Bruqin, Eliyahu Crossing
Central West Bank,
We’d only arrived at the Eliyahu crossing when we were declared to be “semi-criminals” because we tried to see whether there were dogs on site, and photograph them if there were. Guards called policemen immediately fell upon us asked us to park on the side, to shut off the engine and remove the keys – and then they politely explained to us, that the compound is a sensitive location and photography is forbidden, etc. They were pretty polite, but very stressed.
A military jeep stood at the entrance to ‘Azzun. There were a few soldiers, who don’t even look at us. But they stop us when we leave, and while they’re checking a Palestinian pedestrian one of the soldiers tells us we’re not allowed to be here because it’s Area A. So why did they let us enter? We explain he’s wrong; he “gives up” after a brief argument. We wouldn’t be surprised if the army intends to declare ‘Azzun to be Area A, as happened with Bidya.
We continue to Bruqin. Until about a year ago the road went through Bidya, but now, as noted, Bidya was declared to be Area A and it’s not possible to go through. We detour via Highway 5.
There is a military vehicle at the entrance to Bruqin. The soldier doesn’t even know the name of the village. He thinks it Kufr ad Dik… How ironic! On the other hand, there’s a red sign at the entrance to the village announcing it’s dangerous for Israeli citizens to enter the area. But we were warmly welcomed.
We went to the municipal building without having made an appointment. We were immediately admitted to the office of the village head; a mild, educated man, an attorney by profession. He and all his staff are eager to help. We told him we came to hear about the sewage problem, but those present are concerned about the arrests and the soldiers’ behavior.
One person, who doesn’t want to identify himself but declares he’s a Fatah member, “Abu Mazen’s man – I’ll do whatever Abu Mazen says.” He tells us that a year and a half ago soldiers came to his home at night, destroyed, upended, broke the stone kitchen counters with hammers, broke windows, brought dogs to search the house. From midnight until 05:00. They found nothing. He’s still hurt and angry.
Since then, even though their village is quiet, “the quietest in Judea and Samaria,” night invasions like that occur frequently. The soldiers hit women and children. He intervened when they banged his fourteen-year-old son’s head against the floor, and since then the Shabak has blacklisted him. That son was jailed for seven months in Megiddo prison, accused of stone-throwing.
Now everyone’s angry and worried, because last Friday, at 03:45, soldiers broke into the home of the Fatah man’s brother and arrested his 21-year-old son, an engineering student, newly married with a pregnant wife.
They telephoned the father of the arrested man to come and tell us what the soldiers did in his home. He is also an impressive person, distinguished and quiet. He doesn’t know why his son was arrested, but is stunned by it, by the brutal search of his home, and because he says one of the soldiers took some NIS 30,000 in cash that was next to his bed.
We go to the house. An attractive, well-kept home. The entrance door is broken. The owner says he told the soldiers he’ll come down and open it, but they’d already broken it. He said he told the soldiers – don’t break things, tell me what you want, I’ll open it. But they broke everything they could. The wife of the arrested man asked the soldiers – where are you taking him? And the soldier yelled at her: Sit down and be quiet! Shut up! And was going to hit her with his gun but held back because she had an infant in her arms.
They took the son to jail in Petah Tiqwa. Leora gets his details, she attends court there, maybe she’ll be able to learn something. The father quietly asks: if you see him, let us know how he is.
About the sewage: The head of the village leads us to the only place where the Palestinian town of Salfit merges with the Israeli settlement of Ariel – the location where pipes lead the flow of sewage from both places toward Bruqin. He says the Israelis, not the Palestinian Authority, object to the German initiative to erect a treatment plant because they don’t want it to be built in Ariel.
The Palestinian Authority transferred NIS 2 million to Bruqin to solve the problem, but the money was insufficient to fix more than a small part of the sewage. Funds will have to be found for Kufr ad Dik and for Deir Ballut. And there isn’t any money. The sight is terrible and the smell is awful, and it stinks even worse at night.
We see maps in the office of the village head showing plans to expand the Bruqin settlement, taking land from Bruqin, and demolishing the lively high school built at the edge of the village. (Referring to the settlement’s name “Bruqin,” the head of the village says: “They also took our name, not only our land”) He says they intend to bring a case before a court in Rome.
With heavy heart we part from these lovely people, who are still smiling. We don’t know for how long.