Sinjil, Turmus Ayya.

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Observers: 
Aliyah S. (Hebrew translation); Hanna Z.; Natalie P; Ana S. (reporting), with Tareq, a Venetia Co. driver.
Sep-11-2016
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Morning

MAIN POINTS

Baladias in this area are striking against the cancellation of the local council elections.

Water deprivation is very severe in Turmus Ayya and in Sinjil: there is water for 1 day, then 14 days no water. Or, running water only two days a month.

SINJIL

The baladia was closed. We were told that this was because of the Eid-ul-Adha festival, involving 4 days of holiday. Eid ul-Adha, the "Sacrifice Feast" is considered the holiest Muslim holiday, celebrated worldwide each year. A few shops were open. However, a Palestinian acquaintance later told Aliyah that all the baladias were striking because the local elections had been cancelled by the Palestinian Authority. The Council members are unpaid volunteers; some possibly want to be replaced. Apparently, the people we talked to didn’t want to share this information with us.

We entered a grocery, bought some items and asked about the baladia and the water. They said the water situation wasn’t good; we received detailed information in Turmus Ayya (see below).

TURMUS AYYA.

As we entered the town we noticed a police car and an army jeep on the outgoing side of the avenue.

We entered a hardware store whose owner speaks Spanish fluently, having worked for many years in Latin America, and with whom Ana had spoken on a previous visit to the baladia. He was absent. But a worker who spoke a bit of English, called our attention to the line of cars leaving the town that had been stopped and were being checked by the police and the army stationed near the town entrance. We decided to find out why they were checking the cars.

As we waited behind the line of cars, a soldier came up to our minibus, and seemed surprised to see four Israeli women in the car. After checking our driver’s papers he asked us who we are. He didn't seem to recognize Machsom Watch and asked the driver to park at the side of the road in order to talk with us. We explained who we are and why we came to the town. We also suggested that he look for our website. He said that they had come because of a false report about the kidnapping of an Israeli. His unit is located on the hill opposite. He insisted that he was concerned about our safety, and suggested we leave. Nevertheless, we decided to visit the town. We drove out and went a short way down the road. The driver turned around and we went back to Turmus Ayya. By then the police and army had left.

LANGUAGE

In Turmos Ayya we were warmly welcomed when people saw our MW tags on our shirts. Spanish seems to be the second language, after Arabic. Some of the people we met, can speak a bit of Hebrew and/or English, but, we were told, Spanish is more widely spoken. Spanish speakers usually worked abroad in Spanish-America or in Spain, others learnt it from them. A council worker we met in a shop said he has 8 brothers living in Las Palmas, Canary Islands; he himself has never left the village, he learnt the language from fellow-villagers. However, he did not always understand Ana's questions. Ana's main source of information was a young man whose Spanish is fluent, to whom she was directed in the same shop, which sells coffee, sweets and other small items, and where they offered us cups of coffee or tea.

WATER, A VERY ACUTE SHORTAGE

 

On our last visit on 17/07, we were told that Sinjil had the same serious water problems as Turmus Ayya. Then, both villages had water once every 8 or 10 days. Now, it is down to once every 14 days; that is, one day there is water, then 14 days no water. Or, water only two days a month. Think what that means when in your Israeli home, there is water 24/7—every time you open a tap, every day, at any time of day or night. As much as you want.

 

Yes, they do fill up their water containers on that day. But how much water can one store at home? And how much time and effort does it take to do this? Several World Health Organization (WHO) studies point out that (1) if running water is intermittent, it can become contaminated and (2) so can containers if not properly closed.

Water tankers (also potentially contaminated sources): Yes, yes, they do come, but—- “most people here are poor, they can’t afford the extravagantly expensive prices”. Running water: 6 sh. per 10 cm; tankers: 350 sh. (As we heard on 17/07 from the top council  official). They do use a spring, but it is very far, so on these very hot and humid days, they can’t bring back more than1 litre or 2.

So how can they shower? We don’t, grinned ironically a council worker whom we met at a shop. (He was wearing a very clean shirt.)

A comparison with the 7 villages we visited in the past few months shows that every single village has been progressively and severely deprived of their basic right to water. This right, recognized by the UN and by the State of Israel, means a “sufficient, safe, continuous, and affordable daily amount of water.” The details of their deprivation vary—-some have no water for 9 hours every night (Huwarra 19/06/16); some only 8 hours every two or even three days (Iskaka 31/07; 21/08/16 ). In several villages, some homes, higher up on the hillsides, do not receive running water at all, because the pressure is kept too low. In Sawiyya, half the village had no water for 6 days (8/05/16); similarly, in Kabalan (22/05/16) and Iskaka. In Jamma’in, 2,800 people had not received any running water for the past 2 months (21/08/16). Finally, the amount of water supplied to Jammain as a whole has not changed for 20 years, though the population is now 4 times greater (Jamma’in 21/08/16).

For all these villages, the amount Mekorot supplies (or a Ramallah Co. selling Mekorot water indirectly, as in Turmos Ayya, Singel and other villages) is very insufficient. It is much below the WHO minimum amount. It barely covers basic consumption needs—drinking and cooking— or not at all. It hardly, or in some cases, does not cover their personal hygiene, and laundry needs. For example, on 21/08, Jamma’in was receiving 40-50 litres per person per day (Lpcd). WHO stipulates a minimum of 100 Lpcd water. In Iskaka, it was 56 Lpcd in May 22; by July 31, it had decreased to 37 Lpcd. This is just above a level which an undated WHO study calls a short term “survival level” (30 Lpcd).

With insufficient running water, villagers are forced to buy from expensive water tankers, which charge almost 60 times as much as Mekorot. A recent survey states that “…As a result of dependence upon pricey water providers, the average West Bank household spends eight percent of its income on water. In some Palestinian communities, families spend over forty-five percent of their income on water” (retrieved J.Int’lL and Pol. 165, 2011). In Iskaka, some people have been forced to sell off their domestic animals, not only because they don’t have enough water for them, but also so they can pay for the water from the tankers (21.08).

Not only are these villagers becoming more and more impoverished, it's a possibility that many may get seriously sick. A WHO study links insufficient and discontinuous quantity and unreliable, unsafe quality of water supply with disease. The study points out that intermittent running water, as well as water from tankers, becomes contaminated. In such conditions of insufficient and unsafe water supply, people easily succumb to serious diseases. This is true especially of more vulnerable elements, such as young children, pregnant women, and elderly people. Diarrhea, typhus, cholera and other diseases and/or epidemics are often the result of the lack of personal hygiene. An insufficient supply of water does not allow proper hand washing after defecation, before eating, and especially before preparing meals (retrieved WHO 2003).

Reading such studies, a thought comes to mind: this quasi-Machiavellian system could be a perfect way to ensure ethnic cleansing.