Funduq, Imatin, Tuesday1.10.2013 am
09:00 We left from the Rosh Ha’Ayin train station. The road is open, few civilian cars travelling in either direction. No visible military presence.
09:30 Al-Funduq municipality. We meet the head of the municipality, an impressive man, welcoming; he’d taught history at the University of Algeria, speaks fluent French and English. He’d heard of Machsom Watch and believes we can help. And he had an unusual request that we’d not heard in any of the villages we’d visited:
Al-Funduq is located on Highway 55 running from Jit junction to Qalqilya through a number of settlements. The small village (600 inhabitants) is a shopping and business center for neighboring villages and for the settlements in the area. The village’s main street is the center of village life, and many vehicles, Israeli as well as Palestinian, speed through it every day. Pedestrians walking on the roadside, or attempting to cross, endanger their lives. The result – fatal accidents. Four residents of the village have been hit by cars and killed. A ten year old boy has been lying unconscious in Beilinson Hospital for a number of months.
The municipal head invited us to walk with him along the road from the municipality, pointing out the problem: no traffic signs. There are no warning signs on the road, no pedestrian crossings, no speed limit signs, no protective railings. The Palestinian Authority police are unable to do anything (the road is in Area C) without DCO approval, which isn’t granted. The head of the municipality is even willing to collect money from the inhabitants in order to pay for the necessary safety arrangements, but his hands are tied because the Israeli police don’t issue the required permits. Can we help?
Like many other villages under occupation, Al-Funduq can’t expand: a third of the village’s land is Area B. But the majority, two-thirds, is Area C where, as you know, construction is prohibited. Moreover, the economic condition of the village is relatively good. There’s an advantage in being located on a main route: many customers, both Palestinians and Israelis, shop there every day and provide a living also for residents of nearby villages who work in Al-Funduq. The villagers have no problem accessing their land. The olive harvest also proceeds unhindered. They have a regular supply of water and electricity. Four years ago there were riots, during which a soldier was killed. It’s been quiet since.
A 15-minute drive from Al-Funduq, and a completely different picture. Why the significant difference between the two villages? The location.
We meet with two members of the municipal council who describe a very difficult situation: Unfortunately, the lands of the 4000 residents border the Gil’ad Farm, one of the most violent settlements. The villagers constantly suffer from attacks and maliciousness of the settlers living there. Burning of olive trees, theft of sheep, damaging tractors, puncturing tires, blocking wells, beating villagers are everyday occurrences. And when the villagers organize to confront the settlers they’re accused of violence and jailed. Recently “B’tselem” installed cameras, so now the settlers wear masks during their depradations. When the olive harvest is underway the villagers must organize specially to defend themselves against the settlers’ terror. This year the villagers are permitted to harvest for only four days – October 20-23. On those days the army will be there to keep order (an arrangement that has been in effect for three years). The more volunteers who come to help with the harvest, the safer the villagers will feel and the less danger there will be of attacks by settlers. Many villagers work in Palestinian cities – Nablus, Ramallah, Qalqilya. Few work in the settlements. Recently Imatin was joined with the neighboring village of Farata, with 500 inhabitants, which is even closer to the Gil’ad Farm. Now they’re trying to prevent a high-tension electrical line being erected on village land. Construction has been stopped; the council members say that the Palestinian Authority and Israel decided to change the route.