Bidiya, Mes'ha, Tue 16.7.13, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
09:00 Rosh HaAyin train station.
09:30 Bidiya, the district capital. A bustling town. Shops on the main street are open, some with impressive show windows. There are also a number of shops for women’s accessories in the center of town whose selection of merchandise is equal to that of the average store in Tel Aviv. Elections were held recently for the “Hitkommemut” party [free translation from Arabic to Hebrew]; posters with pictures of the candidates were everywhere.
Like every district capital, Bidiya handles payments, problems and requests of all residents of the district. The interior of the municipal building is designed for that purpose: it’s functional and well-organized. Signs direct residents to various counters. Above some doors are signs in English: “Public Relations;” “Mayor.”
We meet with the mayor. His office is well-equipped and generously furnished. He speaks Hebrew fluently, from when he worked in Israel as a contractor. It seems that our meeting is an opportunity for him to pour out what’s in his heart about the situation, and his belly is full: he’s angry at the Israel government’s repeated use of the word “security”: “Someone who doesn’t steal doesn’t have to worry about their security. Israel stole Palestinian land, and that’s why it’s so worried about its security.” He has five children, supports Abu-Mazen’s policy of peace. But, how does daily life look to the children, whom he can’t even take on trips? Israel prevents Palestinians from living honorably: “We’re treated like dogs.” He’s pessimistic about the future: “The end is bleak.” He told us he visited a number of Arab countries and envied the daily life he saw there, compared to life in the territories.
“What, after all, do we want? That we’ll also have the little things that allow us a normal life, like normal people should.” His words touched our hearts.
And what’s happening in a town of 12,000 people?
Of 22,000 dunums, 2000 remain on which they may build. The boundary between Area B and Area C also runs through Bidiya as it does through other localities. And the absurdity: The municipality is allowed to collect garbage only in Area B… Many of the olive trees belonging to the residents are located on expropriated land, beyond the fence. The owners don’t necessarily receive permits every year to harvest the olives. They’ll welcome help during the harvest.
The checkpoints on the way to Nablus and Jenin are a major problem for the residents. The problem is particularly serious during Ramadan, when people want to travel to the big cities. The soldiers’ rude behavior and the long delays anger and insult people going through the checkpoints. If they were eliminated, or if crossing was made easier, people’s lives would be better.
A large tanker nearby provides water both to Palestinian localities and to settlements according to the following allocation – 25% to Palestinians, 75% to settlements, irrespective of population size. Who decides on the allocation? The Jews, of course.
Many residents work locally: teachers, policemen, etc. About 40% work in Israel. Only half of them have entry permits. And the others? They find ways… The district capital also provides welfare services to 250 poor families. They receive free water and electricity and NIS 700 per month.
There are eight schools in Bidiya: three for boys, three for girls, and two that are private. The town’s university has 1200 students.
There are two clinics. Physicians for Human Rights visit from time to time.
We meet with a group of people, including the person in charge of water, the village accountant and a teacher. The other two participants are translators.
6000 dunums of village land were expropriated; 2800 dunums remain. There are olive groves on the expropriated lands. During the harvest season the Israeli authorities allow only one member of a family to reach the olive groves. Each year the residents have great difficulty obtaining permits to cross through the agricultural gates (which open only for the harvest, one month a year). One person tells us he has a permit which expired this past March and he can’t renew it, even though the harvest season will begin in a few months. They request our help in obtaining permits for the olive harvest. They’re willing to provide a list of people.
What sits on the expropriated village land? The settlement of Elkana.
The village had been promised that a route would be paved through Elkana to Israel. The promise wasn’t kept. People going to Israel must drive all the way to Qalqilya and each morning suffer through its checkpoint.
When we try to find out about life in the village, they’re not willing to provide information. “Everything’s sweet as honeyl”…
The situation has improved. The army enters less frequently; there are no problems with settlers from the area. No villagers are still in prison.
Water is supplied by Mekorot. There’s no shortage of water. The quantity is sufficient.
Some villagers work in Israel, others in the settlements.
There are three schools in the village and two clinics; a doctor visits three times a week.
The high point this summer is a group of volunteers, American students, who have come for a month, live in the village, teach young people English and take trips with the kids.
We stop on the way home to see the fence surrounding the solitary house next to Elkana, and the sign: “Welcome to the state of Ali 'Umar” (which was already described in one of the reports).
12:30 Back to Rosh HaAyin.