'Einabus, Jama'in, Kifl Harith, Qira, Urif, Zeta
09:00 We left from the Rosh Ha’ayin train station.
We take Highway 5 east. A huge traffic jam in the other direction. It begins at Kafr Qassem and extends to the Shomron checkpoint. A police checkpoint is apparently the reason. All along the road are signs, “We’re tired of apologizing,” from Bennett’s party. Also signs for Eli Yishai’s “Yahad” and for the Likud.
At this time of the morning the villages along the way – Kifl Harith and Qira – are still slumbering. Stores are closed, few people in the street. On the other hand, the exit road from Zeita is blocked. Local residents operate a large cement mixer to lay a foundation for their new house. A happy sight. Nadim doesn’t linger and continues on an alternate route. We pass through Jama’in and Einabus. Life there proceeds normally. Shops are open, much traffic and people in the streets. We saw no military presence anywhere along our route.
10:00 We reached Urif after learning that settlers from Yitzhar attacked the school. The procedure is already familiar: the settlers come down the path to the village, throw rocks at the school. Then soldiers show up, and in order to “protect” the settlers they begin firing tear gas at the pupils. No one was injured this time.
We meet three council members at the municipal building, a woman and two men, one active in B’Tselem. They report new harassment by Yitzhar settlers. The day before we came they placed six pre-fabs, not yet occupied, on land belonging to the village. The villagers filed a complaint with the Palestinian DCL regarding the trespass and also announced it on their website (an innovation allowing direct and rapid contact between the villagers and other villages in the area). But our interlocutors have no illusions. They say the Shabak has already identified the site). As we all surely remember, a few months ago Yitzhar settlers attacked reservists who came to the settlement. More than once they’ve punctured tires of military vehicles, including those belonging to senior officers who came to speak with them. Now, it turns out, the settlers and the army have reconciled: one hand washes the other. The army cooperates with the settlers to steal village lands. The council members say that Yitzhar’s takeover of the land is carried out with the open assistance of the army which declares the land a closed military area and thereby prevents access by the landowners. The “military area” rapidly comes into the hands of settlers from Yitzhar.
Another type of harassment carried out directly by the army occurred last October. Since 1994 the village has had an electrical grid. But today, after more than twenty years, the electricity supply is insufficient and must be expanded. After long negotiations with the occupation authorities the village gained approval to expand the electricity supply. Soldiers arrived in October, broke the lock of the substation and installed a new lock. In response, villagers broke the “military” lock. Punishment came quickly: for more than four months the village electric bill, determined on the basis of estimates, has rocketed and now amounts to NIS 60,000/month more than in the past.
But the settlers don’t depend only on the army to do their work: besides sporadic attacks, the settlers attack seasonally, during April-May, when the wheat has already ripened and can be set afire easily (like a wicked settler told one of the villagers: “You sow – and I’ll reap.”). This is the season for school baccalaureate exams. Attacks by settlers on the school are intended to prevent it from administering exams and thereby severely harm the pupils’ future.
In 2013, arson of the fields was accompanied by serious violence: a settler from Yitzhar attacked a boy, bound him and shot him. Next to the bleeding child he placed a knife, “proof” that he shot in self-defense. Luckily, the boy lived. He was hospitalized in Jordan for two months but now limps.
There’s not enough room to describe the daily harassment the villagers suffer from the Yitzhar settlers. And where are the police stationed there?
“They’re there so the settlers don’t attack soldiers. They don’t care about attacks on Palestinians,” the council members tell me.
We pass the school on our way out. A path from the top of the hill, where Yitzhar is located, leads straight to the school. That evil path is marked all along its length by olive trees that have been cut down and burned.
12:00 Back to Rosh Ha’ayin.