5,900 Fruit Trees in the Free “Republic” of Burqa

APN | Burqa - Nablus

9 April 2023


At the village's entrance, a sign caught our attention: "State of Burqa". It led us to delve into the historical narrative dating back to 1988 when Burqa village, situated atop Qubaibat Mountain along the road to Jenin in Nablus Governorate, transformed into a "free and independent republic", as declared by its people during the First Intifada. Interestingly, it evolved into a term that was playfully used by the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in response to the then-US Secretary of State George Shultz. Shultz had urged Palestinians to ease tensions, to which Arafat humorously suggested negotiating with the "Republic of Burqa".

Burqa has garnered considerable interest from writers and historians, primarily because of its distinctive character as an area abundant with orchards, fruit trees, and natural springs. However, what truly thrust it into the spotlight in 2005 was the Israeli government's decision to vacate the Homesh settlement. This settlement was one of four in the West Bank that were simultaneously evacuated, spurred by pressure from resistance movements in Gaza and the Zionist withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Homesh initially emerged as a settlement outpost in 1978, and its establishment entailed the confiscation of 1,200 dunums of Burqa's land. When the settlers eventually vacated the outpost, local residents secured a court verdict from the Israeli Supreme Court to regain possession of these dunums. Despite this legal ruling, Israeli authorities persistently obstructed the locals from accessing the land. Furthermore, an additional 5,000 dunums were seized to facilitate the construction of roads leading to the settlement.

In May 2023, Israel rescinded all decisions related to Homesh and decided to allow the return of settlers. Therefore, the people of Burqa embarked on a fierce resistance against the occupation, rushing to safeguard their land from confiscation by initiating a massive tree-planting campaign. APN joined forces with the village, and together with the local community, planted trees of 15 different varieties in the threatened lands.

Upon arrival of APN’s team of at the “republic", specifically in the Magharam area near the road leading to Homesh, they were welcomed by farmer Yousef and his grandchildren, who participated in the planting. Yousef expressed his profound joy, emphasizing that this land serves as his lifeline and the source of his happiness. He adamantly asserted that no amount of money is worth trading the land for.