'Awarta, Huwwara

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Ana S., Aliyah S., (reporting in English), Nathalie C., (Hebrew), Mustafa (driver and translator)

Main Points: The supply of water is a problem in Huwwara. It isn’t a problem in Awarta which shares a well with a neighboring village.  Both places suffer from the theft of olives and the serious damage to their groves by the settlers of Yitzhar and Itamar. Lack of adequate employment is felt in both places. This is especially true for the young people who have university degrees. The IDF comes into these places at any time and makes arrests. A large part of their population is poor.

Huwwara: We met with the mayor of the city. We gave him a copy of the English report of our 28.05.17 visit. Huwwara is considered a city in the Palestinian territories, even though it is no larger than some villages, because of its strategic position on the main road (60) between Ramallah and Nablus. It has a population of about 8,000.

The water supply is one of their serious problems. The city receives about an insufficient 700-800 cm per day. Huwwara pays the PA for the water, and the PA pays Mekorot. Because of very low pressure there are 4 neighborhoods, higher up the hills, which don’t get any water at all, and have to buy from the tankers at expensive prices. A complaint to the Palestinian Authority didn’t help at all. About 3 months ago a pump was installed, but due to the high cost of running it, the pump does not work all the time.

At least 40% of the university graduates among the young people of the city do not find employment in their field of study. For example, one young man with an MA degree in English is working on a garbage collecting truck for the city. About 10% of the men have permits to work in Israel. Others find what work they can in the area.

Garbage disposal is another problem. As we reported in May, their garbage collection truck was impounded by the Civil Administrationinfo-icon because the city had dumped the garbage by Awarta. They had to pay a fine of 5,000 shekels to get it back. Now they have to take their garbage  near Jenin to dump it. They have to pay the Palestinian company that runs the dumping ground 130 shekels per ton. Before it cost them 20,000 shekels/month. But they now pay 80,000 shekels/month to dump it by Jenin. The mayor explains that though it was the settlers who don’t allow them to dump the garbage nearby, they themselves dump their own garbage onto Huwwara’s lands.

Municipal taxes are paid by less than 40% of the population, mainly by shop owners, and also for permits to build within the city limits. Most of the population is too poor to pay taxes. Now, they have clocks for each family, and for the past year, a magnetic card. They must first pay before they get running water.

The IDF comes in at night whenever they want and takes people from their homes.

The olive harvest is not yet completed, and the farmers have lots of problems with the settlers. The settlement Yitzhar, is built on land belonging to Huwwara. The farmers need permits to work those plots of their own land which are  near the settlement and to harvest their olives. About 20% of the farming land is within the fence built around Yitzhar. On those plots of land the farmers receive permits to work in the groves for one week each year, and to harvest the olives for a few days. The amount of time allotted to them is insufficient for proper care of the groves or for harvesting. The mayor went to those groves with the farmers to see for himself the condition of the trees. 80% of the trees in those groves have withered and died. Many of the trees have been cut down. In the plots near the settlement the settlers go in at night; they steal the ripe olives and damage the trees. All of the villages in the area of Yitzhar, - Urif, Burin, Einabus, Asira al Qibilya,  Madama - suffer from the same problems. The Civil Administration has not given any help to the villagers.

Finally, Israel has recently expropriated 5,000 dunam of land in the area for a bypass road for the settlers. It will run from Tapuach (bypassing Huwwara) till Yzhar square. (On the news it was reported that the Israeli government has designated 800,000,000 shekels to build the road!!)

Awarta: We met with the head of the village Council. Although Awarta has about the same population as Huwwara, 8,000, it is a village. Its position is not as strategic as Huwwara. Water in Awarta is not a problem. There is a well in the neighboring village, Rujieb, and the two villages share the water.

One very cruel problem that the village has had for the last year and a half is the closing off of their access road. They are permitted to leave the village by that road, but to enter the village they must go around through back roads. So, instead of driving 6 kms from Nablus to Awarta, they have to go 25 kms to get home from the nearest big city.

The IDF comes into the village almost every day, at any hour of the day or night, and often makes arrests. The Council head says that it is impossible to talk with the soldiers; they refuse to have any conversation with the villagers.

The employment situation is difficult. About 15% of the men have permits to work in Israel. Others work for the PA, and many in agriculture. Women work as teachers. There are 4 schools in the village; 2 are for boys and 2 for girls. The schools go from elementary through high school. Out of about 4000 young people who have finished university studies about 100 find work in their field.

There are several ancient tombs within the village of Awarta. During the time of Saladin there were 3 villages in the area. The tombs are probably those of sheiks, and the villagers have not paid much attention to them. The Jewish settlers have appropriated them as holy sites and twice every month religious Jews come into the village at about midnight and pray, sing and dance until about 5:00 in the morning. They bring in busloads of men from places like Bnei Brak and other settlements. Needless to say that the noise is very disturbing.

Owners of olive groves that are now within the fence that surrounds the settlement, Itamar, receive permits to harvest their olives for 3 days. This isn’t enough time to complete the work. The farmers need at least a month to tend the groves and to harvest them. The terrible story of the groves of Huwarra repeats itself in the groves of Awarta. Again, the groves that are within the fence around Itamar cannot be tended and the trees are dying. The farmers who go to pick the olives find their trees have been broken and olives have been stolen. Our host said that while in former years he had harvested 10 bags of olives from his grove, this year he harvested only 2 bags of olives.