Visualising: The daily struggle to access water

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By the Jordan Valley Team, 

19.04.2016. Al Hadidiya dry and settlement of Roi green

19.04.2016. Palestinian village of Al Hadidiya dry and Israeli settlement of Roi green with trees and vineyards

Al-Hadidiya is a Palestinian village located in the Northern Jordan Valley, right next to the illegal Israeli settlement of Roi. For the residents of Roi, clean safe drinking water is accessed by turning on a tap but for the residents of al-Hadidya the story is very different. This photo blog shows images of al-Hadidya’s daily struggle to access water and shows something of the human impact of the Government of Israel’s discriminatory water allocation policies in Area C of the West Bank. Continue reading

The ABCs of occupation; obstacles and aids on the road to peace

by Jordan Valley team

photo of Child walking home from school on demolished road

Child walks home from school along the ‘peace road’ demolished by the Israeli army in 2011, al – Aqaba. Photo EAPPI/I. Tanner, 23/10/14.

Al Aqaba is a picturesque village; located in the Northeast of the Jordan Valley, in the West Bank. Palestinian communities have lived in the valleys and caves of this fertile region for thousands of years. In 1967, the Israeli military occupied the West Bank and in the 1990s Oslo accords divided the total area of West Bank into administrative Areas A, B, and C. The al Aqaba region was included in the 60 percent of the West Bank, classified as Area C, it is subject to the Israeli Civil Administration’s zoning authority and regulations.

The EAs in the Jordan Valley visited the village on three occasions between October and November 2014. Over the course of these visits we were given glimpsed the reality of life under occupation and learned what it means to live in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank.

Al Aqaba is home to the worlds only peace mosque. It has a distinct twin spired minaret which symbolizing peace and V for victory. Photo EAPPI/ I. Tanner.

Al Aqaba is home to the worlds only peace mosque. It has a distinct twin spired minaret which symbolizing peace and V for victory. Photo EAPPI/ I. Tanner.

On 23 October 2014, we meet with Haj Sami Sadeq Mayor of al Aqaba for the first time and ask him what are the main problems facing the community.

He leads us outside and points out a platoon of Israeli soldiers training on the hill behind the kindergarten. The roar of a low flying military jet interrupts our conversation. Haj Sami continues:

“Just yesterday they were shooting bombs from one hill to the other. If something fell it could kill people.”

Since 1967 most of the land in the greater Al Aqaba area (90%) was confiscated by the Israeli Government and is now used for military training exercises.

“Al Aqaba is now like Gaza; every day the soldiers are coming.”

photo of military training in Al Aqaba

Military training in Al Aqaba region as seen from the village kindergarten. Photo EAPPI/I. Tanner, 23/10/14.

Haj Sami reports that, since 1971, more than fifty people have been wounded and sixteen killed during military training exercises in the area. Haj Sami is one of the victims.

“The army shot me three times; one of the bullets is still lodged next to my heart.”

As a young man he was hit during a live training exercises, paralyzed from the waist down and is wheelchair-bound for life. An advocate of nonviolent resistance the mayor is making strident efforts to retain the existing population and attract people to live in the village.

“Many people leave because it is too dangerous. But now we are trying to retain the people here. Three families have just moved here,” he says with pride. “People want to return but they are very afraid that Israel will damage their house.”

Almost all the structures in the town have outstanding demolition orders, including the medical center, the kindergarten, the houses, and the village mosque, the factory and even the roads. Many of the residents have had their homes demolished more than once. 

photo of children playing in their demolished home

Sara Alfaqr stands next to the ruins of their demolished house. Three of their children play on the twisted remains of their living room couch in the background. Photo EAPPI/I. Tanner, 07/11/14.

On 6 November 2014, Defalla Abed Odi Alfaqr and his family, including 4 adults and 6 children, had their home demolished. This is the 3rd demolition this family has faced in just five months. Defalla recounts the incident:

“When I heard that a demolition was going on the other side of the village, I knew that they were coming for us next. They came with a big force and told us we could collect only our clothes and after the demolition the soldiers collected dirt and stones with the bulldozer and piled it on top.”

