Jama’in, Iskaka

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Aliyah S., Ana S. (reporting)


Acute shortage of running water in Jama’in —40 to 50 litres per person a day; some 2,800 people still don’t have any, because of low water pressure. Their 73 industries require water.  In Iskaka, every two days running water for only 8 hours; sometimes, no water on this second day. Some people sell their animals to help pay for expensive water from trucks. Residents forced to spend more and more on water from trucks, thus increasing profits for truck companies. Has “Mekorot” invested in these companies, or do they get a commission?

A quick double business for Israeli truck drivers:

(1) paid for dumping garbage in Jama’in or its lands

(2) quick profit for selling cut stones bought in Jama’in.

Some drivers are caught.

Tapuach settlers’ sheep and goats eat leaves of olive trees in Jama’in. In Iskaka, last week, at night and with military protection, settlers uproot 500 olive trees. Total ruin for 4 families.

JAMA’IN. Billal, our new nice young driver, stopped by a shop to ask directions to the Council building. A young fellow ran up to the car and gave Billal a Bon Bon sweet wrapped in gold paper; when he saw us— two women sitting in the back seat—he ran into the shop and came back with two more Bon Bons for us. "I passed my matriculation exams!" he declared in a joyous voice. Then he gave Billal directions to the Council. We rejoiced in his success.

Settlements nearby: Ariel and Tapuach.

Natural Resources: stone quarries. As we heard on our previous visits, they can only work those in Area B. Since 1994 no one works in Area C quarries. Heavy machines confiscated by Army; work banned there for “security reasons.”

Industries: 73 industries, cutting and shaping stones, and others.

Acute Water Shortage. Gradually, we hear that “Mekorot’s” supply of running water is very insufficient and problematic in several ways. At first sight, in comparison with the recent past, our host calls the water situation today “acceptable”. While two months ago 60% of the residents had no running water, today this is down to only 20%. But, as a result, approximately 2,800 people have been forced for more than 2 months to buy from the expensive water trucks. And, if water does not reach their houses up the hill, it is because the water pressure is low. A simple problem easily solved: “Mekorot” need only have someone open the main water valve FULLY.   

         As we question further, our host admits that in fact the amount of  water “Mekorot” supplies—-36 cm per hour (“water flow”)—is not sufficient for the residents of this village and of Zeita Jama’in. The amount is meant for both villages. More important, irrespective of population growth (and changing habits), the water supply is still the same as it was 20 years ago.

         This is the second, and main problem: this water allocation was enough 20 years ago in 1996, when the total population of these two villages was only about 4,000 people; but today it is no longer enough for their 16,000 people. Two months ago, during the Ramadan, the council wrote to the DCO (the Palestinian District Coordinating Officer) asking that he insist that “Mekorot” increase the allocation to fit the present needs of the population. So far, there has been no increase in the water supply.

         In short, they receive between 40 to 50 litres per person per day (Lpcd). We tell him that according to WHO, the minimal water a person needs a day is 100 litres.The amount they have been receiving for several years—-enough for drinking (10 Lpcd) and cooking (20 Lpcd) and perhaps for personal washing (20 Lpcd)——means they are living at “survival level,” which according to the WHO is a situation tenable for a few days only.

         Apart from these barely satisfied personal needs, there are the residents’ domestic and collective needs (such as in schools, Mosques and Clinic) which the amount of running water cannot satisfy and which “Mekorot” completely ignores. Moreover, the 73 Jama’in industries (such as 10 grinding stones, and 35 cutting and shaving them) need water.  All of these industries are economically very important for their owners and the village as a whole, and their proper functioning requires considerable amounts of water.  

         We also hear that “Mekorot” sells them water indirectly via the Palestinian Authority’s Water Committee. Though it usually costs 45,000–60,000 sh @ month, the Municipality actually pays the Authority 104,000 sh. (2.60 sh per 1cm of water). The residents pay 4 sh per 1 cm; the difference serves as a small tax to cover Municipality expenses. 

