Yatma - the farmers were given permits for 3 days to harvest but the soldiers chased the villagers out of their plots on the second day.

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Aliyah S. (Eng.), Ana S. (Edit), Rachel S. (Heb.), Nathalie C., Mustafa (driver and translator)

Yatma is a small village of 4,000 people, just south-east of Tapuach Junction, and east of the Israeli settlement of Rehelim. We spoke with the Council head and with the Council manager, Z. and H.

The Olive Harvest: Altogether, the entire village has 4,000 dunams of agricultural land. Most of the harvest went well. It was a good year for the crop. But 500 dunams of olive trees are near the settlement Rehelim. To work these plots the farmers need permits from the Civil Administrationinfo-icon. The farmers were given permits for 3 days in which to do the harvest, which is really not enough time. The farmers’ families spent many hours working on the first day. On the second day, when the harvesters returned to their plots, they found the settlers had come into the groves at night. They had stolen the olives and the equipment, such as ladders and saws. The village complained to the Civil Administration and soldiers arrived. The soldiers chased the villagers out of their plots and that was the end of the harvest in those plots for their owners. Another violation of the work permit and of their right to work.

The Israeli army causes additional problems. Two months ago they closed off the main entrance/exit of the village to the road that leads to Tapuach Junction. The closureinfo-icon means that the villagers must go around on unpaved paths in order to get in or out of the village. Worse, it also means that the farmers cannot get to 1,500 dunams of their land located on the side of the road opposite to the village— about 40% of their total land. Besides olive trees, the farmers also have fig trees, vine trees, almond trees and field crops on this land, all of which require work all year round—much more than with olive trees. Villagers never know how long the closure will last or when there will be another one. No reason has ever been given for these closures.

Employment: There is about 40% unemployment in the village. Many of those employed work in Israel. A few work in Ramallah for the Palestinian Authority. About 1/3 earn their living from agriculture. H. said he works on his farm, but he doesn’t earn much that way. A few of the young people have gone abroad, but they are not earning a lot. Their main agricultural product is olive oil. About 80% is used by the families. About 20% is sold to Israel, the Palestinian cities, Nablus and Ramallah, and some others.

Water: only some homes have a cistern. But water has not been a problem since 2016—when the communal water reservoir holding 3,025 mc became operative. Built in Area B, where permits are not needed, it was not paid by the Palestinian Authority, but by local taxes on water. The Municipality pays 2.8 sh per mc, but charges each family 5 sh; and 9 sh if they use more than their allocation. The difference pays for salaries, the reservoir, and other expenses.

Electricity: About 1/3 of the villagers are linked to the electrical network of nearby Qabalan. But the majority suffer from power outages twice a week lasting several hours. The Israeli electricity company demands 500,000 shekels to solve the problem by installing new infrastructure. The present one, installed 35 years ago in 1984, is inadequate for the increased population and their electrical machinery and devices. As in most villages, the Palestinian Authority has failed to pay and ensure a satisfactory electrical supply.

The Trump Deal: What do they think of the Trump Deal? “Israel and Palestine should go back to the Oslo Accords.”     

Qabalan is a larger village bordering on Yatma to the south-east. We spoke with a woman, S., who is a teacher, and also worked in the Palestine Tourist Office. She speaks English. She was born and raised in Kuwait and now lives and works in Ramallah. But Qabalan is her family village and she always returns to it. Since 2000 until now in 2020 she has been asking the Israeli Civil Administration for a Palestinian ID card, and has not received one. Without a card she is rather afraid of the checkpoints.

“The occupation is the real problem,” says S. Settlers come into the village at night and damage cars. This happens more during the summer than in the winter.”

In her work in tourism S. said she met with Jews. (She didn’t specify if they were Israelis or from abroad.) “They are nice, and educated, but they don’t know the problems we Palestinians have. For instance, that there are 300 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons.”

We asked her what she thought of the Trump Deal. “It’s a slap in the face for the Palestinians.”

We were sorry we didn’t have more time to talk as we had to make our train back to Tel Aviv.

The Olive Harvest: The olive groves are not near any settlements and the farmers do not have to get permits. Even so, settlers from several settlements – Eli, Maaleh Levona, Rehelim and Migdalim – come into those farmers’ groves that are further from the village when the families are harvesting. They come with dogs and machine guns to chase the families out of their groves. The children and older women are frightened. The settlers also come into the groves at night and cut down trees. This way they stop the harvest.