'Azzun 'Atma, Mas'ha
At the entrance to the village, opposite Beit Amin, the road is still being paved and widened. We met B., a council member, who’s overseeing the work, at the entrance to the village. We were pleased to learn that the problem of sewage, which has been flowing in the wadi for almost two months because of a break in the sewage pipe in Sha’arey Tikva, was finally solved. B. said that sometimes the stench was so bad “that even the soldiers, who sometimes set up a checkpoint at the village entrance, would get away as soon as they could.”
The village is surrounded by a separation fence, adjacent to Sha’arey Tikva, Oranit, and Elkana, which have been established on its lands. All of its 7000 dunums of agricultural land is beyond the fence. The village farmers confront the serious problems of farmers in the seam zone. A., whom we met at B.’s house, has a permit to work his land (“even though he’s been barred”). He keeps applying for a permit to cross with his car but the authorities don’t grant him one. He has a permit for gates 1419 and 1447 (Jaloud) but must travel ten kilometers to reach his land. His 12-, 13- and 14-year-old children don’t have permits to accompany him. Gate 1419 was opened a few days ago from 09:00 instead of 08:00-08:15, he arrived at his land at 09:30 and was forced to go home early to reach the gate when it opened at 13:00. The gates’ hours make it difficult for the Palestinians. He uses a mule during the olive harvest.
The soldiers, as noted, occasionally erect a checkpoint at the village entrance and allow only residents to enter. There are sometimes night raids on homes.
We drove through Bidya and Siniriyya to Maskha. S.A., the head of the municipality, welcomed us. The village has 3000 residents. 25% are employed in local businesses – carpentry, metalwork, stonework. 10% work for the Palestinian Authority, and 35% work in Israel. 35% work exclusively in farming, but there are also many farmers among the others.
The agricultural gates open only seasonally, primarily during the olive harvest.
Gate 1534 opened last week only for 5 days (28.2-3.3). Previously it opened for 20 days in October.
The head of the village would like it to open for five days every month, to make it easier for the farmers.
Additional gate 1549 (Hani gate) opens only during the olive season for 20 days.
The head of the municipality again raised the issue of water for the cultivated lands!!! The authorities don’t allow them to run a pipe to the fields. They need water for their fields, particularly to spray weeds which threaten the crops. While they’re allowed to bring in a water tanker, it doesn’t hold enough water. He begs us to try to help them. He wants permission to run a pipe.
Family member don’t receive permits. Sometimes they apply for permits for five family members and only one or two are granted them. Two weeks ago a farmer was turned down with the strange excuse that he had no land, even though he showed them the relevant documents. Another excuse they give a farmer applying for permits for members of his family is that they followed them and discovered they’re not working, so they don’t approve additional permits for them!