9:30 taking off from Rosh Ha’ayin train station.
Today is Israel’s Memorial Day so we assumed there would be heightened military presence in the West Bank. In actual fact, on Road 5 which we take to Tapuach-Zaatara Junction, as well as on the side roads through the villages of Kablan, Salfeet and Qariyut on our way to Jaloud, we see not a single military or police vehicle.
Last Saturday we visited the village of Yanoun. The circumstances it shares with Jaloud are both villages’ proximity to especially violent Jewish settlements. Yanoun faces Itamar, and Jaloud – Esh Kodesh, Ahiya and Shevut Rachel. But although Yanoun is much smaller and more isolated, and Jaloud is surrounded with other Palestinian villages (among them Qusra, that made the news after some young men from the village kidnapped a few violent settlers who ran wild there, an unprecedented act) – our impression is that Yanoun villagers experience a fury that might one day be translated into an uprising against the settlers’ terrorism, whereas the villagers we met in Jaloud seem exhausted. This is our own impression.
At the entrance to the village stands the local council house, constructed with the donation of the Palestinian Authority. The building is closed. Facing it is a tiny grocery store piled with food stuffs, miscellany and household articles. Three people receive us there: the energetic grocer, his elderly friend, and a guest from Yatma village. They share with us their bitter experiences.
Regarding personal security, the village is divided into two different levels: the houses built up the hill, to the foot of Esh Kodesh settlement, are the most exposed to settler violence. The houses built at the center of the village and north of it are less endangered. But then, everything is relative.
The home of the elderly fellow is located close to Esh Kodesh. He tells us about settlers from all three settlements who descend together all of a sudden upon the village houses closest to them and then proceed to the village center. On their vandalism sprees they set vehicles on fire, smash windows and doors, and beat up villagers they happen to meet. Not long ago they threw a stone at the head of a 4-year old boy. He needed seven stitches. In one of the incidents, filmed by TV Channel 10, women-settlers took part in this as well. They broke into houses, swore and blasphemed Mohammad in the ears of the villagers, sang and danced on rooftops. An army unit that came did not manage to control them. They were dispersed after a while by a special police unit.
At one of the incidents, the son of the grocer was beaten up by soldiers when he complained to them about the settlers. He was taken into custody and only with the help of a B’Tselem activist who accompanied him was he released after 24 hours. One of the villagers was shot in the leg. The army detained the settler who shot him, but the latter showed up at the village again the next day.
60 complaints have been already been filed by Jaloud villagers about settler incuresions. To date, not a single complaint has been answered in any way.
In this relatively small village, located in Area B, live about 500 people. 5000 dunums of the village lands have been confiscated in favor of the neighboring settlements. The villagers live mainly from agriculture, growing olive and almond trees. Some youngsters are employed in Ramallah. But the settlers see to it that even this meager livelihood be robbed, courtesy of the army that covers for them. After landgrab, our host has been left with 51 dunums. 21 of these have been taken over by settlers who have planted olive trees there and declared them as their own property. In 3 other dunums that he owns, almond trees grow and since this plot is close to a settlement, he is not permitted to approach and tend them.
In order to plow the small area that they have left, the villagers, in coordination with the DCO, ordered some tractors from Qariyut. Settlers hurried to the place. A woman settle, with her baby on her back, hit the tractor drivers. Other women settlers lay on the road in order to stop them; The police that arrived gave these drivers traffic tickets. When the policemen tried to take over the tractors, the drivers hurried away, and since then are afraid to come back and plow in Jaloud’s land.
A year ago the villagers sowed wheat over an area of 65 dunums. In the spring, when the wheat ripened, the settlers set fire to it. When the villagers turned to the army, it responded: “Complain, but first prove that this land is yours”…
During the olive harvest, as in other villages, Jaloud farmers too receive a harvesting permit from the DCO. Contrary to the agreement, the soldiers who escort them demand they stop working at noon. When the settlers stole sacks of harvested olives as well as a donkey, the army looked the other way. The settlers’ acts of injustice - committed against the villagers under the army’s protection - pile up time and again. The villagers have learned the hard way that they have no one to turn to for help, that this is their destiny under ongoing occupation.