Ras a-Tin: The army stole the water and confiscated the tractor

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Tzvia Shapira, Nurit Popper and Daphne Banai, translation Tal H.

In the northern part of the Palestinian Jordan Valley, alongside home demolitions and equipment confiscations, a new settler-colony is being planned – undoubtedly in the area of Hamam Al Malih. A week ago, a tour was held there in preparation for settling the stolen land that has received the name of Aliyot Eliyahu – in Hebrew: Elijah’s Ascents. During the weekend, the new settler-colonists settled down nearby under the aegis of the Israeli army inside an army base. At a demonstration of Palestinians protesting the takeover of the area which is densely populated with shepherd communities, many protestors were wounded by live fire both of the settler-colonists and soldiers.

At the same time, the spring at En Al Hilwa is being fenced in now, by settler-colonists under the aegis of the regional council. This spring has been watering dozens of Palestinian flocks, and in the past the Palestinians were promised that the place would go on serving the locals. Well – promises are made and broken.

On the border of the quarry Kochav Hashachar (an Israeli-owned quarry that steals Palestinian resources), in an area filled with white powdery dust, 13 families including their children, elderly and wives have been thrown to stay without any shelter save for a sack-cloth tent and another tiny tent which the Red Crescent donates to the victims of every demolition. A week ago, July 14, the soldiers came – secured from head to toe (who exactly are they fighting? Babies and the elderly?) and left not a stone standing. They poured all the water out of the tanker and confiscated it with a crane. A truck picked up a tractor and the other tanker. They confiscated the refrigerator and solar panels as well. They left the helpless inhabitants without a drop of water and no electricity whatsoever. I saw all this in Humsa as well. How far have we slipped downhill, that we – the State of Israel – steals previous water in this seething heat and leaves little children thirsty?

The family we met is originally from the South Hebron Hills. They came 21 years ago and ever since, have been leasing the land from its Palestinian owner of Malik village. We also saw some plowed fields next to the encampment. The father said they sow wheat there in the winter. They had been living quietly, plowing and sowing, the children walking to school at a distance of 1 km from the encampment. All this until, in recent years, a settler-colonist (probably N.) erected an illegal outpost (illegal even by Israeli apartheid laws) and ever since he has been harassing them, hurting them, denying them access to the grazing grounds, and now the army comes and completes the job – destroying everything. Lately we witness horrible dejection. Apparently, Israel has lost all sense of shame and is waging evil all-out war to dispossess the Palestinians all over the Jordan Valley.

Humsa – in a single tent together with the sheep sit the two sisters – Falastin and Yusra, surrounded by their 8 brothers who came to visit as is wont during the holiday. The atmosphere is festive despite the dire situation, and everyone immediately invites us to join the circle. There are sounds of laughter, and the brothers tell us each about their lives. One of them has just finished dental studies and wishes to found a mobile clinic that would travel among the shepherd communities and offer them care. Has any of our readers an idea how to help him? We see many toothless young people, and many who suffer toothaches. Another brother has been working for years in an aluminum plant in Bnei Brak (inside Israel) and wanted to know his rights. We inquired with Kav La’Oved and connected him through Rachel Afek to someone who could help. I. has 7 sons and 3 daughters. She is still young, but her face already shows lines of distress. She tells us how the army has totally erased their life in Humsa. It has not buried the homes, so she emphasizes – it has literally erased them from the face of the earth.

I then drove with A. to their former residence inside the firing zone, to bring kitchen utensils, pots, dishes, silver and bowls, from where he hid them when the army confiscated everything and left them with nothing. The army left piles of junk – bent rods, ripped nylon sheets, bikes, perhaps to vacate them later. I suggested we come to fix those things in order to rebuild, outside the firing zone, but they are frightened.]

Umm Jamal – On our way my car was stuck in a stream that we needed to cross in order to reach the community. At the end of the visit the son had one of his neighbors with a tractor and cable pull my car out of the mud. They refused, were even offended at my suggestion to pay them for their help. M. from Umm Jamal had his tractor confiscated – it was used to bring water to his family which includes 8 children, 3 grandchildren, a flock of sheep and 2 camels. The family was left with no water, for Israel denies water to Palestinian shepherds and prevents any possibility for bringing water. I have a special connection with Sara, M.’s 12-year-old daughter who ever since she was 4 always held my hand in her own little one and said “Would you have some tea?” This time she was too shy. Unlike her, Fatma, the 1.5-year-old granddaughter was the star. She took her grandfather’s prayer rug, spread it on the ground, squatted and held her face to the ground as if praying. Then she got up a bit and held her hands to the sides of her face. Every time she did this, she peeped to watch the admiring adults.

A week ago, a settler-colonist from Maskiyot, called Shay, came with the army and demanded that their tractor be confiscated because it entered the firing zone. (He demanded this, not the army!) Certainly, it entered there. The family lives in an area declared a firing zone even before it was used as such. The family revolted and did not agree to hand over the tractor. And the army, which as we know does any settler-colonist‘s bidding, bypassed the obstacle, arrested M. and shackled him The mother, her face swollen from surgery she had undergone the previous week, along with the small children, stood in front of the tractor trying to prevent the confiscation of their source of livelihood. Then our soldier heroes brought out their pepper spray and used it on the eyes of the children and their mother!

The whole time, Didi, settler-colony Rotem’s security official, stood nearby and made sure that his lackeys were accomplishing their job to his satisfaction.

I feel that if those soldiers must one day fight other armed soldiers, they would run off as fast as they can. They are simply not trained to confront anyone over the age of 8…

It is not yet clear when M. can have his tractor back. In the meantime M. and F., his wife, and their 8 children have no water!! A charming, generous, warm family.

The height of evil is the prevention of people from having water, in the middle of a harsh summer yet. There is no forgiveness for this. I cannot fathom how their conscience lets them do this. Water!!!