Dir Istia, Immatin
09:30 We leave from the train station in Rosh HaAyin.
10:10 Deir Istiya – We reach the village on a very bad road passing through the narrow alleys in Haris and continuing through the olive groves to a side entrance into the village. The reason we "sneak" into the village on a road only an experienced driver like Nadim can find is that the main entrance, where the villagers have decided to construct an impressive arched building, has been blocked by the army. We are happy to see that the villagers keep on building in spite of the barrier made of rocks.
When we enter the village we contact Z. who will accompany us during our visit. Our first stop is at the regional council. We hope to meet the head of the council, a woman who was elected after a stormy campaign, but to our disappointment she is in Salfit today. The secretary tells us that this woman who has just taken office is not the only one; in a number of villages on the West Bank, women who have defeated male candidates are now in office as heads of the regional councils. This is a welcome change.
Four gas bombs hit right through the windows of one of the houses in the village a few nights ago. Nobody knows why the army chose this house as its target.
Z. takes us to an old castle which has been recognized as an historical building. Thanks to a generous donation from America it has been renovated, and the villagers feel very proud.
In ancient times the castle had seven gates. Today four beautifully arched gates remain. Z. leads us through niches, winding staircases and narrow passages up to the top floor, which is used as a hotel for people coming from the USA, Europe and also from Israel to help during the olive picking season. Apart from working, these visitors also participate in sessions in the spirit of Dharma under the guidance of Z. The possibilities to develop this unique building into an attractive tourist site for visitors from all over the world are immense. It might improve the economy of the village and its surroundings tremendously. Unfortunately, the chances of this to happen under the occupation are evidently very small. The castle has been inherited by one generation after the other and today it belongs to a number of families whose houses are built on the site. Various service centers are also situated along the winding roads within the building: a dental clinic, a computer center for boys only, a medical center for children and even a room for table games. Near the wall of the castle there is a café with a fountain in the center of its courtyard (it's open only from 15:00). Compared to other villages we know on the West Bank this village is quite unique thanks to all the services it has to offer. Next to the castle wall there is a kindergarten. Welcoming us about 30 children shake our hands when we enter. There are some large wall paintings at the entrance to the kindergarten – views of mountains and of the sea. For the sake of these sweet children we hope that the occupation, which has turned the West Bank into one large prison, will come to an end and that the children might have the chance to experience such views for real.
12:00 Immatin - We arrive in the village in the middle of an army operation. At the regional council we are told that a few minutes ago a loud explosion was heard from the direction of the fields belonging to the village. From the balcony, we can see three army vehicles followed by a bulldozer driving fast into the village and then disappearing out of sight. The council secretary tells us that two days ago soldiers entered a house in the village and arrested a young family member. Last night the soldiers arrived and arrested his father. The grocery store owner, whose car was burnt a few months ago by "price tag" bullies, tells us that they are planning an electric line from Immanuel to Havat Gilad, and therefore additional land will be confiscated from what little there is left for the villagers. Probably that's why the soldiers have arrived in the village. After having watched Havat Gilad from the village we leave.
On our way back, in Funduk, cars are driving very fast through the village. The death road keeps on claiming its victims.
13:30 We return to Rosh Ha'Ayin.