Artas

Artas is a Palestinian village located four kilometer southwest of Bethlehem. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics counts the village population at 3,663 in 2007. The village, somewhat isolated and hidden between hills, but on walking distance from Bethlehem, has a small but well-known folklore museum, and a dabka and drama troupe. The Artas Lettuce Festival has been a large annual event since 1994.

According to the OCHA report about the village, “Artas is one of the most important agricultural villages in the West Bank, as it is considered the food basket of Bethlehem governorate. Artas is an old Canaanite village, and the pools of water it has, known as Solomon's Pools, show how old the village is. Artas was known by the abundance of its water sources which are considered to be one of the oldest and largest water systems in Palestine which was supplying water to the city of Jerusalem during the Roman era.”

The village has three springs on its lands, and agriculture covers half of its economic activities. However, almost half of its agricultural land is isolated behind the Wall to the south, where the Efrata settlement is expanding with a new suburb.

According to the results of the PCBS Population, Housing and Establishment Census-

2007, the illiteracy rate among Artas population is about 6.5 percent, of whom 71.8

percent are females. Of the literate population, 14.5 percent can read and write, 30

percent had elementary education, 35.5 percent had preparatory education, 14.6 percent

had secondary education, and 54.1 percent completed higher education. Table 1, shows

the educational level in the village of Artas, by sex, and educational attainment in 2007.

There are some health facilities available in Artas village; a public health center, but no

ambulance. In emergency cases, residents of Artas use Bethlehem hospitals and health centers.

Economically, tourism is a potential important source of income, as the Solomon’s Pools, the lush wadis around, the cultural and religious history (Artas is considered the place where the Song of Songs could have been written), the Artas Folklore Center, and various hiking possibilities all attract visitors.

The results of the ARIJ field survey for the distribution of labor by economic activity in Artas are the following:

 

  • Agriculture Sector (51%)
  • Israeli Labor Market (19%)
  • Government or Other Employees Sector (13%)
  • Trade Sector (13%)
  • Industry (3%)
  • Service Sector (1%)

 

As a result of the Israeli occupation and restrictions, the economic status of the

population has severely declined, as many citizens have lost their jobs and have become

unemployed, thus forcing them to work in the service sector and agricultural activities, as

a last resort for obtaining a minimum income.

The unemployment rate in Artas has reached about 22 percent. It was found that the most

vulnerable social groups in the town, as a result of Israeli actions, are:

1. Workers in the agricultural sector.

2. Former workers in Israel.

According to the updated Segregation Wall plan published on the web page of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in April 2007; 3.9km of the wall will be built on Artas village territory and will isolate, within the western isolation area which Israel seeks to annex through the

construction of the wall, a total area of 1293 dunums (37% of the total area). The

majority of this land is agricultural land and open areas, which is considered a source of

income for many in the village.

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