Whether the delay in issuing permits to West Bank farmers - to plow their fields during the few days allotted to them - is due to happenstance, to negligence, or is intentional, it can have far-reaching consequences on the residents’ welfare. Palestinian society is agricultural. The crops’ success depends on synchronizing agricultural work with the seasons. Plowing is carried out in early autumn, with the first rains, then again in early January, and then planting begins. If these activities are carried out on time and the year isn’t unusually dry, the farmers can hope to harvest in the spring. A situation where by mid-February the occupation authorities still haven’t seen fit to issue plowing permits (for the village collectively, not personally, which requires more administrative work) can result in a poor crop, or none at all. If that happens, it will be another heavy blow to the farmers’ ability to support their families, and will further reduce the population’s standard of living, which is already very low.
09:00 We left from the Rosh Ha’ayin train station.
09:30 Tapuach junction
Two military vehicles and about five soldiers are in the compound.
We drive at Salfit via the entrance to Qabalan, and then to Jalloud.
Jalloud is small compared to other West Bank villages – 800 inhabitants. 7000 villagers have left. Most live today in Jordan, a few in the USA.
“But before ’67 Jalloud was the largest village in the area,” says the owner of the grocery opposite the closed municipal building. He tells us about flying checkpoints on the road from Jalloud to Qusra, from personal experience: two weeks ago his brother returned at night from Qusra. He saw in front of him a large truck that blocked his view. When he tried to pass soldiers suddenly appeared, shooting at his gas tank and tires. They made him lie on the ground, and released him after an interrogation. An elderly resident of Salfit, whose decorated car was his pride and joy, had a similar experience. The soldiers at the flying checkpoint tore off the decorations. Just like that, they vandalized it. The soldiers at the flying checkpoint come from a small base near the Esh Kodesh settlement.
Most of the villagers make a living from farming. But they’re not allowed to access some of the land they own. The owner of the grocery has 400 dunums of almond trees, but since the land isn’t registered in his name he can’t cultivate them. The Kingdom of Jordan began registering lands only in 1966. The ’67 war interrupted the process and there are many West Bank residents, like him, who can’t prove ownership because their land is not registered.
Karyut is a mid-sized village. It has 2800 inhabitants. 5000 residents have emigrated. Only those who live in the USA and have American citizenship are allowed summer visits to their families in the village of their birth. Some leave their 12- or 13-year-old children with relatives in the village for a few years to learn Arabic and Qur’an and Palestinian traditions, and to preserve their connection with the village.
As we neared the village we heard the muezzin announcing the funeral of a village woman. At the municipal building the chairman apologizes for being unable to meet with us. We speak with M., our acquaintance, the previous chairman, who’s babysitting a child from the deceased’s family, who wasn’t taken to the funeral.
On our previous visit to the village we met with people whose home soldiers had broken into at night. The destruction they caused in the house and in the barbershop belonging to a family member was shocking. They arrested a relative and, according to M., the man was released in a few days. In other words, there was no reason to arrest him nor any justification, even given the way the army usually behaves, for breaking into the home. M. says that their problems with settlers from Eli and Rechalim are primarily seasonal. They steal the olives during harvest time before the villagers, their owners, come to pick them. Also, during the two or three days the villagers are allowed to plow their fields, the settlers cut the tractors’ tires. These days the army is present and is supposed to protect the residents. But still when settlers arrive and throw rocks the army doesn’t intervene.
It’s already February, a month after plowing should have begun, and the villagers still haven’t received a permit. If it’s not issued in the next few days, it would be too late.
We should note that the permit is collective, not individual. All the farmers go to their fields on the appointed days. Only about 10 villagers work in Israel. None work in settlements.
80% of the village’s high school graduates continue to university. After they receive a degree most are unemployed because they can’t find jobs in their fields.
M. says the village suffers water shortages. There’s enough for household use, but not for agriculture. A well isn’t a solution because they’re allowed to dig only to a depth of 200-300 meters while the water is much farther down. Mekorot supplies water through a pipe next to the settlement of Eli but the pump isn’t powerful enough and provides only 5 cubic meters an hour. They get a little more from a facility in Rujib, near Nablus, along with 15 other West Bank villages.
We move on to politics. M. doesn’t believe in peace. “Israelis are moving farther and farther to the right. There’s no chance of a government that isn’t right-wing,” he declares.
12:00 We leave. On the way back, at Rechalim, construction continues. The two jeeps we’d seen this morning at Tapuach junction are still parked in the compound. Otherwise, we don’t see any activity. The checkpoint at the entrance to Jama’in has been removed.
12:40 Back to Rosh Ha’ayin.