The other day, I headed north from Jerusalem to the Galilee along the Derech Alon. Following the route from the Ramallah Bypass, the road makes its way through some of the prettiest countryside in Israel and the West Bank. It is virtually empty of traffic and settlement. It lets me see The Land before the Ingathering began: barren, treeless, and empty. A proof text to Garrett Hardin's classic theory of the Tragedy of the Commons--what happens when centuries of overgrazing happens unabated.
North of Route 57, the road to Shechem, the Derech Alon offers a classic study in contrasts. On one side of the road, new Bedouin encampments can be seen snuggled against some low lying hills. These are "modern" Bedouins--their tents are lined with plastic, tractors are parked beside well constructed metal roofed sheds, large plastic water tanks, and an assortment of barnyard animals scurry about the tents.
Surrounding these tent enclaves, the Bedouins have planted fields of hay to set aside for summer browse for their flocks. The land tenure out here is very complicated since those who own land divide it up among their sons. Soon, the size of each holding is too small to hold anything other than one olive tree, if that.
The Land here is a rich red soil that reminds me of the old Tide ad about the Red Georgia Clay. Here, too, there is always a clothes line filled with little clothes with bright colors freed from that rich red soil that gets into everything.
Now across the road, the world is quite different. The two Moshavim, Beka'ot and Roi'i are not just Israeli, they are an entirely different mode of production.
Run on a collective system, the relationship to the soil, production, and community patterns are in another world. Who plants what, where, and how much is collectively determined; production is pooled and members of the collective cover their expenses and get a share of what's made. This is not some Pre-Bendal nightmare.
Amazing. People can work together, combine resources, and generate benefit for all parties to the exchange. Fascinating. What won't they think of next?
In Beka'ot, the grapes are being pruned for the new season; the cuttings are gathered and burned (for a "sweet savor").
In Roi'i, the collective has new contracts for their fruit and hot house produce. After a downturn in the market, the Moshav has constructed new hot houses, neatly filling up the valley next to the residential area.
Houses in both Moshavim are neatly laid out on a township grid and trees have been planted throughout the area for shade; to restore and improve The Land.
The Bedouin are new to the valley; over the last four years driving back and forth along the Derech Alon, my wife and I have watched the numbers grow and their settlements expand. But, we have also noted that their farming techniques have also changed. It would appear that they are learning from their employers how to make proper tents over new plantings; proper fertilizing; better sanitation and irrigation.
What is forgotten in the war of words, when the words "boycott" or "ban" Jewish products from the West Bank are uttered, is that the people from the nomadic settlements across the street come over to work in the vineyards and the hot houses. They are joined by workers from Shechem/Nablus and other PA towns. The pay is steady and the conditions are decent. There really are not many other places to work in this area of the West Bank; of course, there's not a lot here anyway. That is, until the Jews returned to The Land.