayt Laḥm; Hebrew: בֵּית לֶחֶם Bēṯ Leḥem) is a city in the West Bank, Palestine, located about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south of Jerusalem.

Is Jerusalem in Israel or Palestine? ›

Jerusalem, Hebrew Yerushalayim, Arabic Bayt al-Muqaddas or Al-Quds, ancient city of the Middle East that since 1967 has been wholly under the rule of the State of Israel.

What was the first Israel partition plan? ›

United Nations Resolution 181, resolution passed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1947 that called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with the city of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum (Latin: “separate entity”) to be governed by a special international regime.

When did Israel rebuild the walls of Jerusalem? ›

In the 16th century, during the reign of the Ottoman Empire in the region, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent decided to rebuild the city walls fully, partly on the remains of the ancient walls. Being built in circa 1537–1541, they are the walls that exist today.

What is the biblical meaning of the wall of Jerusalem? ›

A wall built for Gods Glory

In Old Testament times the city walls represented not only the strength of the people within that city, but also the strength of the God they served. Nehemiah depicts the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

What does it mean to build the walls of Jerusalem? ›

The walls of Jerusalem, which were built originally to protect the borders of the city against intrusions, mainly serve as an attraction for tourists since they ceased to serve as a means of protection for the city.

Why are walls important in the Bible? ›

The walls were a protection, but they were also an important physical symbol of the establishment of the Jews as a people. The holy city became a unifying force as families were chosen by lot to come live in it (see Nehemiah 11:1–2).

What does the Western Wall in Jerusalem represent? ›

Western Wall, Hebrew Ha-Kotel Ha-Maʿaravi, also called Wailing Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem, a place of prayer and pilgrimage sacred to the Jewish people.

Are the walls of Jerusalem still standing? ›

The State of Israel has not built walls around Jerusalem. The currently standing Old City walls were built as a fortification during the mid 1500s under the Ottoman Empire by order of Suleiman I.

What is the cultural significance of the Western Wall? ›

The Western Wall, which was one of the retaining walls built by Herod the Great during the Roman period, became sanctified because of its relative proximity to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The Western Wall was the place to which local and Diaspora Jews directed their prayers for many generations.

When was the partition of Israel and Palestine? ›

The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was a proposal by the United Nations, which recommended a partition of Mandatory Palestine at the end of the British Mandate. On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted the Plan as Resolution 181 (II).

Did Israel build a wall around Gaza? ›

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The Western wall is the last remnant of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed in 70 CE by Titus and the Roman legions. Interestingly, the Romans did not destroy the protective wall which surrounded the Temple.

What religion is the Western Wall important to? ›

The Western Wall, also known as the “Wailing Wall” or the “Kotel”, is the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people.

What is the separation barrier in Bethlehem? ›

Covered with graffiti, the West Bank Barrier cuts off the town of Bethlehem from the rest of Israel. Completed in 2003 to huge worldwide controversy. It's often referred to as the Separation wall. Banksy drew on it for the first time in 2005.

Why is the land of Palestine important? ›

Palestine is the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity, and has been controlled by many kingdoms and powers, including Ancient Egypt, Ancient Israel and Judah, the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great and his successors, the Hasmoneans, the Roman Empire, several Muslim Caliphates, and the Crusaders.

What is the significance of the land of Palestine? ›

The region (or at least a part of it) is also known as the Holy Land and is held sacred among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Since the 20th century it has been the object of conflicting claims of Jewish and Arab national movements, and the conflict has led to prolonged violence and, in several instances, open warfare.

What is the importance of Palestine land? ›

The region is sacred to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Settled since early prehistoric times, mainly by Semitic groups, it was occupied in biblical times by the kingdoms of Israel, Judah, and Judaea.

Can Palestinians leave West Bank? ›

Checkpoints between Israel and West Bank

There are 63 gates in the West Bank barrier, of which half are available for Palestinian use; however, Palestinians are required to have a permit to cross. According to B'tselem, the gates for Palestinians are open for a few hours each day.

What country owns the West Bank? ›

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What percent of the West Bank is Israeli? ›

Palestinian enclaves
AreaSecurity% of WB land

Why can't Israel annex the West Bank? ›

Israeli law has been applied to Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank, leading to a system of "enclave law" and claims of "creeping annexation". Annexation of the West Bank would be condemned as illegal by the United Nations and would break international law.

Is Israel affected by trade barriers? ›

In general, Israel offers a welcoming commercial environment for U.S. companies. The United States-Israel Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has eliminated almost all tariffs, leaving Israel's agricultural sector as the only one with substantial barriers.

Did Israel return West Bank? ›

Israel's parliament has voted to allow Israeli citizens back into the sites of four settlements in the occupied West Bank which were evacuated at the time of the disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

Can an American own property in Israel? ›

Foreigners can purchase property in Israel without considerable restrictions. However, carrying out this kind of transaction requires qualified legal assistance.

