'Azzun, Habla, Jinsafut, Qarawat Bani Hasan

Observers: 
Irit Segoli, Netiva Kaftori, Pitzi Shteiner (reporting), Nadim (driving); Translator: Charles K.
18/01/2016
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Morning

Bani Hassan, ‘Azzun, Habla

The evil routine:  At six this morning a large military force accompanied by bulldozers raided the sheepfold built by a resident of Jinsafut village in Area C.  The owner has 400 sheep and no place to put them.  He knows it’s Area C, but it’s also his land.  His sons, who objected to the demolition, confronted the soldiers and were shot with rubber-coated bullets.  One was beaten with a rifle butt, another was arrested, and the two who were shot were hospitalized, lightly injured, in Qalqilya.  When released they intend to rebuild the sheepfold.  Because where can they put the sheep in the cold and rain?

 

10:30  We left Rosh Ha’ayin.  The weather makes photography difficult; heavy fog.

 

11:00  Qirwat Bani Hassan.  We meet with A., the village head, at the municipal building.

A Machsom Watch team came here five months ago – Naomi Bentsur and Irit Segoli.  That was the day a tractor had been confiscated from R., a villager, because he was working on land the army thought was Area C.  The Civil Administration kept the tractor for five months and only now returned it after collecting a fine of NIS 11,000.  All Irit’s efforts to retrieve the tractor quickly were unsuccessful.  Now we learn that during the five months the tractor stood out in the open, in the rain and sun, it’s unusable.  R., its owner, simply junked it.

 

A. tells us he’s on his way to a meeting in Beit El with the Civil Administration and representatives of the Palestinian Authority in order to obtain approval for plans to renovate the entrance to the village.  The access road is in such poor condition that it endangers those driving on it.  Aziz hired an engineer and together they designed a road with a plaza that will force drivers to slow down and thereby prevent accidents.  There have already been many accidents.  Because the entrance is Area C, the Civil Administration and the Palestinian Authority must approve the plan.  The Civil Administration didn’t approve the plaza.  Why?  Because they said it was dangerous…

 

Irit asks about Ein Wattaf, the wadi in which A. wants to establish a park for the villagers.  Even though it’s part of the village settlers are creating problems and not permitting work to proceed.  That’s where R.’s tractor was confiscated.  The road there, which they demolished, was repaired with the help of the Palestinian Department of Agriculture and an international organization (“Hatzalat Yisrael”).  We agreed to visit the location the next time we come.

 

A. tells us about another resident, N., whose terraces are located in wadi Qana and require strengthening because his olive trees planted there are being uprooted by erosion.  To do so he must bring a tractor, but the representatives of the Israeli Nature Preserves department won’t allow it.  N. is now ill.  The rain continues to erode the terraces and the trees keep falling.  Meanwhile he makes a living only with difficulty from his goats.

 

A. says the village has 10,000-12,000 dunums, but they’re allowed to build only on 900.  The rest is agricultural (according to the Civil Administration).  But the village has 6000 residents and hasn’t enough land for construction.  Land has recently become much more expensive because of the limited supply.

 

A Civil Administration officer rides around the villages in a white jeep identifying whatever looks to him like illegal construction.

 

All the heads of the villages got together and asked the Palestinian Authority in Salfit to approve the “illegal construction.”  It will transmit the letter to Sa’eb Arikat; maybe he can help.

 

They place the emphasis here on education, like in every village.  There are four schools, two elementary and two high schools, one of each for boys and for girls.

 

We are very impressed by the restraint shown by the village head, by his manners, his welcoming of us despite not having made an appointment.  His Hebrew is good; he says his role is to ensure the welfare of the villagers, and that’s why he’s always in his office.  His willingness to share with us the broad picture is also very important.

 

Another, perhaps minor, detail:  we were served abundant refreshments!

 

We arranged to return in two weeks or one month.  We’ll make an appointment a day or two in advance.

 

12:00  We drive toward Highway 55, to visit the village of Jinsafut.

 

The head of the village isn’t there.  We’ll immediately report where he is.  We meet the person in charge of payments for water and electricity; he invites us to enter because he has something important to tell us.

 

At six this morning a large military force accompanied by bulldozers raided the sheepfold built by a resident of Jinsafut village in Area C.  The owner has 400 sheep and no place to put them.  He knows it’s Area C, but it’s also his land.  His sons, who objected to the demolition, confronted the soldiers and were shot with rubber-coated bullets.  One was beaten with a rifle butt, another was arrested, and the two who were shot were hospitalized, lightly injured, in Qalqilya.  The head of the village went to visit them.

 

The owner says that when his sons are released from the hospital he’ll rebuild, because he has nowhere to put the sheep to protect them from the rain.  He has a long history – three years ago his sheepfold in the same location was demolished, and eight years ago a house was demolished.

 

It’s sad.  The arbitrary laws, which were provisional in 1995, for two or three years, have become permanent.  And they embitter the Palestinians’ lives.

 

12:30  ‘Azzun.  Z. is trembling more than usual.  In response to a question he says it’s quiet in the town but residents are buying less.  They save their money; the situation might become worse.

 

13:15  Habla checkpoint.  The gate is wide open.  Today it opened on time.  Crossing proceeds as it should.  Not many people.  Everyone enters through the wide gate.  A soldier talks to Netiva.  He tells her that it isn’t true Palestinians have land in the seam zone, they only work in the plant nurseries.  She asks why Palestinians are inspected on their way home; he says (1) to close the circle. (2) because “what would you say if they’d stolen something from your house and smuggled it into Habla?”  I get it.  They’re protecting me.  That’s a very important mission…

 

We stop very briefly to visit A., our pleasant friend.  He’s drinking coffee with someone who looks like a settler.  It turns out he’s a former resident of Gush Katif who today owns a plant nursery.  A. buys seedlings from him.

 

And now – home.