Six Day War: Land Ownership Disputes Arise The end of the 1967 war and the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip brought dramatic changes to the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis. In the West Bank, Israel confiscated large chunks of agricultural land where settlements were eventually built.

Six Day War: Land Ownership Disputes Arise

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The end of the 1967 war brought the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which in turn brought dramatic changes to the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis. In the West Bank, Israel confiscated large chunks of agricultural land, where settlements were eventually built. For some Israelis, the occupation meant a chance to return to the homeland of their ancestors.

Today, we continue our series on the '67 war in the West Bank. NPR's Linda Gradstein profiles the Palestinian village of Turmos Ayya and the neighboring Jewish settlement of Shilo.

LINDA GRADSTEIN: Sixty-eight-year-old Mahmoud Hazema(ph) stands at the edge of Turmos Ayya and looks up at the red roof tones of the Jewish settlement of Shilo, built on a nearby hill.

Mr. MAHMOUD HAZEMA (Resident, Turmos Ayya): (Through translator) My land is where the pine trees are that you can see right here. These pine trees I planted myself. There's also another piece of land on the other side of the mountain which was also taken from me.

GRADSTEIN: Before the 1967 war, Mahmoud says he grew grapes, chickpeas and wheat on that land. Even after the war, he continued to farm it. He takes out yellowing documents dating back to the Ottoman Empire that he says prove his ownership.

But in the mid-1970s, he says, Israel confiscated most of his land. Mahmoud says he hired a lawyer and tried to get it back. Even after he lost in court, he still tried to farm the land that was no longer his.

Mr. HAZEMA: (Through translator) I didn't stop. I started taking six and seven tractors with a lot of workers. I started marching toward my land, the land that had fed my whole community and my ancestors.

GRADSTEIN: But he says the settlers uprooted his crops, and the police refused to help him. Eventually, he gave up. Even today, 40 years after the 1967 war, the question of land ownership in the West Bank is one of the most highly charged and complex issues.

An Israeli government spokesman says the settlement of Shilo was built exclusively on what is known as state land. That means it either belong to the Jordanian government before 1967, or to Palestinians who fled the West Bank during or after the war.

But Peace Now, a dovish Israeli group that opposes the settlements, says most settlements are built on a combination of state land and private Palestinian land. In the case of the Shilo settlement, Peace Now says more than a quarter of the land belongs to Palestinians like Mahmoud.

Turmos Ayya is just 10 miles from the Palestinian's financial and political capital, Ramallah. Here, farmers still raise the same crops their fathers and grandfathers did. The homes are large, built for extended families, with outdoor terraces shaded by grape abors.

Mayor Mohammad Jamil Ibrahim(ph) says the village is 400 years old. He says life here was peaceful until the June day in 1967 when Israeli soldiers first entered the village.

Mayor MOHAMMAD JAMIL IBRAHIM (Turmos Ayya): (Through translator) People were in panic. People were scared. People had heard a lot of stories from the refugees of 1948, how the Israelis acted aggressively against the people of Dayr Yasin and the people of Kibya, so they expected a lot of aggression against them.

GRADSTEIN: Ibrahim says hundreds of residents fled to Jordan, where many remained today. For those who stayed, life changed dramatically in 1975, when a group of fervently religious Jews started an archeological excavation on a nearby hill. Ibrahim says soon after the settlers appeared, Israeli officials came to reassure the residents of Turmos Ayya about their new neighbors.

Mayor IBRAHIM: (Through translator) At the beginning, the military chief of this area and say they are looking for artifacts. Don't annoy them. Don't disturb them. Slowly, slowly, their caravans started coming and their caravans became permanent. Then they started building houses and so on and so forth.

GRADSTEIN: As the settlement began to encroach on Palestinian land, Israeli officials, he says, offered compensation, but the residents refused. The mayor says there were never any friendships between the Palestinians and the settlers, but he says dozens of young men from the village did go to work in Shilo.

That ended with the first Palestinian Intifada - or uprising - in the late 1980s. Israeli soldiers entered the village frequently, searching for Palestinians involved in attacks on Israelis. Soldiers built a large dirt barricade, making it impossible for villagers to reach the main road between Ramallah and Navlik(ph).

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GRADSTEIN: Today, amid a relative lull in the violence, a few Palestinians have returned to work in Shilo's aluminum factory. But none of them is from Turmos Ayya. Yakoviar Dane(ph), one of Shilo's first settlers, says he misses the Palestinian friends he'd made before the violence engulfed the West Bank.

Mr. YAKOVIAR DANE (Resident, Shilo): The Arabs usually worked here. But we came to them, also to their weddings and other things. And sometimes they came here.

GRADSTEIN: For many religious Israelis, the lightning victory of the 1967 war was proof of divine intervention. Jews could return to live in places mentioned in the Bible. Beginning in the mid-1970s, they began building Jewish settlements all over the West Bank.

Today, more than a quarter million Israelis live in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem. Shilo has grown to 250 families and a settlement now has its own yeshiva, or rabbinical training institute.

One of Shilo's founders, Shevakh Stern(ph), says the settlers always hope to have good relations with their Arab neighbors. At the beginning, he says, the villagers of Turmos Ayya welcomed them.

Mr. SHEVAKH STERN (Shilo Founder): (Through translator) They liked the idea that we were here because they knew from other places that wherever the Israelis come, progress comes. They knew that the village would get electricity and water. They would get work here, and that's how it was for quite a few years.

GRADSTEIN: Settlers say that all changed with the First Intifada. Since then, eight settlers from Shilo and five Palestinians from Turmos Ayya have been killed. Dozens have been wounded, among them David Rubin(ph). Five years ago, he was on his way home from Jerusalem when his car came under a hail of bullets. Both he and his then three-year-old son were gravely wounded. Today, Rubin spends his days teaching Christian groups about the biblical importance of Shilo. He says that living in this settlement means a daily connection to Jewish history.

Mr. DAVID RUBIN (Resident, Shilo): When my children walk down to school every day, they walk down the hill in back of my house. They walk on the boulders as they go down the hill and I - everyday that they do that, I think, wow. This is amazing. My children are walking down on the same rocks that Samuel the prophet walked on when he grew up in Shilo.

GRADSTEIN: Rubin and many other settlers here say the entire West Bank should be placed under permanent Israeli sovereignty. But their Palestinian neighbors in Turmos Ayya say there can be no peace unless all of the Jewish settlers leave.

Linda Gradstein, NPR News, in the West Bank.

MONTAGNE: Tomorrow, you can hear about the growth of settler outposts in the West Bank and read other stories in our series on the Six Day War at

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MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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