Bethlehem, Mon 10.8.09, Afternoon

Yael I., Ruth O., Ilana D. (reporting)

From 3:00 till 6:30 PM, Bethlehem - Wallaje:  we had not been to see the older A. and his family in Wallaje for quitesome time and since we also wanted to inspect the continued extension of theHar Gilo settlement, we decided to devote our entire shift to the village of Wallaje.

The Ein Yael Checkpoint:  on the other side of the railroad resembles atrue slalom course. There are many soldiers and no civilian guards, no one wasdetained or held up.

The residents of Wallaje have removed the earth mounds within thevillage on the way to Cremisan. The army no longer bothers them at this pointapparently. The new houses of Har Gilo are smack on top of the village and thisis before the planned new Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Yael is built.

Our friend A. and his family were happy to see us and he very muchneeded to vent his frustrations and pleased to find eager ears. On the outsidethings appear reasonable. His living room and entrance hall had been repainted(‘we had some money and why not enjoy the fact that we still have a house’) andwith the low windows and wonderful view it was a pleasure to visit. We wereoffered grapes, sabres and figs from his plot, which he waters sparingly from theirown wells. The village is lucky in that it enjoys the water supply of Har Giloand thus, unlike the people in Beit Jalla and Bethlehem, they suffer no water shortage. A.told us that most people there have no money to pay for the water which isdistributed in containers.

On the way we saw some heaps of rubble next to the road and later foundout that the UN pays minimal wages to some unemployed men to work at enlargingthe road.

All the men have magnetic cards, but no work permit and labor in theterritories is cheap. Therefore his son the electrician, if he works, earns nomore than 100 NIS a day and his brother the plumber only 89 NIS. The thirdbrother still stakes medication and is unable to work, but tills A’s garden.The produce is sold in the West Bank, butdoesn’t pay for the amount of work invested. This son had spent six monthsunder investigation (and torture) with the Security Services in the RussianCompound and has never been normal since. They have heard nothing re theirapplication to Canada.

Nevertheless the three brothers had left last Wednesday for a two-weekvacation to Jordan.They had not even told their father who only realized this when a taxi came topick them up to proceed to the bridge. They have an uncle near Amman, but don’t even want to stay with him,wishing only to close the door on all their troubles at home for a littlewhile.

Those people from Wallaje who had applied for blue ID cards had beenallowed to cross into and out of Israel via the Ein Yael CP and tofind work. Their lot is better than those of A. and his sons, but the decisionof the High Court was for three months only and the final verdict is stillunknown. Abed who sells vegetables near the CP is shunned by all theinhabitants of Wallaje who do not want to have anything to do with him. He issuspected by all and apparently has had sinister dealings in the past.

A. himself sees the future very bleak. Unless some calamity happens,nothing will change. He said that Obama is too weak, he cannot even prevent theextension of the settlements; the settlers are the bosses and supermen. Heenvisages a war or else some earthquake or other natural disaster to bring thesituation back into balance. He is not worried about himself, but knows that ifhis children and grandchildren do not join the ranks of the extremists theywill suffer.

A. is a wise man, it had been lovely sipping cold water, excellentcoffee and tea in succession with the view of his orchard and the mountainsbeyond, but depressing to hear about his attempts to make some money from thebeehives he had bought only to realize that for lack of rain there had been noflowers in the spring and he will have no more than 20 kilos honey. Also somebirds devour the bees and therefore he had one financial loss after the other.A. insisted we take home loads of his produce, our refusal was notrespected. 

On the way back the slalom track at the CP was clogged and became verycrowded, only because one trunk was opened and no other cars could pass.Needless to say only the settlers honked.