Days Of Palestine [ JENIN ] - Umm al-Rihan is a Palestinian nature reserve in a semi-coastal region located high on the northwestern hills of Jenin in the West Bank and known for its plant diversity.
In the middle of the forest there is a quiet, beautiful village with the same name and the smell of basil (Rihan in Arabic), carob, hawthorns, sage, and thyme.
Umm al-Rihan is surrounded by three neighbors: Umm al-Fahm city and Skandar mountain to the north, Barta'a village, Umm al-Rihan's companion in the struggle against the Israeli Apartheid Wall to the south, and Ya'bad village to the east.
"Standing on the hill, one can catch a glance of the orange groves behind the Green Line to the west," Ali Zeid, a Palestinian teacher at Umm al-Rihan school, said.
However, the Palestinians of Umm al-Rihan and the neighboring villages cannot enjoy the beauty of its nature, Zeid told the PIC reporter. In addition to the escalating settlement construction activity around the village, Israeli settlers on a regular basis release their wild boars on the forestlands destroying the crops and trees.
Umm Al-Rihan consists of a series of dense forests with an environmental system that resembles the Mediterranean sea forest.
The most important characteristic of this region is being a pathway and a stopover for migratory birds and birds facing a decline in number in the Middle East, such as Lesser Kestrel, Honey Buzzard, and Egyptian Vulture. Other species that are known to be endangered such as wolves and red foxes can be found there too.
The woodland area is a reservoir of plant diversity, containing mainly the original wild species of barley and wheat, in addition to many kinds of fruit trees.
Umm al-Rihan reserve, also known as Amra, is part of three Palestinian villages isolated by the Apartheid Wall from their natural surroundings in Jenin: Umm al-Rihan, Dahr al-Maleh, and Khirbet al-Ra'diya. Amra is the largest nature reserve in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
Palestinian tourist expert Mohammed Bani Odeh said that Umm Al-Rihan Forest is located in the far north-west of Jenin and consists of a series of dense forests that cover an area of about 60,000 dunums.
The forests surrounding Jenin are considered to be the largest woodlands in the West Bank, forming approximately 86% of the forest areas.
Odeh told the PIC reporter that there are thirty nature reserves declared since the British mandate and they occupy nearly a tenth of the West Bank's total area.
The Palestinian expert added that Amra is constantly attacked by the Israeli occupation authorities. Israel has amended a decision labeling the area as protected and banning the use of its land to serve the settlement activities.
Israel's so-called Civil Administration has made some changes in the structural plan of the nearby Rihan settlement in favor of the Israelis living there. The government has also agreed to establish chicken pens in the nature reserve, while the Palestinians are prohibited from cultivating land and herding sheep.