'Azzun 'Atma, Ras 'Atiya
Ras Atiya – The head of the council and his deputy were absent. But we found an active infirmary in the building, and women who arrived with their children. The responsible nurse (the only one) told us that she works three times a week, including twice with a physician who arrives at the village. The infirmary tends to sick people, to pregnant women and to the vaccination of children in the schools.
Outside, children were loitering around, and when we asked why, they explained that they had studied three hours today and finished early because of the strike (which hasn't yet come to a close).
From there we drove in the direction of Dab'a. On the way we met P., who introduced himself as a comptroller at the Palestinian Ministry of Education. He told us he has published five books on accounting and economy. He was happy to meet us and hold a conversation. He expressed his belief that peace activity will in the end bring about a change. We expressed interest in the teachers' strike. According to him the strike has ended. He agreed that the teachers' wages were relatively low, but in his opinion the strike is a result of political agitation against the Palestinian Authority. Regarding the children who loitered around outside after three hours of study, he explained that they study in two shifts, since they are renovating one of the schools at Ras Atiya and therefore have created shifts in the afternoon too. It seemed to us that he was speaking for the Authority, and in excellent English. He himself lives with his family at Dab'a, a village of about 400 inhabitants. In the village there is a mixed school, both elementary and high school. Everybody makes a living mainly from agriculture, but there are also teaching staff and employees of the Authority. Most lands are beyond the fence. His lands haven't been processed for two years; he himself is prevented from going there. During the olive picking season his whole family has just one authorization to cross over.
The idea was to meet B., who called about a week ago and told us about the closure of the entrance to the village. About 15 soldiers had arrived and imposed this closure. Usually when such closures are imposed one allows the villagers to enter, but this time they didn't allow even schoolchildren who returned from school, and villagers who returned from work or errands, to enter. Since I hadn't succeeded in creating a telephone connection with B. since that day, we went there to find out. B. told us that the closure lasted three hours. The soldiers walked around the village but didn't enter the houses and there were no confrontations. Then they just went away. B. took us on a tour of the village, which is surrounded all around by the separation fence, except for the road that leads into the village from Beit Amin. We stood on the old road, which today is closed by the fence, and even Sha'arei Tikva and Oranit, which surround it, seemed like Crusaders' settlements, surrounded by walls.
B. himself, in addition to being a member of the council, works in Israel in construction. In the past he reached Kafr Kassem in five minutes by the old road, but today he is forced to pass by the Eyal crossing. We felt this distance ourselves when we returned home.
We saw many hothouses in the village. The majority make their living by agriculture, what else can they do? asks B. sadly.