'Awarta, Burin (Yitzhar)

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

Burin:  We spoke with the head of the village Council. Has there been any harassment recently from settlers, we asked him.  The Friday before our visit, before sundown, settlers from Yitzhar came into the olive groves of Burin and Urif, that are close to the settlement, and burned trees. The villages have requested that the Civil Administration go to the olive groves and assess the damage done. The farmers cannot go to the groves themselves. They are permitted access to their groves only at certain times of the year, and only for a few days. The farmers are still waiting for the report from the Civil Administration.

During June, settlers from Yitzhar tried to break into the house that is farthest from the center of the village and closest to the settlement. They didn’t succeed in breaking into the house, but did attack it. Young people from the village hurried to the house to protect it and a fight broke out between the two groups. Two young men from the village were injured. The harassments are almost daily occurrences.

Burin is in a valley between two ridges. The settlement Yitzhar is built on the southern ridge; the illegal outpost, Givat Ronen, is on the northern ridge. Both are built on land belonging to Burin farmers, which the owners cannot even get near to. Nine months ago settlers from Givat Ronen came into the olive groves on the western side of Burin. They set up a large tent where they hold prayer sessions with loud singing and dancing. The villagers have requested the Civil Administration to take down the tent and tell the settlers to pray in their outpost. Eight months ago the army promised to remove the tent. But, so far they have done nothing.

During the summer holidays, when there are no lessons at school, the children are at home. There are no organized activities for them. The boys play soccer in the schoolyard.

There are three schools in the village. One is an elementary school for boys. Another is an elementary and high school for girls. In this high school the emphasis is on the Humanities. The third school is a high school for both boys and girls, in which the emphasis is on science and technology. There are about 20 girls who are studying in the science and technology school, which the Council head says is not enough. More teachers for the girls are needed so that more girls can study these courses.

Two to three times a week there are problems between the settlers and this science and technology high school. The settlers throw stones, the boys throw stones back at them. Then the army comes in and throws tear gas at the village boys to disperse them. The village has asked the Palestinian Authority if they can fence in the school so that settlers can’t get in. But the army has not yet given its approval to this simple project.

 On our way out of Burin, as we passed this high school, Mustafa pointed to vast stretches of farming land around it, saying that the school owns all this land. Perhaps the settlers have set their sights on this land and that might be the reason for their constant harassment.

The girls finish high school and most go on to higher education. About 20% of the boys leave before finishing high school in order to work on family land. About 80% of the boys finish high school and 90% of them go on to University studies. We heard the same story here that we have heard in other villages – most of the young men who get permits to work in Israel, and are working in construction and agriculture, are University graduates. This is economic development power going to waste.

There is no big problem with water, the Council head told us. (Summer has only begun.) They get their water through the Palestinian Authority, which gets it from Mekorot (the Israeli water authority). Then we noticed that someone in the Council building brought us a 2 liter bottle of mineral water and some small bottles of fruit drinks. It may be that the villagers have become accustomed to the idea that for drinking—only purchased water is suitable. Or that, like in other villages, the amount of tap water is limited, and must be supplemented.

But there is a problem with the amount of electricity which they get. In 1973, when the amount of electricity was allocated, the population of the village was much smaller. Today the population has grown but the allocation has not increased.

The new road that is planned, for Israeli use only, from Tapuach Junction to the army base outside Huwarra, will also infringe on land belonging to farmers in Burin.

Our last question was how our host sees the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He sighed and said he is depressed when he thinks of the future. Ten years ago he had hope, but not now. He remembers demonstrations for peace with the participation of Yossi Sarid and Shulamit Aloni. (He mentioned their names.) But today hope is fading. “This situation will hurt both Palestinians and Israelis. Israel will lose also.”

Awarta: We spoke with A., a member of the village Council. Itamar, the settlement that is situated on the ridge overlooking the village, is the source of their problems. The main problem is the inability to access the plots of land and olive groves that are on the hillside near the settlement. It takes a long time till villagers receive permits, and then the number of days alloted is insufficient for adequate farming.

The new road will take land from Awarta, just as it will take from Huwarra and Odala. Even now, the checkpoint which they were accustomed to using in order to go into Nablus (which is minutes away from them) is now closed off and they must go a long way around to get to the city.

Due to the shortness of the time that we had for Awarta we were unable to ask many questions. Here too, as in Burin, we found a troubled attitude. “Organizations come, they ask questions, they write reports, and then nothing happens. But I am not despairing, yet.”