Hamra, Ma'ale Efrayim, Thu 1.7.10, Afternoon

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Lena R., Yifat D., and Dafna B., (Reporting)

Translation: Bracha B.A.

A report about despair and how Israel is attempting to break the
 Palestinians by demolishing houses, withholding water, and preventing movement

12:00 – Maaleh Ephraim checkpoint

Soldiers are manning the checkpoint and another soldier is watching from above. 

On the way we received a phone call that homes were being destroyed in Ras al Akhmar.  We called people that we know in the area who reported that army bulldozers and jeeps were on their way to Al-Farsiya.  At the crossing we saw a truck with two bulldozers on it  that had possibly carried out the demolition and were on their way to Ariel or Jerusalem.
We drove to Al Farsiya. The place looked like a ghost town with about ten tents, sheep pens, and empty tin shacks.    There were only two dogs that didn't even bother to bark at us.  The entire village looked as if people had left for a few minutes and would come back.  The corn and wheat fields had not been harvested.  The people had left a week ago, no longer able to deal with the lack of water and the cost of going back and forth to Ein al Bida with water containers.  Probably the evacuation orders from June 25th to leave within 24 hours contributed  to people's inability to continue living there.  Since they did not take their belonging with them we presume they are planning to come back. 

We drove to Guchia Gate but learned that Palestinians no longer use it since it is never open.  The only way to open it is to call the Red Cross, who in turn call the army who sometimes come and open it after a lengthy delay.  The Palestinians gave up trying to cross in the 50-degree heat in the valley.  In this way Israel solved the problem. 

We walked a few kilometers until we found a Palestinian who drove us the rest of the way to Hurbet Ras al Akhmar.  We found ruined tin shacks and torn tents with signs of bulldozers that had wantonly driven over them.  The homes of 15 families and their sheep pens all succumbed to the treads of the bulldozers.  150 people, including children and elderly sick people found themselves without a roof over their heads in the heat of the summer – not for the first or last time. They set up a new tent camp about 150 meters away in the valley and we went to hear what they had to tell.   

On June 6th people came from the civilian authority and took photographs and issued demolition orders for what had not been destroyed in the past.   A., with whom we spoke, did not receive orders because he had already received orders a year ago.  On June 6, 2009, his home was demolished as well as the year before that. 

Every year Israel demolishes homes claiming that the area is a "closed military zone."    Almost the entire northern Jordan Valley is a closed military zone.  The army has put up concrete signs next to every Palestinian settlement and encampment stating that the area is a firing zone and entry is forbidden.  
Some of the areas within the vineyards of the Jewish settlements are also included, but this does not include these areas.  The land is privately owned by people from Tamun, Tubas, and the Jiftlik (Ras el Achmar is owned by people  from Tubas. )   
The Bnei Uda family pays yearly rent to live on the land .  After the demolitions the people went into the valley to live in the summer, but in the winter the valley is flooded, so they go up to live on the adjacent hilltop.    Then the civilian authorities come with soldiers and bulldozers at 08:30 in the morning   and demolished the Bnei Uda family's home.   
A.'s father Mustafa, 73 explains that the harassment began in the 1970s.  Planes would come and shoot at the herds for no reason.  After that the herds were confiscated and put in quarantine at Uja near Jericho.  The owner of the animals had to go there and pay a fee of 2 Dinar for each animal to retrieve them.  The army had been demolishing homes for the past 20 years in an attempt to make original residents of the valley  leave their land.   
The main means of forcing people to leave is to deprive them of water.  There are dozens of underground wells and ground water but no one is allowed to dig.  
Anyone showing any signs of digging a well is arrested.  There are two large water reservoirs next to Roi and Bikot, but they are intended for Jewish residents only.  Residents of nearby villages of  Hadida, Humsa, and Salamin can see them but are not allowed to pump water from them or anywhere else.  They are forced to drive to Tamun and Ein Shibli, Ein El Bida, to bring water at tremendous expense. 

Hamra Checkpoint – 18:30

Three cars are waiting on the West side and two on the East side, and there is no lineup.  Palestinians report that since reservists arrived at the checkpoint the situation has improved, but elderly women still have to go from a taxi on one side to the other and wait for a car to collect them in the hot summer sun.  Any vehicle not registered to a resident of the Jordan valley   is not permitted to drive there.  All depends upon the whims of the soldiers at the checkpoints.  

18:50 – Maaleh Ephraim Checkpoint
There are no soldiers at the checkpoint, only someone observing from above.  Palestinians cars drive through hesitantly, not knowing what might be in the minds of the occupiers.