One the same day Defalla’s neighbor Khalid Ahmad Abdarahman Subeh, had an animal shelter demolished. We go to visit the family and learn that this family is also facing demolition for the 3rd time.

photo of Khalid and Sara describing demolition

Khalid Ahmad Abdarahman Subeh and his wife Sara, describe the demolition. The rubble from the destroyed animal shelter can be see in the background. Photo EAPPI/I. Tanner, 07/11/14.

“When the army arrived, the sheep where in the shelter, they told us to empty the shelter and then they demolished. After they cut our electricity wire.”

When asked what he would do next, Khalid replied with resignation:

“We will stay. Tomorrow when my sons come, we will build another shelter for the sheep. I have four sons, we will have it done in one day.”

Before leaving, we asked Khalid if they had a message he would like us to share about their situation he replied:

“Tell them we want to live in peace and freedom. And we want at least fifty percent of our human rights.”

photo of Sara gathering fresh sage

Sara gathers fresh sage from her herb garden to make tea for the visiting EAs. Photo EAPPI/I. Tanner, 07/11/14.

Both buildings were allegedly demolished because they were built without a permit in Area C. The affected families report that they applied to the Israeli Civil Administration for building permits but were denied. According to UN OCHA, 94% of applications for building permits by Palestinians living in area C are denied.

On the 11 November 2014. EAs joined locals and NGOs in a celebratory volunteer day to paint and clean the village of Al Aqaba. The initiative was conceived as a show of support for the community ahead of their high court case challenging the Israeli Civil Administration for its demolition orders on the village structures.

“We are having this day because the army damaged homes and barracks last week. We wanted to do something for Al Aqaba; to make it more beautiful. We need to paint the village to show it is an existing village. We want to show the court that people live here and care about this place. It is unfair to the people here if they demolish it.”

Israeli occupation policies have severely restricted the ability of Palestinians in Area C to build, access water, land and resources. The cumulative impact of these policies has been the stifling of it economy, high poverty rate, dispossession and displacement.

Despite the hardships faced this mayor remains resolute in his commitment to peace and the survival of his community. Haj Sami suggests:

“We want peace but not with occupation; we need our land. The international community needs to help Israel for peace not for war; if we do this we can change the situation.”

Israeli settlers miscalculate a Palestinian farmer

In an ongoing conflict, where victories for Israeli settlers and the Israeli occupation seem never-ending, one farmer prevails and succeeds in getting his land back.

by Helge, Yanoun team

Bashar al Qaryouti dedicates his life to struggle for human rights and document violations of these rights in the West Bank. Photo EAPPI/H. Kjollesdal.

Bashar al Qaryouti dedicates his life to struggle for human rights and document violations of these rights in the West Bank. Photo EAPPI/H. Kjollesdal.

Israeli settlers from Shiloh try to build a fence on Palestinian land

Sometimes we see a case where Israeli settlers in the West Bank do not succeed in their plans of expanding their territory. Instead, Palestinians are able to show that law and regulations can prevail. However, relevant knowledge and ability to mobilize are needed in order to create a victory.

On the evening of August 11, Israeli settlers from the settlement of Shiloh, southeast of Nablus, walked down the hill to a field that is owned by the Palestinian farmer Muhammed Abed Aziz. They brought with them materials for setting up a fence and tried to install pipes for a new water system. The settlers started to cut down the almond trees on the field. They wanted to cultivate their own produce.

Bashar Alqaryouti lives in a nearby village. He has a long history of bringing his video camera for documenting Israeli settlers that are violating humanitarian and other laws. Bashar often facilitates protests against these injustices. On this day, he arrived on the scene early enough to document what happened and save it on his large memory stick.

Bashar alerted the relevant Palestinian authorities who called the local Israeli District Coordination Office (DCO). Israeli soldiers were dispatched to the grounds of Muhammed Abed Aziz. The police also arrived. Bashar also contacted the Israeli human rights organization, Yesh Din, to monitor what was happening.

The soldiers had no choice but to evict the settlers from the field. The police investigated and confiscated the tools of the settlers. The fence was removed. This was a total victory for the farmer Aziz. He was able to get his field, close to Shiloh, back.

