Mardah, Dir Istiya, Kifal Haris,
09:00 We left the train station at Rosh HaAyin.
At the Ariel junction, as expected after the last knifing incident, there were extra IDF soldiers: a military jeep on the side of the road, 2 pairs of armed soldiers patrolling on both sides of the road. We turn in the direction of Mardah.
09:30 The secretary is at the Municipality office, R., who doesn't look as though she wants to share with us what is happening in the village, from her brief and uncommunicative words. She says, with an emphasis on the fact that this is only a rumor, that last night soldiers arrived, closed the entrances to the village, and chased after a suspect in the event which occurred at the Ariel junction. He was caught near the mosque and taken away in a military vehicle. Also a week ago, soldiers came in the middle of the night, threw some shock bombs and tear gas and disappeared where they had come from. She said that settlers do not enter the village.
10:00 On the way to Kifal Haris, whose entrance is not blocked, we get to Dir Istriya. At the office of the Head of the Municipality Council we meet with O., (our friend, A., the strong and liberal woman who was chosen to be Head of the Council and ruled with a strong hand (perhaps too strong) and was deposed from her position 5 months before the end of her term, and he took her place. O. shares with us his estimate of what is happening in Dir Istriya, one of the villages that suffers a lot from the IDF and from the settlers. The army comes into the village almost every night. Also yesterday, the people of the village rated one of these "visits", which luckily did not end with arrests. A week ago, settlers arrived at 2 AM. Residents of the village were alerted, blocked the main entrance and got rid of them. The following afternoon,they appeared again, in large numbers, in a bus, while burning tires and starting on a new provocation: waving a Palestinian flag. Using the loud speaker system of the mosque, the residents were again called into action. Thanks to a notice sent from the Palestinian DCO to the Israeli DCO about what was going on, the army arrived and using a water spray, scattered all the participants and prevented worse trouble.
The use by the settlers of the Palestinian flag appears again in a conflict which happened 4 days ago: 2 residents went out to gather olives at a distance from the fence of the settlement Revava, and, to their surprise, they saw a Palestinian flag stuck into the earth next to one of the trees. Quickly, some soldiers came to the spot (interesting to know who called them) and requested that the residents get rid of the flag. They refused, were beaten by the soldiers and not allowed to continue their harvesting.
The subject of the olive harvest is a hot item this season in relation to all the problems of the Palestinians in the West Bank. In previous years, permits were generally granted for a number of days of work in the groves ahead of time, with the protection of the army, even in areas close to settlements. But, this year, the permits were delayed. O, head of the Municipal Council, asked from the permits long ago, for 4 days of the harvest, and still has not received them. "The right time for the harvest is the end of this month. Besides that, the olives are already falling from the trees onto the ground and drying up. Dir Istiyya is considered to be in 3rd place in the West Bank concerning the quality of its olives, according to the ranking of the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture. Olives are the bread of the village. They are at the top of our economic life," he said quietly. Does this interest anyone in the occupying state which is responsible, legally and morally, for the welfare of the occupied inhabitants?
Despite these difficulties, the unending harassment; despite the arrests, including children, they do not give in. Ten days ago, the settlers wrote "death to Arabs" on one of the nice entrance gates to the village which the villagers were proud of. In response, they now plan to have an enlarged entrance of 4 lanes from the main road and a neon entrance sign. The request has already been submitted and they are now waiting for a permit. A suitable Palestinian response.
11:30 Kafir Haris. The owner of the clothing store, a good source of information, says that he heard and knows what goes on in the village. He told us that the army enters almost every night just to show its presence in the village. On the previous night, they also blocked the entrance. The residents who had permits for 3-4 days of harvesting, were prevented from going out to their property which is on highway #5, near Ariel, because the settlers were afraid, In this way, they are losing their primary source of income, His income."A lot of people buy clothes from me, but they don't pay on the spot. Only after the harvest they come to pay and erase their debts that have accrued. What will happen this year, when people are not able to harvest their crops? How will they pay their debts?" He doesn't know.
Various versions circulate in the West Bank concerning recent events. The version of the stabbing at the Ariel junction is that a settler stabbed a Palestinian there, and not the opposite. The wounded person fled to Mardah and was arrested there and accused of the stabbing. It is clear to the people in the West Bank, as it is also clear to many Israelis, that many Palestinians were shot and killed during the last few weeks while not being a death threat at all.. "It is possible to get control over someone without killing him. Innocent people died because of shooting from far away just because someone was too quick on the trigger."
12:30 Returned to Rosh HaAyyin.