Visit to Yatma

Observers: 
Nathalie C. (Heb trans.), Ana S. (Eng.). Mustafa, driver and translator
May-2-2018
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Morning

MAIN POINTS. In Yatma, several problems converge. No work for half of the villagers; low incomes for others. No money left to buy medical services. Nor to update their aging electrical infra-structure. The long, hot summer also adds its discontents. First, they don’t have enough power to use their air-conditioners (A/Cs) at home, nor money to instal a new infrastructure. Nor will they be able to enjoy long showers, drink long drinks: every summer sadistic Mekorot reduces their water supply. Finally, their aggressive neighbours are continuously expanding into their lands, and preventing them from working on their borderlands. Settlers’ new weapons shoot electrical shocks into farmers’ bodies, immobilizing them physically, and impairing their cognitive skills. Yet they greet their guests with a smile and offer them coffee.                                          

POPULATION: Somewhere between 5,000 and  3,363 people. The last official survey was in 2006, so there are different estimates.

WATER. A. the council member who receives us tells us that Mekorot now supplies all the village with 14-15 cm water an hour daily. This insufficient amount forces them to buy from water tankers; but this water is expensive and stagnant, not reliable for drinking by WHO standards. In several villages officials tell us that in the winter they manage with private tanks on their roofs and with wells in their yards. But in Yatma they say that both are expensive to build, and many villagers can’t afford them. But the worst, A. says, will begin next month. In the summer, Mekorot always reduces  further even this insufficient amount of water.

ELECTRICITY. In the summer villagers want to turn on their A/Cs at home, but  they neither have enough power to do so, nor one and a half million NIS to pay for a more powerful electrical infrastructure for the whole village. Outside the majdeles, a poster proudly announces that “In 2017, Japan contributed to the Rehabilitation of the Electricity Network in Yatma.” Hopefully, there will be a bigger donation soon.

WORK. Unemployment is now at 50%. Many men had their Israeli work permits cancelled. Some women work as teachers, many stay home. Some men work in settlements, but, understandably, not in neighbouring settlements—-only in those distant from the village.

MEDICAL SERVICES. At the clinic, a nurse supplies them everyday with basic medicines, like Acamol. A doctor comes in one or two days @ week. For more serious or urgent medical attention, those who have medical insurance go to Nablus/ Shechem. Those who do not have to pay. And slowly, we uncover the real problem: few can afford medical insurance. Up to 6 months ago, everyone had medical insurance, because the Ramallah government paid insurance for the unemployed. But unfortunately, since then they stopped paying. So now about 50% of the population, who are unemployed, can no longer afford to pay insurance—700 NSI @ year per person—and probably Nablus services neither. A serious health situation.       

SETTLERS’ HARASSMENT. As elsewhere, those most affected are the owners of farmlands near Rechelim. Our host points out that the problem is that no fence separates their land from that of Rechelim, so settlers can easily walk in and bother them. They do this in several ways.

First, a small house close to Rechelim, whose owners wanted to build a concrete separation wall, but the Army did not allow them. The council member came with us to show us the place and the fence around it. Hearing us arrive, a middle-aged pleasant woman comes out to speak to us. She tells Mustafa that, before when there was no fence, and she came out in the morning, she would find settlers sitting on the steps outside her door. So they built a fence to keep unwanted guests away. In the photo, one can see through the fence a small Army post not far from the house, probably to “protect” settlers.

First, a small house close to Rechelim, whose owners wanted to build a concrete separation wall, but the Army did not allow them. The council member came with us to show us the place and the fence around it. Hearing us arrive, a middle-aged pleasant woman comes out to speak to us. She tells Mustafa that, before when there was no fence, and she came out in the morning, she would find settlers sitting on the steps outside her door. So they built a fence to keep unwanted guests away. In the photo, one can see through the fence a small Army post not far from the house, probably to “protect” settlers.

 

A small army post viewed through the fence
A small army post viewed through the fence
Photo: 
Ana S

Secondly, unlike in other villages, where farmers get work permits from the Army, settlers here don’t allow this. So villagers lose their borderlands. Some settlers even planted olive trees on a Yatma private farmland.

Finally, we hear about the latest sadistic device settlers used against a Palestinian working his land. A week ago, a farmer complained at the majdeles that a settler had fired a Taser gun, an electric shock weapon which the IDF and the Police use. Research indicates that the Taser’s two arrow-like shots, attached to wires painfully penetrate the skin and the nervous system,caus[ing] involuntary muscle contractions and impairment of motor skills. [In short, they] “immobilize a person.”  Tests show they also impair cognitive skills (retrieved “Taser's 50,000-Volt Jolt Can Mess Up Your Brain,” Live Science, Oct 2014.) “Tasers can cause irregular heart rhythms, and, in some cases… cardiac arrestand death (retrieved Kirchener, Pacific Standard 2015).    

Not surprisingly, in Israel “Police rules permit [its] use if there is a genuine threat to an officer” Yaniv Kubovich (retrieved Aug 18, 2013, Ha’aretz). And officers must first undergo careful training. Did the settler undergo training? How did the unarmed farmer—busy working his land—threaten him?

unarmed farmer—busy working his land—threaten him?

EXPROPRIATION. Watching Rechelim settlement grow from an initial 10 houses some years ago—and continuously encroaching on their lands, Yatma villagers feel surrounded and trapped. A map they showed us which clearly document this encroachment. Till now, settlers have taken some 130 dunams of their land. That is, a third of their resources.

Just before we take him back to his office, the generous Council member buys each of us a bottle of cold water.