09:30 We left from the Rosh Ha’ayin train station
At Tapuach junction a jeep was parked in the lot. We drive via Yatma toward Jalud. At the settlement of Rehalim, on the ridge to the right, active construction is clearly visible; a cement pumper to lay foundations and heavy earthmoving equipment next to the settlement’s buildings. We continue toward Talfit and from there to Jalud.
10:30 Jalud. As on our previous visits, the municipal building is again closed and we come to a small “department store” across the street. The shopkeeper tells us that after the disaster in Douma four settlers came to the village and were chased away by the residents. These villagers have also organized to guard themselves. The shopkeeper is annoyed the Palestinian Authority doesn’t provide guards for the village at night. “People work very hard and also do guard duty. How will they get up for work if they also have to guard at night?” He shows us ancient buildings, from Turkish times. “Below them are Roman antiquities,” he says. If that’s the case, what a wonderful tourist attraction could be here if not for the occupation.
From where we stand the chain of settlement on the ridges surrounding Jalud are clearly visible, as well as the neighboring village of Qariot.
We reach Qaryut on an asphalt road paved by the Palestinian Authority.
11:00 Qaryut. In the absence of the council head, who’s gone to Nablus, M., the young treasurer, hosts us. He described two incidents that occurred immediately after the arson in Duma. In one, settlers from Ali and from the Yuval outpost came down the path to the village and threatened a woman and daughters with weapons. The girls fled. A village patrol heard the woman’s cries and chased the settlers away. Another group of settlers tried to set fire to the village’s catering hall and were also chased away by a joint force from Jalud and Qaryut. M. says that the woman is in bad shape psychologically because of the attack. He shows us a report on “I24 NEWS” showing her with her daughters, all very upset, after the attack. Nadim recognizes the woman: she’s from Tira, married a man from Qaryut and moved to live in the village; a small world. Later we drive to her home. She does look as if she’d experienced a trauma, as well as her children around her.
M. describes the story of the road that had been paved and connected the village to Highway 60. The settlers and the army destroyed it. Lacking a road, the villagers must travel a long and winding route to reach As-Sawiya (south of Tapuach junction). For years, repeatedly, the villagers rebuilt the road, and the settlers destroyed it. In 2009 the villagers received a document confirming their ownership of the road. Did it allow them to rebuild and use the road? Not surprisingly, it didn’t.
Qaryut has 3000 inhabitants. Some are farmers, others work in the Palestinian Authority. Very few go daily through the distant Qalqilya checkpoint to work in Israel. What’s the economic situation of the villagers? “They live from day to day. No one’s died yet from hunger…,” M. replies.
The problem these days, made more serious by the hot weather, is water. Qaryut gets water from Awwarta’s well, which doesn’t meet its needs. So they also buy water from Mekorot. It arrives in tankers and is distributed to the homes. It costs twice as much.
On the way we meet a welcoming woman who urges us to come to her house. It’s a chance to see at firsthand the life of a Palestinian family under occupation. She has eight daughters and three sons. They’re all home because of summer vacation. We met a gang of cute, active children who seem happy to see us. The two oldest daughters are college students. One studied bookkeeping and the other is studying business at the Open University in Nablus. “We can’t afford the high tuition at Al-Najah University,” the mother explains. The family has 200 dunums. They planted grains, settlers burned the field. They also have olive trees. During harvest time settlers throw rocks to chase away the olive pickers. The father used to take his flock to graze. Settlers threatened him and stole the flock. Only three sheep are left in the small sheepfold under the steps.
In search of income the father had to go as far as Tel Aviv. He works in a restaurant 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for NIS 160/day. Once a month his employer permits him to visit his family for two days. He has no entry permit to Israel. If his employer writes to the Civil Administration indicating he wants to hire him, he’ll probably receive a permit and will no longer have to be in Israel illegally. But if his status changes his employer will have to pay him more money, so there’s no chance he’ll write the valuable letter – it won’t pay him to do so. So that’s how the father lives, separated from his family, afraid of being caught without a permit, and in the hands of an exploitive employer thanks to the occupation’s rules. And we have no help to offer.
But the woman and children don’t show any of these difficulties. Their welcoming is complete and generous, the atmosphere extremely pleasant. When we prepare to leave the woman suggests that Nadim should go and we, “the women,” remain with the family.
On our way back we see a few military vehicles and soldiers at Tapuach junction.
15:00 Back to Rosh Ha’ayin.