Sewage from Eli and Rehelim settlements continue shamelessly to flows through As-Sawiya cultivated lands

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

Places: Zeita (Jama'in), As-Sawiya, Al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya

MAIN POINTS.  Al-Lubban receives insufficient water, sometimes none for 2 or 3 days in the long, hot summer. In contrast, neighboring As-Sawiya has a  water reservoir holding 200 cubic meters, and the water pressure is good. But because their pipelines are old and leaking, they only receive 48% of the Mekorot allocation. The village is connected to a new electrical company which provides sufficient power, after many years of old installations and insufficient power. The worse is that settlers from Eli and Rehelim continue shamelessly dumping their sewage down on Sawiya cultivated lands. Some olive groves are now swampy (and smelly!) and so inaccessible to their owners. 

Palestinian workers have to pay 2,200 sh—2,500 sh. to get a work permit in Israel. Some Israeli contractors buy 100 work permits and make a nice profit.

Zeita (Jama'in): On our previous visit they asked us for games and toys for the kindergarten and the elementary school. Mustafa called the kindergarten teacher to arrange our visit. A table was expecting us in the yard with coffee, a large pita with zaatar, another one with cheese and vegetables, cut tomatoes, olives, and some sweets. We gave them the toys and games each of us had brought.

It is a private kindergarten for 70 children aged 4-5 years, divided into 3 classes of 20 each. We greeted the children, who were sitting in neat rows at small desks, like a regular classroom. They greeted us, and we waved good-bye. We asked the teacher if they were already learning to read and write. She told us that while some can read after a fortnight, all of them read after 1 month. They also learn to write their names.  This seems to be the norm for Palestinian children.

As-Sawiya: We met with A., the secretary, whom we know from previous visits.

OLIVE HARVEST hasn’t begun yet, and will only begin on Sunday, October 27 and go on till 4.11. We hope they won’t have rain then. He said the roads to the groves are open and there are no gatesinfo-icon. On these 4 days, he hopes the soldiers’ presence will prevent settlers from coming and troubling the harvesters. UNEMPLOYMENT is high at 20%.  This is due to the difficulty and the expense to get a permit to enter and work in Israel. Granting work permits has become a very profitable private business for a chain of Israeli contractors, each one charging a commission. The Palestine worker gives the requisite forms to the Israel DCO (District Coordinating Officer), who sends them on to the Israeli contractor.  This man receives 100 permits from the Interior Ministry and sells each one for 2,000 to 2,500 sh.

In short, the Palestinian worker must pay 2,000 to 2,500 sh. for the “privilege” of being allowed to work in Israel— even before earning 100 shekels for his first day’s work.

ELECTRICITY: After years when old installations prevented them getting sufficient electricity,  now they have enough electricity. This is due first to the Mayor’s insistence and then the PA’s paying to renew the old wiring, with funding from the EU.  Secondly, we learned that, as A. had told us last time would happen, the village is now connected to a different Israeli private company of Electricity.  And lastly,  A. explained that because Israeli settlements are very close to the village (Eli to the south and Rechelim to the north), it was easier to connect the village to the same electrical grid as these settlements.  For a change, the presence of settlements helped Palestinians.

WATER. Now they have a new water reservoir holding 200 cubic meters,  and the pressure has been right—-yet they only receive 48% of the Mekorot water allocation. This is due to a 52% leakage because the pipelines which distribute water to the homes and buildings are old, and have not been renewed. Changing to new pipes is very expensive. Yes, they requested the Palestine Authority to replace them with new ones—5 years ago!—but so far this has not yet happened.

SEWAGE DUMPING is a very serious problem for the village. The settlements Eli and Rechelim shamelessly continue to dump their sewage on the village fields and olive groves below. So much so that some farmers cannot access their groves because the soil is now swampy and smelly. The sewage harms the groves and is seeping into the water aquifer and polluting it.  On a previous visit some months ago, we met a villager outside the council, who complained strongly to us about this terrible problem. We reported this to the Ecological Society, who in turn said they needed more specific details in order to address the problem. But though we called this man asking for this information, he did not send it to us.

We now asked A. the secretary to please send the needed details to us.

The village has not been able to get close enough to the settlements to make a video that would certify what is happening. A. hopes that during the olive harvesting, when hopefully the army will keep the settlers away, someone will be able to take a video and he will send it on to us. Let’s hope this unacceptable situation will, at last, be stopped, and that the health hazards and damage to the aquifer serving both the Palestinian lands and Israel will not be irreversible.

Al-Lubban-ash-Sharqiya. The village is smaller than As-Sawiya, on the same side of the road, but closer to Eli. We went to the mini-market as usual and talked with A. the owner, who greeted us warmly.

WATER. Mekorot has full control over the supply since only they have the keys to the village water valves. In the summer sometimes they have no water at all for 2 or 3 days. As in other places, of course, there is enough water in the winter… She told us that in 2018, the council did not have enough money to pay for the water. So Mekorot at first threatened to stop the supply altogether, but later sent people from door to door to collect the money due, and denied water to those who couldn’t pay.

GARBAGE COLLECTION. A. is very unsatisfied with the malfunctioning council services. The streets are badly in need of repair, and worse, the garbage removal is faulty,  without proper garbage containers. An old man walks around the village (up hilly, twisting streets) collecting garbage from each household.

We told her how As-Sawiyya had solved some of their problems, and how in Turmus Ayya they had been able to repair streets thanks to foreign donations. We encouraged her to form a Women’s Organisation, gave her the telephone number of the one in Huwarra, and suggested that perhaps women would solve the problems men were neglecting.  We also brought her an article about a Bedouin village Jubbet-ad-Dib, which is very successfully run by some 14 women (Netta Ahituv, “A Tale of grit and grids”, Haaretz 10.10.19).

BOYS’ HIGH SCHOOL. So far, no problems: at the beginning of the school year, the teachers told the boys to come to school and go home through the back, i.e. through the fields, to avoid the main road and the dreaded confrontations with the soldiers.

However, now that the rains are beginning, this will not be possible on many days when the fields will be very muddy. So, of course, A. the mother worries for her son who cannot run away from pursuing soldiers like the other boys.

GAS BOMB IN HER SHOP.  Some days ago, soldiers passed her shop—as they do about once a month. It was being repaired, and A. had asked the workmen to appear at the entrance, so the soldiers could see them. For some unintelligible and unexplained reason, the passing soldiers suddenly threw a gas bomb into her shop and then moved on without so much as a word of explanation. She had to close the shop for 2 days till they finally spotted the bomb and her husband threw it away. Luckily, it hadn’t exploded, but she is still traumatized.