Za'tara (Tapuah)

Anneline K., Harriet G., Natalie K., Neomi B. (reporting and photographs), Nadim (driving)
Seriously? Does this make us safer?


Whoever was naïve enough to assume that the horribly cruel terrorist act at the village of Duma, where settlers burned to death a family and their house, would, at least in the short time since then, prevent the settlers from harassing the inhabitants of the village – was proven wrong. It's true that the settlers do not dare, for the time being, to enter the village, probably fearing apprehention and investigation by the inhabitants, but they do dare to cause harm from the outside by blocking the two entrances to the village. The soldiers, emissaries of the Israeli government which allows the perpetrators of the horrendous crime to walk free, continue to plot against the inhabitants of the village. For the time being they hesitate to enter the village in daylight, but they waylay inhabitants and chance visitors to the village at its entrance and on the road leading to it.

Another system of adding hardships to daily life in the area villages can be identifies, gathering impetus – the blocking of the entrances to the villages, which forces the inhabitants to remain in the villages or to travel on tortuous agricultural roads.


09:15 Departure from the Rosh Ha'Ayin train station. The vehicle begins to falter.


10:00 We stop at the Ariel intersection. The car is to be repaired at an auto shop is located some distance away, and thus we shall be able to continue our tour, although with a considerable delay, and we shall be forced to limit the destinations of the shift. Near the intersection there is a big signpost – "the shooting range", which directs the settlers to a nearby hotel where one can buy arms and ammunition. The breakdown enables us to meet the impressive A., who turns out to be a trainer and advisor to groups of Palestinian women on feminine empowerment within the framework of "El Burg' – Ma'an" – The Center for Development, whose seat is in Ramallah. He also mentions achivements: 12 women are now members of the directorate of the Palestinian Authority, and there is also an increasing number of women heads of local councils.  A., who is an inhabitant of East Jerusalem, has family at A-Sawiya, and he tells us about the problems the inhabitants of the village had with the settlers of Nehalim during the olive picking season.


11:00 Tapuah Intersection

There are increased numbers of soldiers and army vehicles. The roads are open. The traffic is conducted in an orderly fashion.


11:15 Duma

At the council house we meet the secretary, Z., who relates to us the actions of the settlers and of the army: Some time ago the settlers from Esh Kodesh blocked the entrances to the village from both sides.The locals, who had to get to Nablus, were obliged to use a winding agricultural road. Z. tells us about a personal experience with soldier harassment: Two days ago he travelled with his three brothers and his elderly father from Duma to M'rar. Soldiers stopped the car and demanded that he get out of it. Z. believes that only due to the father's presence they didn't harass them. (Indeed, they are obliged to the law of "thou shalt honor thy elder"…). Z. was asked whether he had ever been in prison, and answered negatively. "If I would have admitted to having been there, they would have handcuffed me, loaded me on their vehicle and God knows when I would see my family again", he said. The family did not enter M'rar, as the entrance to the village was blocked.


How was the olive harvest at Duma? Based on their experience, all the inhabitants of the village set out on the same day, together, to pick olives from their trees, which are on the other side of the road, and thus they protected themselves. The soldiers arrived at the entrance to the village from time to time to find stone-throwers, but since the fire they avoid entering the village (maybe fearing the rage of the villagers?)


Most of the area of Duma is defined as B zone, and only a small area as C zone. When families expand, people begin building on Zone C plots, and then get letters threatening demolition and are forced to stop construction. After all, Duma in not a settlement, its population growth does not require expansion…


R., of the Palestinian Water Authority, arrives at the council house. He is the head of a team, responsible for 13 villages, whose task it is to ascertain that the pumping systems work and are in order, and to record the consumption according to the water meters. (Contrary to what goes on in other villages in the West Bank, water arrives at the Duma region not by way of the Israeli Water Company, but from a water supply system of the Palestinian Authority, located at Rejayeb, near Nablus). R. shares with us his personal experience with the army:


Some time ago R. arrived in his car to the entrance to Duma. He found himself surrounded by six soldiers. One of them threw him down, handcuffed him and place a a rag immersed in some scalding material on his eyes (a new kind of torture). All this took place without him being interrogated, and without him having commited any offence. An officer who arrived on the spot released him but didn't apologise. R., a courageous man, told him: "your soldiers behave like animalsinfo-icon. This is not good for your country". The officer agreed.


We go to see the burned-down house. The building has been whitewashed on the outside, and the heart-rending murals have faded in part. And still seeing it is very difficult, even for somebody who has already seen the sight a few times. At the neighbouring house, where "only" the first floor was burned down entirely that night, we see the members of the family, who survived. A young couple and their small son look at us from the terrace on the second floor, which hasn’t been damaged. They ask about Ahmed, who is about the same age as their son, and who was the only survivor of his whole family, hospitalized since the fire at the Sheba hospital. They were happy to hear from us that he was slowly recovering and that he is receiving good treatment. The parents are smiling and friendly, the boy makes noises and funny faces for us. Life continues on the second floor of the house, which survived the fire.


12:45 On the way back: at the Tapuah intersection there are more army forces, compared with this morning. At the entrance to Akraba there is a blockage of heaps of stones and sand. Last night a villager arrived in his car, didn't see the blockage in the dark, and collided with it. His car turned over and he was evacuated to a hospital.


13:00 Back to Rosh Ha'Ayin.