         To make up for the insufficient “Mekorot” supply, they are thus forced to buy from the water trucks at a very high price: 50 sh per 1 cm (It’s sold at 450 sh per 9 cm). Some people also buy bottled water, also expensive. Thus, a considerable part of their income is spent just for water.

         A fourth problem is a loss of water. “Mekorot,” he tells us, has been adding chemicals to a well to purify the water, and in the process 250 cm @ day were lost. They have now completed this purifying process, but are waiting for the lab results. Apparently, the water was contaminated. By whom and how? And where is this well? Is it the one in Nablus, which he mentioned later? These questions remain to be pursued on our next visit; the council official did not explain why the process was necessary, and perhaps he himself doesn’t know the answers to all of these questions.

         As to natural sources, our host tells us that underlying Jama’in is the largest Aquifer in this whole area, which Israel now controls. Similarly, the Ein Shmetta spring in Marda lands was also taken over by “Mekorot”. Less than 30% of the homes have water cisterns (including our host’s, which can store 50 cm of rainwater @ year).  But these cisterns dried up several months ago.

SETTLERS’ HARASSMENT. First, the goats and sheep of some Tapuach settler-shepherds graze in Jama’in olive groves, eating up the leaves of these trees. Secondly, the access to some olive groves, probably those near the settlements, is difficult. Lastly, their lands reach Iskaka; when recently Tapuach settlers cut down 500 olive trees in Iskaka, they also cut down some Jama’in olive trees (see below). Some soldiers and DCOs took photos after this terrible vandalism. But no one mentioned compensations.

ELECTRICITY. Their industries need 150 ampers, high voltage. The village pays for 100 ampers. There are usually no power cuts; but 3-4 days ago, for two hours, they had no power. Thanks to their electricians, they manage.

GARBAGE DUMPING.  Some Israeli truck drivers invented a new way to make quick money in three steps, at Jama’in’s expense. First, they pick up and fill their trucks with garbage in Israel, arrive at Jama’in an hour or so after sunset, when it’s dark and the streets are empty, and secondly, just dump all the garbage in the village, perhaps in the farmlands. If caught, they say “we were just passing through”. Thirdly, they go to the quarries, buy and fill up the truck with cut stones, and sell them in Israel for a good profit. Thus, they receive money twice: for dumping the garbage and for selling the stones. In some instances, some people see them, or hear of their coming from the quarries, and advise the mayor. He then asks the District Coordination Officer (DCO) to stop and examine them, who releases them only after many hours, or even after a whole night. 

ISKAKA. We went to see and take photos of despoiled and vandalised olive groves where, about a week ago, Tapuach settlers cut down and uprooted 500 olive trees. A sad sight. Two men who were working nearby, came up to the car; they explained to Billal, our driver, that the Tapuach settlers did this at night, with the Army closing off all the sides of this wide area. When towards dawn, a farmer came to see to his fig trees, he was told to go away. He then informed the neighbours.

         A Palestinian anthropologist explains the cultural significance of  olive trees: “the olive is …a symbol of our identity. ..The trees represent the continuity of a nation and our rootednes in the land” (retrieved, J. Cook, Counterpunch 24.08.16).              

         Completely uprooted, these 500 trees lie shriveled and dried up in the fields. How much hate must these settlers feel to be able to creep stealthily at night to undo poor farmers’ hard work. The 500 trees belonged to 4 families. They have now lost all they possessed and worked for, to ensure their children’s future.

         WATER. The council official, absent from the office, was probably busy shutting and opening the water valves, to ensure an equal distribution of the very small amount of water “Mekorot” allocates Iskaka. With the help of Billal, we spoke to the nice receptionist. The acute shortage we reported 3 weeks ago continues, she says. That is, running water only every second day and only for 8 hours. Sometimes, she says, the water does not return even on the second 8-hour day. Some impoverished people have had to sell off their domestic animals to pay for the expensive water from the trucks.