Haris, Tue 22.10.13, Morning

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Natalie Cohen, Rachel Yisraeli, Naomi Bentsur (reporting), Nadim (driver) Translator: Charles K.
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Hars, Haja, 22.10.13, morning

09:00  We left from the Rosh Ha’ayin train station.

09:30  We arrived in Hars.  The group of women welcomed us warmly; they’ve been trying for months to resume English lessons.  After the club’s director finally agreed to let them and us renew our classes there, we arranged a meeting with her today.  To our disappointment, she didn’t appear.  We agreed in principle with the women to begin as soon as the director gives final approval.

10:45  We left Hars for Haja.  We saw no military vehicles on the road; civilian traffic was also light.

11:15  Haja.  A group of well-dressed men at the entrance to the municipal building, on their way to a car.  They were a delegation from the Palestinian Authority who’d visited the village.  The head of the municipality, with whom we were to meet, was also dressed fittingly.

He told us of their current problem, one they share with other villages “lucky enough” to be located near settlements:  A few days ago settlers from Qedumim and Karnei Shomron burned and cut down olive trees and attacked the harvesters.  The residents contacted the Palestinian police whose hands are tied without permission from the Israeli police.  A complaint to the Israeli police was also fruitless.  The villagers are afraid to reach their fields without a Border Police escort, which is provided only sparingly.

Haja already became a victim of the settlers when settlements were first established on the West Bank.  Moshe Zar, one of the first to “buy” land in the West Bank, built his ostentatious home on Haja’s land.  That’s how 3000 dunums were transferred through various and mysterious ways from their owners to the settlers.  An additional 2000 dunums were recently stolen unnecessarily from the villagers, this time by the electric company.  The electric poles erected along the road don’t justify expropriating such a wide strip of land.

The economic condition of the village is bad.  Many villagers are unemployed.  Very few work in Israel.  Many have been blacklisted.  Herding sheep or farming in the face of settlers’ threats doesn’t provide a reasonable livelihhod.

We asked and were told that five village residents are in prison, two of them with life sentences.

To our surprise, the municipal head brings in two youths:  Awad and Hamuda, who are 17.  And we hear first-hand the account of two teen-aged prisoners who’ve already experienced life in an Israeli prison.  They were arrested together during a demonstration in Qadum when they were 16.  Blindfolded, handcuffed and beaten they were taken to the Qedumim police station and from there to Megiddo prison.  Only after three months in prison were they allowed to meet with an attorney and brought before a judge.  Both were sentenced to seven months imprisonment, starting from when they were first incarcerated.  And so, four months later, they were released.  Given the relative lenience of the sentences, if they’d committed any offences they must have been very minor.  And what about family visits?  Awwad had two visits, two relatives each time.  Could they bring candy, clothes, books?  Not at all.  No one visited Hamuda because other family members were also imprisoned.  They both lost a school year because of their seven-month imprisonment.  But their sad eyes showed they’d lost much more:  the joy of their youth.  And what has the municipal council head to say about the talks between Netanyahu and Abu Mazen?  “We won’t give up until we have a state…”  Do you have faith in the negotiations?  “If we had no faith we wouldn’t have begun them.”