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Hagar Zemer, Naomi Benstur (reporting), Nadim (driving). Translator: Charles K.
Seriously? Does this make us safer?


09:00  We left from the Rosh Ha’ayin train station.


09:30  Tapuach junction

Only one soldier, at the bus stop.


Two neighboring villages – two different worlds.  In one, Kusra, daily life is very difficult.  The village is surrounded by the most violent settlements.  The villagers are worn down between the settlers, the army backing them up, and the Civil Administration representatives, who are “Big Brother’s” eyes: they follow every tin shack or roof that appears and serve legal notices whose aim is to choke and suppress every initiative, and to force the residents to deal with the bureaucracy of the occupation regime, when they know in advance that their chances of obtaining justice are almost nil.  In the other village, Jurish, daily life is very different because it’s not located near violent settlements. This fact has positive consequences:  the army almost never shows up, because it’s not needed to back up the settlers’ harassment, and because of the relative quiet, the Civil Administration staff seems to have no need to harass the residents on various pretexts.  Girls in such a village can allow themselves to dream about their future, like girls their age anywhere in the free world, and perhaps even to realize their dreams one day.


09:45  Kusra

On our previous visit we were part of an incident in which three soldiers prevented (hired) laborers from carrying out agricultural work in village fields.  Together with the head of the municipality we managed to convince the soldiers to leave, and work resumed.  This time as well we arrived at a tense village.  Two weeks ago representatives of the Civil Administration, accompanied by soldiers who, not surprisingly and using concussion grenades, distributed notices throughout Area C in the southern and eastern portions of the village.  The village is located near the most violent settlements – Esh Kodesh and Echyeh – and the Civil Administration, together with the army, plays its part in oppressing the residents.


The head of the municipality displays a stack of orders, some muddy, all dated 10.2.16.  All had only three days to be appealed.  Today, 24.2, only two weeks later, the subcommittee is scheduled to meet in Bet El to consider the appeals.


For example:  a structure of 5-square meters, built of cement blocks – a stop-work order.  A 10-square-meter tin shack – demolition order.  A 2-km long road – demolition order (an initiative by five adjacent villages to pave a road connecting them to Highway 60).  A tractor – impounding order.  There’s also an explanation:  “The goods are suspected of violating the law or security regulations.”   How is it possible to understand what that means: who did the violating, the goods (i.e., the tractor)?  What, exactly, was violated:  the law or the security regulations?  And maybe there was no violation, but only a suspicion?

It sounds like “riddle-me-this,” but it’s no joke.  What’s involved is the property and personal security of the residents.  None of the orders was signed.  Not only is the handwriting solely in Hebrew (must residents of a village on the West Bank be fluent in Hebrew?), but it’s also barely legible.  All contain the words, “Posted and photographed.”  The head of the municipality explains that the orders are posted at the site of the “violation.”  Often the “offender” doesn’t know of the order posted on his shack or fence.  Sometimes the wind blows it away, hence the mud stains that make it even harder to decipher.


The residents of Kusra receive legal aid from a Norwegian legal organization.  Its attorney has already obtained a two-week extension for appealing the orders.


Regarding the impounding of the tractor: after posting the order the soldiers, after firing concussion grenades, entered a garage located in Area B (!) where the tractor was parked, and told its owner they wanted to “check.”  But they’d brought a tow truck, hitched the tractor to it and left.  Nor was that the end of the matter: the soldiers entered two more buildings near the garage:  in one they arrested two 12-year-olds.  In the other they entered the homes of those boys’ families, conducted searches, and found nothing.


Besides the violent settlements, Kusra has other neighbors, the settlers of Migdalim.  They’re friendly, says the head of the municipality.  “They come to buy building material, gas, vegetables.”

Settlers from Esh Kodesh, the other neighbors, attack villagers who work in the fields and are protected by the army.  When villagers repel them the army responds also with live fire.  Two weeks ago a villager was wounded by the soldiers’ fire.


As we prepared to leave, two villagers arrive, asking/demanding:  “Bring your families and all your friends and hold a very big demonstration. Maybe that will influence your government to end the occupation.”


11:15  Jurish

In addition to the head of the municipality, who’s still excited by his visit to Tel Aviv and Jaffa, we meet his daughter, Sirin, and Iman, the director of the unique women’s cooperative in the village.


Kusra and Jurish are only a short distance apart but life in the two villages is completely different.  The reason – there are no violent settlements near Jurish.  The only nearby settlement is Migdalim, established on 400 dunums of village land, and it seems that its relations with Jurish are friendly.


When there are no attacks from violent settlers, the army also doesn’t have to oppress the villages.  Soldiers show up infrequently, there are no home invasions at night.  No arrests, no demolition of homes.  And when there’s minimal feeling of personal insecurity compared to other villages in the area, the residents can focus on other kinds of needs:  the village still has no clinic, no sports center, no library.  Volunteer physicians from East Jerusalem and from abroad come frequently and respond to the medical needs of the 1800 inhabitants.


Iman describes the expanding activities of the women’s cooperative, which is an unusual phenomenon in Palestinian society: a few years ago the members of the cooperative set up stands in six schools, where they sold sandwiches and soft drinks to the students.  Recently they’ve added more complex dishes:  pizza, pasta, falafel.  With the revenue they buy ingredients and divide the profits among themselves.  The women also started growing vegetables and a poultry business.  The products are used by their families, and the remainder is sold.  Thus the women contribute to their families’ income during a period in which many of the men are unemployed, and are themselves empowered. The women’s group also organizes special presentations for women on topics such as nutrition, healthy pregnancy, infant care, feminine hygiene, etc.


There are two schools in Jurish.  Boys and girls attend school together through second grade. Later they’re separated. (A month ago a ceremony was held naming the high school for Riham Dawwabshe, who had taught there.  She died of her injuries after her home in Duma was set on fire).  About half of the high school graduates, girls more often that boys, continue to university.  When they’ve finished their studies and have acquired a profession, many remain unemployed.  The result – young people must emigrate.  Two of Iman’s daughters, who have graduated from the university in Jenin live in Dubai.


And what about the lovely Sirin, the excellent student, who studied English and Yoga diligently in after-school classes, taught by members of MachsomWatch?  She’s preparing energetically for her baccalaureate exams at the end of the school year, and already has future plans:  after the exams she’ll apply for a scholarship to a university in England to study journalism and international relations.  This girl, born in a small West Bank village, whose childhood and youth have been passed under occupation, will yet go far.