Palestinian Jordan Valley, visit at encampments on the ground, Akaba
- Water shortage at En Al Hilwa, the Palestinians purchase water at Bardala, transport raises the price of water
- For three days now live bullets have been flying in the eastern part of Akaba, where demolitions took place a week ago; the villagers are concerned that women and children will be hurt. The bullets are fired from the Tyassir Checkpoint area. Apparently the army is implementing the declaration of a firing zone in a residential area.
8:30 Departure from Yarkon Junction
9:00 On road 505, near the turnoff to road 458 we see an army jeep parked – soldiers have stopped a westbound Palestinian vehicle. The vehicle proceeded after a while.
Maale Efrayim Checkpoint overlooking the valley – unmanned.
9:30 Fassail – driving along the Fassail ravine, we see the houses of Duma village on the range to the west. A water pipe lies alongside the ravine towards Patza’el settlement, originating at the En Duma spring up the creek. Flocks from Fassail Fuqa (Upper Fassail) enjoy the water in the creek and leaks along the pipe close to the creek, where Christian thorn jujube trees grow in abundance. We met a 14-year old boy from Fassail Fuqa. It is a holiday and there’s no school, so he’s out with the herd. Up the range to the north, we see a line of goats descending towards the ravine. From afar, against the rocky background, they look like a procession of ants. A shepherd on donkey-back leads the flock to water and shade.
10:30 Fassail Wussta – Visiting our friend H. The place is quiet. This is the last day of the Eid Al Adha holiday. Most of the clan has gone on family visits in town. H., her daughter-in-law, married son and their children have remained in the encampment. Uri was requested to sit in the next shed together with the married son, since H. – recently widowed – is not to sit with men who are not family members. She is confined to her encampment but for family visits in Jericho and Ujja. But she is content. There is television but no internet. Nor computer. Too expensive for her. She said there is one computer, in the school. Our question whether she likes to read was answered in the affirmative. We promised to bring her books in Arabic on our next visit. Her daughter-in-law – who completed 12 years of schooling – would love to read as well. To our surprise, she said she would also like Hebrew books, to learn and understand us when we talk among ourselves.
12:30 Hamra Checkpoint – unmanned. Lanes in both directions open.
13:00 En Al Hilwa – We visited our friend M.’s family. The men sat in the family tent: father, sons and nephew. They complained that the recent season was drier even than usual, and the situation is dire. No food, no water. The only way to obtain water is to buy it in Bardala and transport it in containers. Transport raises the expense considerably. IN addition, carrying the water is considered violation of the law and at times they are caught and fined. The water pipe to nearby Maskiyot settlement and the army base passes next to their encampment. The authorities wouldn’t think of connecting this pipe to the local inhabitants’ dwellings. Uri showed the young son photos of the Golan, and the boy was thrilled with all that greenery. Good grazing, good life.
The horses and cows at our host’s encampment look emaciated, their ribs sticking out. There’s not enough feed. It is expensive and they cannot afford enough. They’re waiting for rainfall and natural grazing. The young sons tend to the sheep and goats. They sorely miss their donkey, confiscated by Nissim the policeman, and now they have to walk to the grazing area. A donkey costs about 1500 shekels. They believe their donkey has been sold. Who gets the price paid? They say there are many loose donkeys across Bezeq Checkpoint, near the town of Beit She’an in the Israeli Jordan Valley. But there is no way to get them across. The nephew works in Beit She’an. He must board a bus to cross Jalame Checkpoint, leaving from Tyassir early in the morning. From Jalame he rides to Beit She’an where he arrives at 7 a.m., to work on occasional jobs. He earns about 350 shekel a day. On his way home he is allowed through Bezeq Checkpoint.
We proceeded to “En Sukkot” near the border fence with Jordan. The father joined us.We drove in the direction of Shadmot Mekhola settlement, and continued east following the road signs. The road is potholed and passes through a mined area. On the way a black civilian jeep passed us, driven by a young man with dreadlocks from Rotem settlement. He is a shepherd and the father said he is “alright”. Shepherd solidarity… We showed the young man our Machsomwatch tag. Oh, you’re from B’Tselem and such? He responded, smiling.
On the way, friends from Taayush told us on the phone that there was shooting in Akaba. A phone call to the village elder Haj Sami confirmed. We about-faced.
16:00 Tyassir Checkpoint – we saw soldiers standing near the checkpoint. We did not stop.
16:30 Akaba – we went through the eastern gate of the village to the neighborhood where demolitions took place about a week ago. The men sat in an isolated tent together with the village elder and Taayush members. The owner of the demolished home told us that the large outdoor oven, outhouse and four caravans and tents had been destroyed. On our way to see the ruins, several women and their children met us. We made friendly conversation with two of them. They are friends, and married to the same man, and are named after the wives of Biblical Abraham. We asked, “And where is Ishmael?” In Mecca… they answered. Now they and their family are guests in a neighbor’s encampment. They spoke of living in fear. The army has been shooting twice a day for three days now, the bullets pass right beside the encampment and close to the children – endangering lives. The shots are fired around nearby Tyassir Checkpoint. The village elder is very worried, and repeatedly stressed to us that this is violation of the law. That firing around inhabited areas is forbidden. They have turned to a lawyer and might petition the Israeli High Court of Justice.
17:00 – Tyassir Checkpoint – on our way back no soldiers were seen. The abandoned army base is neglected and filthy. At the entrance stands an overflowing garbage dumpster. Two soldiers came towards us, asking where we came from. We told them we were visiting friends in Akaba and asked about the shootings. They immediately demanded to see our IDs and sneered at our question about the shooting.