Deir Ballut: "enough of war and blood!"

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

Deir Ballut: We thought we would go to Kufr alDik and then to Deir Ballut. In Kufr alDik the Council was closed so we went on to Deir Ballut. At the entrance, we saw the big red signs that said it was forbidden for us to go into Deir Ballut so we went back to Kufr alDik to find someone to talk to. Mustafa stopped the car next to a man standing on the street and spoke to him. By chance, he was from Deir Ballut and was happy to talk with us. He invited us to enter a nearby grocery, as the weather was cold and windy. They offered us chairs and we interviewed him about Deir Ballut.

Deir Ballut is a village of about 4,500 people. The Israeli settlements that surround the village – Leshem, Paduel, Alei Zahav – have taken a lot of land from the village. The settlers do not come into the village to harass them, but he said he does not like the situation where his son goes out of the house to play and sees a soldier who is aiming a rifle at him. “That is not the way a neighbor should behave.  Enough of war and blood! Mothers on both sides lose their sons without reason, we all lose!”

The man spoke some Hebrew and understood some of what we were saying. He had spent 12 years in an Israeli prison. We asked him to tell his story. When he was younger, he had been a member of a Fatach group. In the first intifada, a member of the group (not him) had killed an Israeli soldier. The entire group was arrested, tried and imprisoned for 12 years. We asked what his reasons were for joining the group. “Under international law a person can do things to protect his personal property,” he said.

   Improvements in the village:  There have been some improvements in the village, but it is very difficult to get permits from the Civil Administrationinfo-icon. He has requested permission to dig a well on his land and has not been allowed to do it. Ten years ago the village built a new school, but the army didn’t allow the village to use the school for several years until they finally got a court order for its use. The village wants to widen the road into the village but do not have a permit for it. Even though the land for these projects is village land they still need permits from the IDF. They did open a sports field for the young people last year.

   Employment: The men must work wherever they can find jobs. Many work in Israel, he also mentioned Kfar Kasem, and some have found jobs in the settlements. In the village, there are sewing workrooms that sell the clothes they make to Israel. There are also carpentry workshops that sell what they make to Israel.

The Conflict Israel-Palestine: He was very interested in talking about Israeli-Palestinian relations.” In the Oslo Accords,” he said, “the Palestinian Authority recognized Israel up to the green line – the border up to 1967. However, Israel did not fulfill the Oslo Accords. Yossi Beilin said that the Palestinians would get their rights, but not Jerusalem. How could we agree to that? And what peace do the Israelis want when they take all the water from us?” (Israel takes 85% of the water from the aquifer that is in the West Bank.) “The sewage from the Israeli settlements flows down onto our lands and is poisoning the land.”

           “In the Palestinian villages, we have houses and streets. In the refugee camps, the houses are small and cramped, and the streets are so narrow that if there is a funeral a coffin cannot be carried through the street. In Israel, all new immigrants are given a grant so they can live. Here we can barely make a living.” We said that we had heard that the Palestinians got money from Saudi. “They only gave money for terrorists,” he said.

           We asked him what he thinks the future will be. “As long as Netanyahu is in the government no good will come of it. And a government that wants peace would not have Bennet as minister.” He said he didn’t want to talk too much as there are collaborators all around. If he is denounced, his situation will be much worse. We were surprised, but he said that in the cities it is even worse. “In the cities there are organizations that are really Mafia. In the villages, everyone knows everyone. When there is a wedding, everyone comes. We eat and drink and dance, and then we go home. We don’t give gifts. Also at funerals everyone comes.”

            His last question to us was, “You are on the left. Do you try to talk to the right and explain our situation here?” We said our reports go on our website and when we meet someone on the right, we try to talk to them.

           We had spent a lot of time talking with our new friend, so we left the interview with someone from Kufr alDik for another visit. On our way back to the crossover into Israel, we saw several large and small pumping stations for Mekorot. The Palestinians get only 15% of that water, although they are the vast majority of the people living in the West Bank.