Za'tara (Tapuah)

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Tziona Snir, Hagar Zemer, Naomi Bentsur (reporting), Nadim (driving) Translator: Charles K.


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

09:40  Tapuach junction.  Only one soldier at the bus stop.


The head of Talpit municipality holds a glass of water, points to the rim of the glass and says, “Our problems have already reached all the way to the top.”  The Hebrew language well expresses the feeling of pain mingled with helplessness: my cup runneth over with sorrow; my burden is too great.  Today, the people whose history has known much suffering has for 49 years caused daily injustice to its neighbor.  The residents of the two villages, Tapit and Yatma, who live in the shadow of occupation, are the mirror image of its injustices:  subject to daily harassment from both settlers and the army.  Denied elementary human rights in courts established to judge justly.  And despite everything, there are still among them people able to speak of peace, to wish for peace and to await it.  While on our side all you hear is, “There’s no partner.”


10:00  Talpit

At the municipality we meet A., its chairman.  To hear him speak it seems that, of the ten measures of affliction that have descended on the inhabitants of the West Bank, Talpit received nine, if not all ten.

Today Talpit has 4000 residents.  Since ’67, 6000 have emigrated and established communities in Jordan, the United States and various countries in Europe.  Except for a minority who hold US citizenship, none are able to visit the village of their birth and meet relatives who remained.  A. and his family are able to travel to Jordan to meet his and his wife’s relatives (she’s from Jordan) but it’s extremely expensive.  A. says permits for the family cost NIS 5000.  “You even have to pay for a two year old child,” he says.

The village’s main problem is its proximity to two particularly violent settlements:  Eli and Shiloh.  These two settlements were established on 10,000 dunums expropriated from the village, leaving them 20,000.  But the land theft wasn’t enough.  The settlers set dogs on the villagers, steal their olives from the trees before the villagers come to harvest them and the grapes from the vines before the villagers pick them.  Thus, when all the villagers go to harvest during the two days the army allots to them, they discover anew each season that a substantial portion of the crop has already been stolen.  Moreover, the settlers also erected a stone barrier two kilometers from the settlements, preventing the villagers from reaching and cultivating their lands in that area as well.  And if that robbery wasn’t enough, the sewage from both settlements flows to the village’s lands and pollutes them.

The shortage of water is a big problem.  Talpit, like 15 other villages in the area, gets its water from Rujib, a source south of Nablus.  The source must supply water to 80,000 people.  But it’s insufficient.  The result – in Talpit, as in Duma, there’s less than 35 liters of water per person per day.  And a cubic meter of water costs six or seven shekels.  We should note Mekorot doesn’t supply water to this area.

Of the 20,000 dunums left to the village, 13,000 are categorized as Area B, and about 7000 as Area C.  Over the years, as families grew, they had no choice other than to build on their land in Area C, despite the prohibition.  When such construction is discovered, says A., the army comes and destroys water and electric lines to the new houses.  Six years ago soldiers also demolished ten homes built in Area C.

The army comes daily to the village.  Soldiers enter homes, search and, according to A., maliciously empty the contents of olive barrels and pour water on the food.  And if that wasn’t enough:  The soldiers show up in jeeps when school lets out and lie in wait for the children.  When one of them throws a rock, the arrests begin.  Children are also arrested at night.  Some were jailed for 20 days and released.  “We tell the children: if you see soldiers, turn around and go home,” A. emphasizes.

He tells us about his personal experience:  He says he was driving in his car and was stopped by some soldiers near Turmus-Ai.  They told him to get out and open the trunk.  He was careful and locked the car doors when he got out.  After the inspection, when he was released, he drove off.  Two hundred meters along the road he was stopped again by another group of soldiers.  “Where’s the knife you hid?” they yelled.  A. replied, “You can look, there’s no knife in the car.”  After their search found nothing he was allowed to proceed.  His conclusion:  the two groups of soldiers are working together.  The first plants a knife in the car, the second “discovers” it.  Since he locked the car doors when he got out he prevented the knife from being planted in his vehicle and avoided arrest.

We should note that we’re hearing similar stories recently on the West Bank.


12:00  Yatma

We meet Z., the village secretary, at the municipal building.  Yatma, very close to the small settlement of Rechalim, has 3500 residents.  About 1000 emigrated, most to Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and are forbidden to return.  The amount of land expropriated from Yatma is tiny compared to other villages: 150 dunums for Rechalim and four more for a military guard tower.  But:  only 700 of the village’s 3500 dunums are categorized as Area B, the remainder, the majority, are Area C.  That’s the cause of one of the village’s biggest problems:  no land reserves for building.  Z. invites us to look through the municipality’s wide window:  all the area visible, immediately adjacent to the municipal building, is Area C.  When we wonder about the construction starts we see, Z. pulls out two “fresh” stop-work orders, dated February 2.  The recipients can appeal to the “Oversight subcommittee” which meets in Bet El three weeks later.  And what will happen then?  The people who received the order already hired an Israeli Arab attorney to represent them.  At best they’ll get a postponement, and they’ll continue building because they have no other choice, but they’ll live on borrowed time, threatened by demolition.

Like in other area villages, the army is in no hurry to issue permits for seasonal agricultural work.  Z. shows us the permit for agricultural work.  The date – February 21 through 23.  That means a delay of a month at least in the seasonal work, which can damage the quality of the harvest.  The inescapable outcome is to reduce the farmers’ income and a significant decline in their families’ already low standard of living.

According to Z. the army doesn’t only delay permits to the farmers.  Soldiers enter homes at night and turn everything upside down.  A few months ago they found a bullet casing in one home.  The occupant was jailed for four months.  He says one man from the village was sentenced to life imprisonment for aiding an attack.

The village receives enough water from Mekorot in the winter, but has serious shortages in the summer.  Here’s what’s absurd:  What are Palestinians paying Mekorot for?  For water from a well Mekorot dug near the town of Beita, in Palestinian territory.  But since the location of the well is in Area C, according to the Oslo accords it’s under Israeli control.  Thus the occupation takes over the water collecting in the depths of Palestinian land.


13:00  Tapuach junction.  A military jeep at the entrance to the junction.  The compound is empty.

13:30  Back to Rosh Ha’ayin.