Deir Ballut, Rafat, Tue 9.7.13, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
Today our shift was part of the documentation project carried out by Miriam, Miki and Karin. Karin asked us to visit two villages: Deir Ballut and Rafat. Here’s the information we received from the chairmen of the local councils:
09:00 We left the Rosh HaAyin train station.
09:30 Deir Ballut. We met with the head of the local council, the attorney and a number of his assistants who answered all our questions at length.
Deir Ballut now has 4500 residents, and only 750 dunums of land remain. Before 1967 the village had 46,000 dunums. In 2000 a fence was built that expropriated 6000 dunums of irrigated land (in addition to 600 dunums jointly owned by residents of Deir Ballut and Rafa’at because of marriage ties). The village had no olive groves on the expropriated land. Since the fence was built villagers aren’t able to access and work their lands because there’s no gate.
What happened to the stolen lands? The settlement of El’ad was built on some of them. Infrastructure work is currently underway between Rosh HaAyin and Migdal Tzedek, next to the quarries. Some of this land also belongs to Deir Ballut. Electric poles were erected there recently. Preparations for a new settlement? Lands are also being expropriated between Deir Ballut and Kafr a-Dic to enlarge the settlements of Alei Zahav and Peduel.
The local council head has no illusions regarding the future of the lands: “The dead don’t return.”
The village, all of which was in Area B, was redefined. The boundary between Area B and Area C passes arbitrarily through the center of the village. As a result, the owners of 60-70 buildings are involved in a long legal process and their homes are liable to be demolished because the land on which they stand was redefined as Area C. The head of the local council himself, who lives in a house built by his father in 1943, has 50 dunums of land on which he planned to build for his children. Now he’s prevented from assisting his children because that land has also been categorized as Area C.
Absurd consequences of categorizing some village land as Area C:
- Construction of the village school was funded by the villagers and contributions from Europe. Today part of the school building is in Area B and another part is in Area C. For eleven years the village has been involved in legal procedures to obtain a permit to build a third storey for the school (on their own land!), but with no result.
- The local council head wants to lay out a soccer field for the use of the village’s young people. He needs 8-9 dunums for it. He only has available 60-70 square meters. The dream of a soccer field apparently won’t come true.
Mekorot supplies 8000 cubic meters of metered water for the 4500 village residents at a price of NIS 4.2 per cubic meter, or 1.777 cubic meters per person. According to the UN, a person is entitled to receive 80-100 litres a day. The army has forbidden residents of the village to sink wells that could ease their water shortage.
Only 30-40 people have permits to work in Israel. Most are employed in the settlements and the Barkan industrial zone. The rest survive hand-to-mouth.
There’s an army base next to the El’ad settlement. When the soldiers train, bullets hit and sometimes enter the school. Soldiers frequently arrive, stop people and demand their IDs. So far, settlers haven’t entered the village.
We met with the head of the local council and several of his assistants who described to us conditions in the village with the help of aerial maps,.
The village is relatively small, 2500 residents. Since 2006, when the fence was built, 45% of the village lands have been expropriated – 10,000 dunums. Only 12,000 dunums remain. Villagers are forbidden to approach the fence to see their land (“to feel better…”). The village buildings were defined in 1988 as located in Area B. But, because of the settlements of Alei Zahav and Peduel, the buildings are now categorized as belonging to Area C, where construction is prohibited. And what about taking natural increase into account, as happens with the settlements??
This is the most difficult problem in the village. The village’s water comes from Mekorot through pipes laid 25 years ago, funded by contributions from abroad. The pipes are old, full of holes, and much of the water intended for the village leaks into the ground. But Mekorot charges according to what its meter shows. In 2012, 48,000 cubic meters of water were lost, even though the villagers have to pay for them from their meager funds. And if they don’t pay on time, they’re fined. The amount of water remaining for all the villagers’ needs is only a few liters per person, less than one cubic meter. The cost of repairing/replacing the pipes is estimated at one million shekels. Who’s responsible? By definition, the responsibility for the welfare of a population under occupation lies with the occupying power. Will Israel allocate the funds? The head of the local council has no illusions. He’s trying to get money from Europe, so far without success. He asks that we, Machsom Watch, find a way to help.
It should be noted that there are wells on the expropriated land, but the villagers are forbidden to approach them. They’re also forbidden to sink new wells, since the land remaining to them is defined as Area C.
People used to have permits to work in Israel. Today most are employed as carpenters, metalworkers, electricians, etc. by people in the village and in neighboring villages. How much do they earn during a workday of ten or more hours? Only 40-50 shekels.
As in many West Bank villages, olive trees are a source of villagers’ income. While there’s no current prohibition against accessing the groves during the harvest season, but at preset times, the agricultural roads that once existed were destroyed by the army. The olive pickers, most of them elderly, must walk a long distance or ride a donkey because carts can’t get through the rocky landscape. One of the village’s immediate needs is money to pave new agricultural roads.
The village is occasionally placed under curfew, and army patrols through the village are frequent. A few months ago soldiers came at night, took youths from their homes – after destroying their contents. One villager has served nine years of a seventeen-year prison sentence.. Bedouin live on a small portion of the lands confiscated from the village. When the army conducts maneuvers the area is defined as a firing range and the Bedouin are sent away from their miserable tents.
12:00 Back via the villages of Zawiyya, Mesha, Bidiya. All are quiet; no military presence. From there we continue to Highway 5. The settlement of Netafim to the left, the settlement of Barkan to the right. We can see construction underway to enlarge them both.