Yasuf, Iskaka

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Tzipi Eynot, Dalia Kleinman, Aliyah Strauss (reporting)

Yasuf and Iskaka both suffer from settlers bringing in bulldozers and clearing land to set up new outposts. Yesh Din has been called in to work on the problem, but so far there has been no progress. All the Palestinian villages and towns are being strangled by the lines drawn on the maps in the Oslo Accords. Any houses built outside the lines are in Area C. Twenty-three houses in Yasuf have demolition orders against them.

9:40  We entered the Palestinian territories through the Shomron Gate. Everything seemed quiet. As we drove through the West Bank we noted that the almond trees were all in bloom – an annual beautiful sight.

Za'atra (Tapuach Junction)was quiet, with no unusual activity.

Yasuf:  We turned off the main road onto the road to Yasuf and noted that the fruit trees in the fields on both sides of the road looked terrible. They are small and scrawny. Nadim reminded us that they  were burnt last year by settlers from Tapuach. The trees are just beginning to recover.

At the village Council we met A. H., the secretary of the council. He is very active in the village and is very proud of what the village has achieved. He spoke to us in Hebrew, which he says he learned while in an Israeli prison from 1967 to 1985. The population of the village is about 2000 people; about 3000 people have left the village to live abroad. For their livelihood, working in Israel by permit is first place. A large number are employed by the Palestinian Authority, as is A.H. Many men are also employed by the settlements, and then there is also farming.

Problems:  During last summer the army came and destroyed 500 meters of a dirt road that is used by farmers of the village to access their olive groves. After the demolition a warning  paper was found on a stone by the road. Yesh Din took their complaint to court, but they have had no answer, as yet.

Twenty-three houses in Yasuf have received demolition orders, and warnings from the Civil Administrationinfo-icon. There is a local building committee; Yasuf and three other villages in the area cooperate on the committee. Anyone wishing to build must present to the committee the consent of his neighbors to his plans, which can then be approved. All 23 houses received the approval of the committee and all are part of the village. Where is the problem? In the Oslo Accords, on a map, a line was drawn around the existing houses and buildings of every village in 1993. This area was then termed Area B. All areas outside of the line are Area C where the approval for building must come from the Civil Administration, which doesn't give any approvals for the expansion of the villages. Therefore, the 23 houses that are outside the original line are under demolition orders. Since the Council is already in contact with Yesh Din, we didn't see what else we could do.

A.H. told us that recently 26 houses, that had been built without authorization in Kfar Kana, in the Gallilee, were demolished. Yasuf sent a message of solidarity to Kfar Kana. The problem exists not only in the Palestinian territories.

Between our last visit to Yasuf and the present visit there have been no outstanding problems with the IDF.

Problems with the settlers: Settlers from Tapuach have begun clearing land belonging to Yasuf, and other villages in the area. Bulldozers came and worked for 2 days, until the village went to the High Court to stop the work. The village Council also appealed to the local Palestinian Coordinating Officer, who said he could do nothing. Tapuach plans to build a new outpost, calling it West Tapuach.

We asked about the present problem of the young terrorists. A.H. answered: "Not in our village! The youth of our village might do it, but we said it is too high a price to pay. Anyone who does try to do something like that is doing it 'from his own head'. It is because of what these young people see – someone in the family who has been killed, perhaps. They are also aware of the almost 50 years of occupation. No one told him or her, 'Do it!'"

A.H. invited us to see some places in the village. First we went to the new Events Hall. It is simple, but very lovely. A young man, M. who sat in on our conversation at the Council, will be the first member of the village to be married in the new hall this week. Next we looked in at the Kindergarten of the village. The children chanted a welcome chant in our honor, and waved to us. We went on to the girl's secondary school (7th through 12th grade). The school is well-kept with lovely murals on the walls of the yard; the school rooms look very good. We met a group of 8th grade girls outside their classroom. I told them I'm an English teacher, and asked them if they learn English. "Certainly!" they said. We had a very nice, short conversation together. Going up the staircase to the second floor I noticed something terrific. Each step rise had a part of a sentence, alternating in English and Arabic, on the background of different colors. I copied the English because it is very good advice for everyone, not only pupils. "If you want success – Don't stop, just stare forward – Hurry up and start walking – You may sometimes get stuck – And sometimes fall again – Just stand up and keep on – To reach your goals." With that we came to the next floor.

12:00  Iskaka:  In this small village of about 1200 persons, we met the head of the Council, A.K. at the Council building. He told us that one week before the army confiscated all the cameras that the Council had put up around the building. No reason for their action was given. At the same time the army arrested two students – one returned after a few days and the other after a week. Sometimes the army drives around the village in a jeep, and sometimes the soldiers come on foot and walk around. The soldiers often threaten young people (the 'shebab').

About 20% of the men work in settlements, and about 10% work in Israel. At the beginning of our meeting the Council head was rather wary of saying too much, but after talking with us a while he was more open. He did say that there is contact between the Israeli DCO and the Palestinian DCO. Not everything that happens in the West Bank is reported in the Israeli news, so Israelis don't really know what is going on. The goal of Machsom Watch is to give the information, we said, as much as we can.

On land belonging to people in Iskaka, as happened in Yasuf, bulldozers came and started to clear about 15 dunams for a new outpost east of Ariel. During Ramadan the army left and the settlers brought caravans. "We can't stand against them. We called Yesh Din. They came and took pictures." We asked if the people of the village  demonstrated, and he said they did and the bulldozers left. But they came back and made bases for the caravans. He asked if we could come again and take photos. We promised to do so.

We left the territories through the Shomron Gate.