Photography

Surviving on, and maybe losing, a contested land

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel may take control of 30 percent of the West Bank next week — the parts where Israelis have settled since 1967, allegedly in violation of international law.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

A Palestinian nomad village near the city of Tiyasir in the Jordan Valley, part of the West Bank. Palestinians have lived in the area for generations.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

An Israeli settler on horseback, trying to expel a Palestinian shepherd, gets help from an Israeli soldier, who asks the Palestinian to leave. Increasing numbers of Israelis are settling in the Jordan Valley.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Palestinians wait on a main road until the Israel Defense Forces finish military exercises. Soldiers regularly conduct live-fire exercises in the area, displacing residents from their land for hours at a time.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

“Area C,” as this region was designated on maps drawn during the Oslo peace negotiations, is a fraught territory where Palestinians try to protect the land they’ve lived on for generations while living alongside the Israelis, who move there in increasing numbers each year seeking military protection and state recognition of settlements.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

A couple walks through a nature preserve in the Jordan Valley this month.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Children play in a Palestinian nomad village in the Jordan Valley in February.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Borhan Hibsharat with his sheep in the Jordan Valley.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

A Palestinian man swims in a spring in the Jordan Valley; both Israeli settlers and Palestinians use this spring.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Israeli soldiers routinely conduct live-fire exercises in the region, displacing Palestinians from their land for hours at a time in all weather. Some Jews believe this land is biblically ordained. Both sides have much to lose, which is why a peace agreement has so far proved impossible. I spent periods over the past five years in Area C, documenting the currents in the valley, the lives of Palestinian sheepherders dwelling alongside Jewish settlers and their military cohort, in hopes of capturing the essence of life there and showing the faces of this territorial stalemate.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Palestinians wait by a road for Israeli soldiers to finish their military exercises. If residents don’t leave voluntarily, they can be forcibly removed, their livestock can be seized, and they can be billed for the cost of the evacuation.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

The site of the all-female Israeli settlement Maoz Esther, which was demolished by Israeli troops on June 15.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

A Palestinian boy serves tea in a nomad village in the Jordan Valley in February.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Israeli military exercises leave unexploded shells behind on Jordan Valley farmland. The ordnance sometimes kills children and adults working their land.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

An Israeli tank crosses over farmland during training.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

A Palestinian's crops are left damaged by Israel Defense Forces tanks.

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images

Kobi Wolf/Contact Press Images