For the past 25 years, Eli Arazi of Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov (Meuhad) has been crossing the border between Israel and Jordan almost every day to work his fields in the Naharayim enclave in Jordanian territory. He can do so because of a provision in the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan that provides some Israeli farmers in the Jordan Valley with the unusual privilege of crossing into the neighboring Arab state without a passport or bureaucracy. Jordanian soldiers at the border open the gate so they can pass into Naharayim with their agricultural equipment to work in their olive, avocado and banana groves and their watermelon patches and cornfields. On Oct. 26, however, 25 years after the signing of the peace accord, it appears the farmers will be forced to abandon the land that they have been working for decades.
In the early 1920s, Pinhas Rutenberg bought land in the Naharayim region from King Abdullah to build a hydroelectric power plant. The mandatory border established in 1922 ran west of this land, effectively making it part of Transjordan, which obtained full independence in 1946. After Israel’s War of Independence (1948) and the ensuing Armistice Agreement (1949) signed on Rhodes, kibbutzim in the region began growing crops in the Naharayim area.