Driving northeast from Jerusalem into the occupied West Bank, the sun is making its quick ascent in pinks and oranges over the hills to our right. In the early morning light I notice flocks of sheep on either side of us. Their beige wool coats bleed into the hay and rock. For a few minutes on the quiet 6 a.m. drive into the Jordan Valley, I enjoy the cool air and morning radio, wondering what to expect in the hours ahead.
Since Israel began occupying the West Bank over 52 years ago, the Jordan Valley, which makes up about 30 percent of the entire West Bank along the border with Jordan, has been seen as a strategic asset by Israeli governments from across the political spectrum. For years Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel will not give up control of the area, and at this point, the Jordan Valley has been normalized in the public discourse as just another part of Israel. In reality, however, the tens of thousands of Palestinians who live there are under military rule.