Yasuf, Al-Lubban A-Sharqiya, Za'atra, Salfit
It seems that the circumstance of the children, now more than ever, is what most worries the people of the Palestinian villages which we visited.
We reached the Council of this small village of 2000 people and the head of the Council, H. invited us to his office. He is an older man whose intelligence and sense of humor honor his age. As we entered his office he recognized Aliyah who had visited the Council some months ago. He spoke a very good Hebrew which he had learned during his 18 years in an Israeli prison. He said he had learned a lot about everything while in prison.
We introduced ourselves as members of Machsom Watch. He interrupted us and said, with much sadness, "Today the checkpoints are not a problem; today children are killed! At Tapuach Junction (Za'atra) they shoot and kill children! We fear for our children; we try to prevent them from going to Tapuach Junction. We explain to them that violence will bring nothing good!"
We asked for information about the recent olive harvest, and if there had been problems with the army or the settlers. He said that this year they had not had any problems with the olive harvest. The army doesn't come into the village very often, but once in a while they put up on the spot checkpoints at the entrance to the village. In general this year, the army, the DCO of Nablus and the Israeli DCO have put limitations on the settlers when they have tried to harass the villagers.
We asked about the situation with land in the village. H answered, "Three years ago we went to the High Court of Justice. We have requested that 'Little Tapuach, western Tapuach B', should be moved off our land. We asked how much land had been expropriated, but he refused to answer. So in answer to the question of how much land the village has he said, "We have 6600 dunams, including the settlement Tapuach; it's also ours! We are not giving it up!
During our meeting with him, H. answered telephone calls and someone brought him the newspaper, 'Al Hayat Jedida'. A column in the newspaper was about a meeting H. had held with the pupils at the school. He tells us how he explained to the pupils about the partition plan of the UN from 1947, which promised a state for the Jews and a state for the Palestinians. But only half of the plan was fulfilled, the part for the Jewish state. To this day the state for the Palestinians has not arisen. H. thinks it is entirely possible to have a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The description of his conversation at the school, like his conversation and his way of talking with us, was very impressive.
We asked if the villagers were worried (because of the present difficult situation) that the young people of the village were liable to be influenced by 'Daesh'. His answer came in a question. "Who today is closer to 'Daesh', Israel or the Palestinians? Whose actions strengthen 'Daesh' more, Israel's or the Palestinians'?" He closed his answer by saying, "Nobody wants his children to go to their death. Peace between Jews and Arabs is what will guard our children, the children of all of us."
We asked about the employment of the villagers, and also if there is pollution of the land because of the flow of waste water. There are people from the village who have found work in settlements. No one works in Tapuach. Waste water, sewerage and rubbish flow from the surrounding settlements into Wadi el-Matben, about a kilometer distance from the last house in the village. This doesn't directly cause distress to the villagers who don't smell it; but it pollutes the ground for everyone.
It seemed to us that H. was less concerned with the day to day matters and gave his attention to the larger picture, the meaning of what is happening here and in the world. It didn't surprise us that the school would invite a man like him to talk with the pupils. We promised to come again for a visit.
We continued in the direction of As Sawiya. The Council building there was closed. In Isqaqa we met the new, young secretary. Since the head of the Council was not there she suggested that we come again another day.
11:00 In Al-Lubban As Sharqiya the Council building was closed. Outside the building we met T. whom we recognized from earlier visits, so we asked him to update us on what is happening. T. told us that the army sets up on the spot checkpoints at the entrance to the village almost every day, and checks the cars coming and going. Soldiers also enter homes in the village and take photos of the inside of the homes.
The gravest problem is that the army goes into the school (communal to As Sawiya and Al-Lubban) almost daily which frightens the children. What is even worse is that the army has begun going into the girls' high-school, frightening them and claiming that they are throwing stones.
On the subject of land – this is the time for plowing and planting, but the settlers are not allowing the Palestinians to work their plots, most of which are in Area C. Most of the families in A-Lubban A-Sharqiya earn their living from working the land. Only a few work in Israel or in Ramallah
On our way out of the village we stopped at the tree nursery belonging to A. He told us that since the last visit of a group of our women there has not been any trouble in the nursery. But a few days before soldiers passed by A.'s house which is along the road. One soldier aimed his rifle at A.'s young grandson, frightening him.
12:15 Za'atra Two army jeeps had stopped some of the cars on the road coming from Ramallah, and were checking them.
12:30 Salfit Checkpoint was open. Cars belonging to Palestinian workers were parked along the roadside inside the entrance to Salfit. The workers continued to their jobs by other means of transportation.