Justice Can Prevail

This case demonstrates that justice can prevail when Palestinians use the system wisely. Success depends on many factors. Aziz was able to provide papers to show that his property was fully registered under his name. He proved that he was undoubtedly the owner of the land. Land registration is often difficult to document for Palestinian farmers, whose claim to the land often stems from the fact that their family has cultivated this land for generations. They often have old land registration deeds from Ottoman times or documents from the British mandate or Jordanian protocols. These kind of papers, however, differ from those required by Israeli regulations created after Israel took control of the West Bank in 1967 and they may be contested. Aziz had a keen mind to know what land registration documents are valid today.

Many farmers do not have the necessary papers after having fled as refugees during the 1948 and 1967 wars and then returning to an empty house. Moreover, the land ownership might be in doubt if it lies in Area C, 60% of the West Bank which is under full Israeli military & civil control as delineated in the Oslo Accords.

But Aziz was able to document without a doubt that he owned his field with almond trees. The settlers had miscalculated the situation and were forced to face an eviction. Bashar was there to catch the settlers’ trespassing with his revealing electronic eye.

Bashar and the case of the road blockade 

Some days later, we meet Bashar on the terrace of his fathers house in Qaryut. He spends a considerable amount of time confronting Israeli settlers and the Israeli authorities who let injustice prevail. His biggest project is to remove an army blockade on a road that forces the people in nearby villages to drive an extra 30 kilometres everytime they need to go to Ramallah, which is not only time-consuming, but also expensive. The blockade has other ramifications as well. Bashar has been involved in many of the 120 demonstrations against this blockade throughout the 13 years it has been enforced.

The case of the blockade is still hanging in ”the system,” the Israeli authorities reply when Bashar asks them about the final outcome. The purpose of the blockade, according to Bashar, is to tie settlements together by aquiring land on both sides of the road. As the farmers cannot reach their land because they can not use the road, they have difficulties cultivating it. The land will become state land after 10 years without ploughing and can then be bought by new owners.

”Why can’t you take this guy with you to Oslo and keep him there so I can have some sleep at night?” Bashar’s fathers utters looking at me with a smile.

He is worried about his activist son, but evidently also proud of him for spending so much time defending other peoples’ rights in a conflict that causes so much pain.

Archaeological excavations in Tel Rumeida in Hebron expand and destroy more Palestinian land

EAs investigate the archaeological excavation at Tel Rumeida. Photo EAPPI/C. Bödker Pederson.

EAs investigate the archaeological excavation at Tel Rumeida. Photo EAPPI/C. Bödker Pedersen.

by Werner and Annica, Hebron team

The soldier shouts: “In 3 minutes I will shoot teargas, so everyone leave now!”

EAs withdraw a couple of meters together with the other international observers in Hebron. There are altogether about six of us, plus the members of the family of course. The young soldier is walking back and forth for a while, juggling the teargas grenade and grinning.

One could think that the EAs are caught in the midst of Friday clashes. But no, they are rather observing the enlargement of an archeological excavation.

On the left, one can see two strong women, a mother and a daughter, sitting where a big stonewall was standing just a couple of days ago. They won’t budge.

“This is our property,” they say.

For the second time a part of their wall, which marks the border between their property and the archeological excavation, has collapsed as a result of the digging.

“The workers must stop destroying our wall and stop destroying our olive tree.”

The olive tree in question now hangs half in mid-air, almost as in gasping for its last breath. Yet, it prevails. Just as the two women do.

One EA approaches Emmanuel Eisenberg, the elderly Israeli archeologist with a colorful shirt and a big hat. He is coordinating the project and is annoyed with the women disturbing his work.

Emmanuel Eisenberg and David Ben Shlomo look at the destroyed wall. Photo EAPPI/W. Bischler.

Emmanuel Eisenberg and David Ben Shlomo look at the destroyed wall. Photo EAPPI/W. Bischler.

“I didn’t know that the wall would collapse!” he responds quite irritated when told that the owners are worried that even the rest of the wall would come tumbling down.

“Well,” the EA replies, “I have no education in archeology, but with the way you were digging, even I could have told you beforehand that the wall would collapse.”

