South Hebron Hills, Sun 7.3.10, Morning

Michal Z. (photographing) and Nurit B.

Translator:  Charles K.

This is a report of a special shift we did today, Nurit, Muhammad our driver, and me. 
We met Ehud Krinis from “The Village Group,” Hamad from OCHA and Ezara from Ta’ayush. 
The tour was made possible by a 4x4 that Nurit obtained from her kibbutz. 

The msafer are the borderlands around Yatta. They’re located southeast of the settlements of Carmel, Ma’on and outposts like Mizpeh Ya’ir. It’s a difficult desert region where Bedouin who were expelled in 1948 from the area of Arad and residents of Yata who came dozens of years ago for pasture live mainly in caves. חסימה שנפתחה צילום מיכל צדיק

For many years the IDF has been trying to expel them, claiming that the area is a firing range. From what we could see, it looks like an area that’s wide open, and other than malice and intentional neglect, there’s nothing there. Since the landscape is so harsh, an ordinary vehicle can’t get through, even though eight roadblocks were recently removed. That’s why we’re able to get there only infrequently, if and when our contacts notify us that the roadblocks were reestablished or that the IDF has made it even more difficult for the residents of the area.

Since Ehud, from the Villlages Group, described our tour, and the conditions of the Msafer so well, I've add only this to his report, quoted verbatim, below.
Written by:  Michal, Machsom Watch 

In a joint initiative of the Villages Group and Machsom Watch South, we went today on a tour of the Yatta msafer, the heart of the cave region in the southern Hebron hills.
Hamad, from OCHA, and Ezra, from Ta’ayush, were our guides.

As we noted in our reports from last year - - the msafer localities have for the past two years been subjected to intense pressure from the Israeli army, expressed, among other things, by many roadblocks made of piles of earth along the main roads connecting the msafer’s localities, as well as continual harassment by military vehicles of people from the Hebron area driving on the roads hoping to find work in Israeli localities in the Negev.  Unusually, during our tour there were no signs of the army, perhaps in honor of the first appearance of Machsom Watch women in this region, a fact that was fully taken advantage of by the unending traffic of the job seekers’ Subarus – something now weighing down the permanent residents of the masafer.

The roadblocks were open – a sign that the legal struggle to open them, conducted by Atty. Limor Yehuda from the Organization for Civil Rights, has for now borne fruit. At the same time, the condition of the unpaved road serving as the main artery for this area is quite bad, and in a number of places (as can be seen in the attached photographs) is almost completely impassable, even for a 4x4 vehicle. 
The tour brought us to the elementary school (grades 1-4, 42 pupils) which opened this year in Pahit, in the heart of the msafer. The photos we took say it all: other than the good intentions of the relief organizations that made the school's opening possible, the infrastructure they provided – a few tents, chairs and blackboards, and toilets – is so minimal and meager that today, some five months after it was opened, weather damage has made the place completely unusable. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that nowhere in our area (the entire Middle East) is a school forced to operate in such difficult conditions. But even so, the pupils continue to attend (though not when we visited), The kitchen of the teachers' roomtransported by the vehicle bought recently with donations that we helped obtain.We are grateful to Michal and Nurit, from Machsom Watch South, who came on the tour, and hope that from now on the msafer region will be a regular stop on the map of this important organization.
Written by Ehud, from the Villages Group