Beta suffers from collective punishment; in Huwwara a medical center was expropriated in favor of a college by the Authority
Beta: Our first stop was in Beta where we met with the head of the Municipal Council. He is quite new at the job; he was elected four months ago in democratic elections. In Beta, he says, they refuse to accept the “occupation” and the lack of civil and human rights for the Palestinians in the territories.
For 14 months the people in Beta have been suffering from the renewed construction in Evyatar, the settler outpost on a hill overlooking Beta. 6,000 people in Beta have been injured in clashes with those trying to set up this outpost. 35 of those injured were children, 200 of the injured were hospitalized, and 65 of them are still under hospital care.
There are 16,000 inhabitants in Beta. The town should get 2,400 cubes of water daily, but they get only 1,200 cubes from Mekorot, the Israeli company. This means that they suffer from a severe shortage of water, even though the West Bank is on the hills over the main water aquifer in our country. The Palestinians are not permitted to drill wells. The water supply is controlled by Israel through Mekorot. A further problem is that their water system is old and even damaged. Israel makes it difficult for international organizations that try to help the Palestinians.
In addition to water shortages, Israel cuts the electricity supply, which it also controls, whenever it chooses, even though Beta paid 22 million shekels for electricity last year. The power is cut sometimes for 8 to 10 hours with no prior warning. The outpost Evyatar was originally set up in 1985 as an Israeli army base. They had water and electricity within 1 hour of being opened.
At least 500 men from Beta worked in Israel. When the clashes with the settlers in Evyatar began the work permits were cut off. Since then some of the workers have gone back to work in Israel.
Beta suffers from collective punishment by the Israeli Civil Administration. The main entrance to the town, [the only road for cars, trucks and busses] has been closed on and off with no prior warning. This definitely makes the economic situation very precarious. It also affects the educational services when teachers cannot reach the schools. In addition the health services are negatively affected.
Outside the town there were 570 dunams of olive groves, a main economic source for Beta. 60 dunams of this land have been taken over by Israeli settlements, which cut down 1,800 olive trees. Another 400 trees were burnt by “hilltop gangs”.
Huwwara: Our second stop was in Huwwara where we met with the treasurer of the town Council. He said that there are 7,000 people living in Huwwara, but 20,000 people from the town live abroad. He has family members living in Spain, Qatar and Jordan.
A new road that Israel is paving for the use of Israeli settlers has taken land from the town. 800 dunams of land have been confiscated for the road and 150 meters of empty space on each side. People from the town who have plots of land on the other side of the new road have to have permits from the army to get to their plots. But even when they have permits, the settlers in Yitzhar, on a hill overlooking Huwwara, don’t always let these people go to their plots.
Odala is a village of 1,500 people on the edge of Huwwara. The people there live solely from farming and have suffered serious economic losses from the new road. The plots owned by people in Huwarra and Odala are mostly planted with olive groves. When the time for the harvest comes the army gives the harvesters 3 days to complete the work. Under normal conditions the harvesters need 2 weeks for the harvest. In the groves the harvesters discover that settlers [probably from Yitzhar] have chopped off whole branches from the trees. This is an old story that hasn’t changed, our host tells us. Sometimes volunteers come to help with the harvest, but the army doesn’t allow any organizations to do the harvesting.
Huwwara is a health center for the town and 5 villages in the vicinity. There was 1 doctor and several nurses who came to a clinic twice a week. Then the town Council built a 5 story building to be a medical center. Before they installed the medical center the Palestinian Authority took over the building for use as a College. Only the ground floor was left as a medical clinic with 1 doctor and 1 male nurse. For more serious medical treatment they have to go to Nablus.
When asked about education in the town our host told us that the students got high marks on their final exams. He did not elaborate on the subject.
Huwwara's main street is lined with shops and eateries. This definitely helps the town’s economic situation. 30% of the workers work in the shops; 20% work in Israel. Some of the farmers grow wheat to be sold, and some of the olive oil is sold outside the town.
We finished our visit to Huwwara by having falafel, humus, tachina, salads and pitot at a nice place on the main street.