Arabs Torch Jewish Wheat Fields in Samaria

Arabs burned wheat fields in a Samaria town Friday. The regular vandalism leads residents to ponder asking humanitarian groups for help.

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Ezra HaLevi,

Arabs burned Jewish-owned wheat fields in the Samaria town of Yitzhar Friday. The regular vandalism has led residents to ponder soliciting assistance from humanitarian groups.

The most recent fire was set Friday, minutes before the onset of Shabbat. A volunteer fire brigade made up of Yitzhar residents succeeded in extinguishing the fire, but were then attacked by Arabs rioting and throwing stones at them.

A contingent of IDF soldiers arrived on the scene and used non-lethal riot-control methods to restore order, but residents say their complaints usually result in no response whatsoever from security forces.

The fields, which were sown before the onset of the Shemitta (sabbatical) year, have been burned by local Arabs in the past. Local farmers say that in addition to their livelihood being impacted, the pain of seeing their crops repeatedly burned just before harvest time is too much to bear. The Arab residents of a neighboring village succeeded in burning the entire year's crop two and a half years ago and the fields were set ablaze five times during the course of a single summer last year. In another incident, most of the fence installed around one farmer's fields was stolen.

In 2005, Yitzhar resident Akiva Cohen spotted the raging fire and fired shots in the air to frighten the arsonists away. About 100 dunams of wheat were burned in the blaze. IDF troops conducted a search for the arsonists in the adjacent village of Atzira al-Kabliya to no avail.

Cohen was brought into the Ariel Police station for questioning and had his weapon confiscated. It still has not been returned to him.

Residents Consider Humanitarian Groups
Yitzhar residents facetiously suggested that perhaps the Kibbutz movement, which regularly sends volunteers to accompany local Arabs during the olive harvest, would be interested in sending volunteers to guard Jewish agricultural crops as well.

"Is the assistance of [Kibbutz movement head] Yoel Marshak withheld from Jews who are trying to make a living through farming?" Cohen asked. "Is such assistance reserved only for the Arab enemy?"

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