Visit to Aqraba

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Petahya A., Dvorka A., Ziyona S. (reporting), Nadim (driving) Translator: Charles K.


Zahaiah, who runs the Zeita women’s club, told Huda, who runs the women’s club in Aqraba about our colleagues’ work in Zeita, and she asked to meet to see whether similar activities could be carried out in the Aqraba club.  So we drove to Aqraba.


14:45  Two soldiers and two dog handlers inspect vehicles.

We turned left up the hill about four km. east of Za’tara on a road that re-opened about two months ago after having been closed for years, forcing the residents to make a long detour to get home.


15:00  We reached Aqraba after a short trip past the lovely almond trees blossoming by the roadside.  The village is large – almost a town – with about 10,000 residents.  It even has a few 3-4 story buildings, unusual for villages in the area.  We went to the home of Huda and her husband, Isar.  She speaks only Arabic; Isar, like most of the men on the West Bank, speaks both Hebrew and English.  So, over cups of sweet sage tea and black coffee, we conducted two parallel conversations with Huda and with Isar.


We introduced ourselves and described Machsom Watch’s activities; Ouda described the women’s club.  It’s a large, well-organized club that has been conducting activities for years.  A Norwegian organization helps them financially and with training.  During the intifada, when they had no other means of support, they learned to be autarchic.  The women raised excellent vegetables of various types and strains, established beehives, etc.  A mobile clinic from Jerusalem’s Al Muqasid hospital also visits to offer mammograms and other routine tests.  Female students from Al Najah University help run the club; it’s open from morning to evening, to all women in the village.  Huda learned about Machsom Watch’s work in Zeita from that club’s coordinator; she wants to expand her own activities.


At the same time, Isar talked about himself and about Aqraba.  He’s a schoolteacher in Qabalan, a nearby village.  He’s been a member of the village council for about two months.  Before 1967, most of the villagers made their living from farming.  They had 147,000 dunums of land that stretched to the Jordan Valley.  They have only 40,000 left.  More than 100,000 dunums were expropriated for settlements like Gitit and Fatzael.  Today most residents work in the settlements established on their lands.  Some work in Israel.  Occasionally they’re attacked by settlers from Itamar.


We agreed to see who’s willing to help, and Huda will find out what the women would be interested in.


The village will hold a large bazaar on March 31, to commemorate Lands Day.  Residents of all the villages in the Nablus sub-district will display their wares – food, homegrown products, handicrafts.  We’re all invited.


16:40  A relatively large number of soldiers at the Za’tara  junction, particularly dog handlers, their dogs sniffing vehicles’ interiors.