Video: Resonance – Daily Life in Area C

Approximately 60% of the West Bank is designated as Area C, meaning its under full Israeli military and civil control.  What does this mean for the daily life of the residents in Area C?  We talk about this area a lot in our eyewitness reports, but it’s hard to explain the impact of this area.  Thanks to GVC Italia, who has come out with a new documentary touching on all the difficulties that come with living in Area C, you can get a glimpse into life in this area.

The documentary was created by four students of Palestinian Universities in the Occupied West Bank.

*Read more eyewitness stories from Area C.

Access to water in the Jordan Valley

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” John 7:37

by Sophie, Jordan Valley team

The midday sun is coming into it’s own as we seek sanctuary under a tree in ‘Ein el Beida. As the first EAPPI Jordan Valley team, we are warmly welcomed by Abu Omar and his elderly uncle Abu ‘Akab, a kindly man with a sense of humour, against the odds.

‘Ein el Beida and its neighbour Bardala are located in the far north of the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley makes up almost a third of the West Bank, and is traditionally known as being the ‘breadbasket of Palestine’ because of its fertile land for agriculture. Yet Palestinian farmers in the area are struggling to survive. We have come to find out why.

“Before they were public springs, no one paid, it was communal water in ‘Ein el Beida, our tradition. After, they take our spring and we have to pay them agora [money] for our own water, and then they do not give us enough”, Abu Omar explains.

Abu Dirra shows us the old larger Palestinian water pipe in Bardala which was severed.  Israeli authorities joined the smaller water pipe, allowing a smaller amount of water to be pumped to the village. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

Abu Dirra shows us the old larger Palestinian water pipe in Bardala which was severed. Israeli authorities joined the smaller water pipe, allowing a smaller amount of water to be pumped to the village. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

The ‘before’ and ‘after’ Abu ‘Omar refers to is the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank. In 1967, a series of military orders declared all Palestinian water resources to be Israeli state property. Under these orders, Palestinians are prohibited from developing water resources without a permit from Israel. This means that they cannot maintain a spring, repair a cistern, or develop irrigation networks without Israel’s permission, and permission is almost always refused.

In Bardala, the Israeli government confiscated the land of the village’s main spring and the national water company, Mekorot, dug deeper into the mountain aquifer. As a result, the nearby Palestinian spring in Bardala, and the 9 more shallow springs of Ein el Beida, dried up. According to the Joint Water Committee there were 774 operating wells in the West Bank in 1967, now due to Israeli restrictions there are just 264 operating wells, an EWASH (Emergency Water And Sanitation/Hygiene) representative informed us.

Abu ‘Omar tells us what it means for his farming:

It is a huge problem for our plants, the plants are our economy, our resources. We need water for our traditional plants…carrots, nuts…Now we have to try plant vegetables that don’t need as much water. But then we all produce the same, tomatoes and cucumbers in greenhouses, and this reduces the price at market so we cannot make a living. The water goes to the settlements and they have as much as they like.

Bardala’s water is diverted to nearby Israeli agricultural settlements including Mehola and Rotem, illegal under International Humanitarian Law. They export everything from dates to herbs, mostly to European markets.

The difference in overall consumption is stark. According to EWASH, a coalition of 30 NGOs working on water, hygiene and sanitation issues in the Occupied Palestinian territoriesthe Israeli settlers in the northern Dead Sea area of the Jordan Valley are allocated 10 times more water than the average West Bank Palestinian.

As we walk around the villages, the contrast between the settlement and village lands are striking.

‘Ein el Beida’s agricultural land in front. The orange trees cultivated by illegal Mehora settlement behind. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

‘Ein el Beida’s agricultural land in front. The orange trees cultivated by illegal Mehora settlement behind. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

Abu Dirar is a representative of Bardala Village Council, a farmer and a father. We ask him about the impact on daily life of the water restrictions:

“We just don’t drink lots of water here. And it’s hot, between May and November it is very hot. You need to shower 4 times a day if you go out. But we have to go 2 or 3 days without a shower. We joke about it, but it is a miserable life.”

The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum of 100 litres of water per person per day for domestic use and personal hygiene. Israeli restrictions mean that Palestinians have access to an average of only 70 litres, and many vulnerable communities in the Jordan Valley have to survive on as little as 20-30 litres because it must be tankered in at high cost.

Abu Dirar used to plant 10,000 dunums (1000 hectares) of his land, but now only a third routinely, the rest only if there are heavy winter rains.

“The economy needs water. Now people don’t plant in summer. In summer we just sit.” He is keenly aware of the impact on the next generation, the future of Palestine, “the young people are researching jobs in the cities, they are leaving. I will cope, but my son, I know he will leave.”

After all they need to go somewhere to drink.

Take Action now to support Palestinian water rights.

* A previous version of this post stated that Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area are allocated 75 times more water than the average West Bank Palestinian.  Israeli settlers in the northern Dead Sea area are allocated 727 litres per day and the average West Bank Palestinian consumes 73 litres per day.  We have now changed the statistic to 10 times more water, which is a more accurate reflection of the statistics.


EA Blog: Yesterday in Wadi Rahhal

By Susan, Bethlehem Team

Yesterday I met Anas, a young man who has recently graduated from Bethlehem University with a social work degree. He took me to visit his village named Wadi Rahhal,
It took us 30 minutes to reach this small village in a minibus using old roads snaking from village to village until we reached Wadi Rahhal, [population 1,300]. The traditional road from Bethlehem takes 10 minutes but  that road had been ‘confiscated’ for use for Israeli settlers only. They have a large [housing estate] settlement on agricultural land they took from the village, illegally.

I drank tea in Anas’s home and met his mother before we went  walking around the village whilst hearing how it has changed.
Anas pointed to an area beside the Israeli settlement and said “When I was a child my family used to go there for BBQs and I played in the forest there.”  Now the forest has been destroyed and the area is an Israeli ‘security zone’.

To claim land the occupying forces have used bulldozers to raze agricultural land and uprooted 500 olive trees, 200 grape vines 150 stone fruit trees along with over 150 other trees. They also use bulldozers to demolish houses.   See picture below.

Susan blog pic 2

Some villagers keep sheep, goats and even a few beehives. There are crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and a small amount of cereals growing in the remaining land.

Residents say control of water has been taken from the village for the huge settlements and sold back to the village at a high cost.
In summer the villagers have water if it is not all used by the settlers.

The kindergarten was built with the help of World Vision. And there is a school for over 400 students which may soon have some rebuilding done with the help of US Aid. The school is about 10 meters from the proposed segregation wall. In the photo below, the road behind us is the foundation for the Separation Wall, 10 metres in front of us is the school.   

susan pic 1

Parents say the wall is already having an emotional impact on their children.  I was told “I hope we can release the stress. I hope to have good children with no psychological problems and good mental health”.
The standard of education appears to be good with several children gaining University places each year.  I have been told “they won’t get work but will have an education for when freedom comes. When the Israelis go home we are prepared”.  Hmmm.

Last year there were 400 graduates from Bethlehem University. Again, I have been told  “Only 10 of them got jobs in the area of their education.” The photo below shows Wadi Rahhal’s first university graduate, who is now a retired principal.

susan pic 3

Wadi Rahhal volleyball team has been the champions of South Palestine for the past 6 years, and they have a football team and a girls under 14 yrs volleyball teams.

I am so impressed with the people I meet.  I asked Anas what he thinks of the Israelis.
“Israelis are not the problem, it’s the Zionist that cause the problem. I have Israeli friends and some come to support us.”
When I asked if the villagers thought to protest he said “We did in the past but we were threatened, they will shoot us, we have not got guns. we are peaceful people”.