Can a US citizen own land in Israel? ›

And the question many are asking is can they even purchase property in Israel if they are a foreigner? In short, the answer is yes. Whether you are Israeli, American, British, Jewish, or Non-Jewish, anyone can purchase property in Israel. However, being an Israeli citizen puts you in a different tax bracket.

Do the Palestinians have a right to land? ›

The Geneva Conventions of 1949. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3236 which "reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return".

Is Israel land given by God? ›

Another popular understanding of Israel as the Promised Land comes from Genesis 17, where God's covenant with Abraham and his offspring is affirmed, and God promises to be the God of Abraham's offspring and gift them the land of Canaan for “a perpetual holding.”

What is the most holy land in Israel? ›

Jerusalem, as the site of the Temple, is considered especially significant. Sacred burials are still undertaken for diaspora Jews who wish to lie buried in the holy soil of Israel. According to Jewish tradition, Jerusalem is Mount Moriah, the location of the binding of Isaac.

What lands does Israel want? ›

Israel is pursuing “complete control” over what the report calls the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, which was taken by Israel in a 1967 war and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

What part of Israel is Jesus from? ›

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem. The inscribed property is situated 10 km south of Jerusalem on the site identified by Christian tradition as the birthplace of Jesus since the 2nd century.

What language did Jesus speak? ›

Aramaic is best known as the language Jesus spoke.

What was the purpose of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem? ›

The walls of Jerusalem, which were built originally to protect the borders of the city against intrusions, mainly serve as an attraction for tourists since they ceased to serve as a means of protection for the city.

Why did Israel build a wall around Gaza? ›

A fence along the border was first constructed by Israel in 1994 as a security barrier, and has been rebuilt and upgraded since. It was constructed by Israel to control the movement of people as well as goods between the Gaza Strip and Israel, which it could not achieve by normal border crossings.

Why was it important to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem? ›

The walls were a protection, but they were also an important physical symbol of the establishment of the Jews as a people. The holy city became a unifying force as families were chosen by lot to come live in it (see Nehemiah 11:1–2).

How did the Israelis justify building a wall around the West Bank? ›

In April 2002, the Israeli government decided to erect a 700 kilometre long Wall in the West Bank in order to halt Palestinian infiltration. Israel justified the construction of the barrier through its right of self-defence (see also International Law and the Wall).

What does wall of Jerusalem represent in the Bible? ›

A wall built for Gods Glory

In Old Testament times the city walls represented not only the strength of the people within that city, but also the strength of the God they served. Nehemiah depicts the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

Where in the Bible does it talk about rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem? ›

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:2-5 ESV. God gave hope and strength to Nehemiah to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem and reestablish his people. Nehemiah saw a problem, and God gave him a solution.

What do we learn from Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem? ›

One of the powerful messages of Nehemiah is how much you can accomplish when you align yourself with the will and plan of God. Nehemiah and his followers do what seems to be the impossible because they are doing what God has called them to do. You don't have to rebuild a wall to do the will of God.

Why doesn t Israel occupy Gaza? ›

Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The UN and a number of human rights organizations continue to consider Israel as the occupying power of the Gaza Strip due to its blockade of the territory; Israel rejects this characterization.

What is 52 in the Bible? ›

Bible Gateway Isaiah 52 :: NIV. Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.

Who was responsible for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem? ›

Nehemiah, also spelled Nehemias, (flourished 5th century bce), Jewish leader who supervised the rebuilding of Jerusalem in the mid-5th century bce after his release from captivity by the Persian king Artaxerxes I. He also instituted extensive moral and liturgical reforms in rededicating the Jews to Yahweh.

Who stopped the rebuilding of Jerusalem? ›

From that time the Samaritans tried everything they could to stop the building of the temple. Ezra 5–6 tells the story of how the Jews regained permission to continue rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem after the Samaritans successfully stopped the building project.

How do Palestinians feel about the wall? ›

Many Palestinians consider the separation manifested in the wall a form of apartheid. The international community, for the most part, and the United Nations, consider the wall a separation barrier—the legality of which is in question.

How long is the wall that separates Israel and Palestine? ›

The Israel West Bank barrier is a wall built by the State of Israel to separate Palestinian territories from Israel. It is built mostly of fences and in some places it is built of high concrete walls. It is 708 kilometers (439 miles) long.


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3. Settlers graze cows in Palestinian farmer’s field and threaten him, Deir Nizam, 19 March 2021
4. ‘They Came Here to Attack Arabs.’ Welcome to Life in Israel’s ‘Mixed Cities’
5. Orthodox Jews show solidarity with Palestinians
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6. Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinians, soldiers raid Palestinian home, in central Hebron.


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