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The village of Marda has the misfortune of being situated directly below Ariel settlement, an Jewish-only city in the middle of rural Palestine. I once overslept on a bus from Israel and ended up inside the settlement, amidst the city’s strip malls, carefully manicured children’s parks, and opulent one-family three-story houses. Subsidized by the Israeli government, the illegal settlement offers residents a state-of-the-art recreation center and luxurious swimming pools, while Marda villagers below struggle to make ends meet.

Ariel was built on land belonging to Marda farmers; the settlement alone has annexed more than 1,000 acres of village land. To add insult to injury, Ariel dumps its trash down the hills onto Marda, enlarging the already massive pile of noxious waste that has forced several families to move.

In three years working with IWPS, Marda suffered multiple forms of aggression, including A Farmer Kidnapped, Kids Jailed (photo below), Trees Uprooted in the Night, and Nightly Violent Army Invasions. The village has three exits, which are consistently blocked by the Army so villagers have to walk the mile to the main road to get to work.

Prospects look grim for Marda and their families. Unemployment plagues the village. Marda used to have a farming cooperative called the Unity Development Center where many villagers worked until soldiers raided the cooperative 4 years ago, destroying its computers and files. The village has not had the money or infrastructure to start over, especially as the land they are allowed to farm continues to shrink. According to village officials, the Wall is expected to result in the uprooting or confiscation of a full 20,000 olive trees from the district, in addition to everything that has already been annexed by the ever-expanding Ariel settlement.

Marda families struggle to survive in the face of plans to cut the village in half with the Wall (apparently the people of Ariel don’t want the Wall too close to their homes) and a disturbing prominence of cancer in the area. The latter could be due to air and water pollution from the nearby Barqan, an Israeli industrial center.