Dotan Valley
Dotan ValleyHaggai Huberman

Much of the coal sold in Israel is produced primitively and  illegally by Arabs in the Shomron, causing tremendous air pollution. The good news: Most of the pirate facilities will finally be closed down.

Gershon Mesika, head of the Shomron [Samaria] Regional Council, explained the situation to Arutz-7: “The Dotan Valley [in northern Shomron] has become a ‘Land of Coal Making,' unfortunately.  It seems that there is a smoking home-made coal pile every square meter, smoking up the skies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in an area full of greenery. This area could have been a celebration of nature, but has instead become an intolerable source of tremendous air pollution and poisoning.”

At issue is the strongly-growing Arab backyard coal industry, which features a process that begins with large piles of straw and wood covered by dirt. The straw inside is set on fire, which is kept on “simmer” by alternating between smothering it and allowing it to burn. After some 20 days, throughout which smoke is emitted, the pile becomes coal, which is then packaged and sold throughout Israel.

Photos of the process can be seen here.

“Many of these smoking coal piles have been transferred into Area C [under total Israeli control, ed.],” Mesika says, “in order to make it easier for them to get the coal into pre-’67 Israel. The ones that are in A and B [under full and partial PA control, respectively] we can’t do much about, but these are under our total control, and new ones are being started every day. If a Jew would open one, it would be closed down immediately!”

“We have turned to the IDF, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of the Environment,” Mesika said, “and finally now, after two years, I am happy to say that we are finally beginning to see results. We have been informed that some of them – though not all – will be closed down. This is something to which even the local Arabs agree.”

The situation has reached the point that soldiers in some IDF bases in the region have actually been instructed to wear gas masks at certain times during the day. In addition, Mesika says, “when the wind blows in certain directions, it becomes impossible to remain in some of the towns…”

Shomron Regional Council
The Shomron Regional Council, established in 1979, today encompasses 30 towns – not including the four that were destroyed in the 2005 Disengagement – and 26,000 people. Its original member communities numbered seven: Kedumim, Karnei Shomron, Ariel, Elkanah, Shavei Shomron, Tapuach, and Disengagement-destroyed Sa-Nur. The first four of them grew to the extent that they are now cities or local councils in their own right, as are Oranit, Emanuel, and Alfei Menashe.

Currently, the largest community in Shomron is Shaarei Tikvah, with 1,300 families, while the youngest is Nofei Nechemiah, with 26.