“How should I know? I am an archeologist, not a construction worker!”

“Well, the exact same thing happened before, I would expect you to have learned a lesson by now?”

The archeologist goes from annoyed to angry.

The Israeli police arrived and and talk with the women. After heated discussions we are told that the archeologists have been prohibited from touching the wall. It would seem that the two strong women have won a small, rare victory over the overwhelming power of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Sadly, however, the IAA has seldom respected such prohibitions, and the internationals and the women will be ready for work even the next day.

Every Inch Matters on Tel Rumeida 

The excavations on the historical mount of Tel Rumeida are no new phenomenon. We posted about it in February on the EAPPI blog.

The current digs on Tel Rumeida, the hill believed to be the location of biblical Hebron, have secured support from Ariel University and the Israel Antiquities Authority. They were planned to last for a year, and cost around 7 million NIS.

The excavation site is blocked of by fences and danger signs. Photo EAPPI/C. Bödker Pedersen.

The excavation site is blocked of by fences and danger signs. Photo EAPPI/C. Bödker Pedersen.

The lead archeologist at the site, Emmanuel Eisenberg is no stranger to the people living on Tel Rumeida. Already in the late 1990s, Eisenberg and the Israel Antiquities Authority were involved in the archeological digs, which famously resulted in the expansion of the Admot Yishai Settlement to house even more settlers right on top of the excavations.

As above, even the current excavations form part of a larger vision: a biblical pathway, and the adherent archeological park.

The planned archaeological park in Hebron will include areas that have been excavated both the 1960’s by an American archaeologist, P. Hammond, and in the 1980’s by Israeli authorities. The present excavations also include the cleaning of previous excavations sites, and expanding existing pathways amid Palestinian houses. In a couple of years, there could even be cafes and kiosks and a steady stream of architecture aficionados.

The biblical pathway will lead from one side of the hill to the other, effectively cutting the Palestinian neighbourhood in half, while simultaneously providing panoramic views of the ancient city of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

The Israeli archaeological organization Emek Shaveh, which works on the role of archaeology in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has been critical of the motives behind the excavations, as well as the possible findings. According to their experts, none of the findings in land Lot 52 (find a map of area here) so far have been of exceptional archaeological significance, nor have the findings given any support to the plans of a tourist attraction in the area.

The poor results of the initial digs may also be one reason why in May 2014 the digs were significantly expanded over onto land lot 53, covering now almost double the amount of land they used to on land lot 52.

The Emek Shaveh experts explain that the ancient walls found in the neighbouring lot 53 have much more historical relevancefor the planned archaeological park, since these can at least be dated to the time of the Patriarchs and to the kingdoms of Judea and Israel.

Still, the Director General of Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities for the Palestinian Authority in Hebron, Dr. Ahmeed Rjoob shows no hesitation in calling the current excavations illegal. Palestinian Authorities are prohibited from even visiting the excavations, and prevented from evaluating and assisting the archaeological work.

Under the Oslo agreement, all excavations inside Hebron are required to be coordinated with us, but they never contacted us, and they keep ignoring us.”

Furthermore, the planned archaeological park qualifies as expansion of the existing Tel Rumeida settlement.

Continued Palestinian Perseverance

The Abu Haikal family’s fight for their private property has been rewarded with a couple of small victories, only to be followed by bigger disappointments.

Recently, Fariel Abu Haikal has on several occasions single-handedly stopped the digs by stepping in front of both the proverbial and the real life bulldozer that has been trespassing onto her land. Most often her daughter Arwa joins her, and side-by-side the two strong women have engaged in an iconic stand-off against the perpetrators.

Ferial Abu Haikal discusses with Israeli soldiers. Photo EAPPI/W. Bischler.

Fariel Abu Haikal discusses with Israeli soldiers. Photo EAPPI/W. Bischler.

So it goes on. Day after day the two women defend their land, as international observers provide protective presence. And the world is taking note.

People from all over the world are following the continuous updates from the excavation site. At the time of writing, the Facebook page called Save Tel Rumeida, which the Abu Haikal family created in January 2014, has more than 600 members and photos and videos are posted on almost a daily basis.