JERUSALEM (Jan. 26)
Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of Trees, took a sour turn at the West Bank Arab village of Katana near Jerusalem Saturday when officials of the Israel Land Administration (ILA) prevented a group of Arabs and Jews from planting olive trees there.
Ownership of the land is in dispute. The Arabs and Israeli Jews who back them say it is private. The ILA insists the land is State-owned and cannot be utilized without permission. Two weeks ago the authorities prevented local Arabs from planting at the location. Yesterday, ILA officials ripped out the saplings as soon as they were pressed into the soil.
When the Arab-Jewish planters came to the site, ILA officials backed up by armed border police and representatives of the military government were on hand to confront them. They were warned that anyone who planted would face prosecution under the law. Jonathan Kutab, an attorney representing the group, insisted the land is privately owned. But they agreed to halt planting pending a hearing on the matter in court.