A visit to Umm Pagara, southern Hebron Mountains
Meitar Checkpoint’s car park was full to bursting.
We returned to road 317.
The hill opposite Susya now has several caravans on it. It all began with a tent that was erected there a few months ago, afterwards a caravan appeared, and now there are several. I take it that now, secretly at night a road is being paved there, and I wouldn’t wonder if soon a new settler-colonist outpost is announced.
We drove to Ummafaqara, that in Hebrew means ‘mother of poverty’. And so it is – a shepherd community in the Massafar Yatta area, and according to the Kerem Navot website, appears in aerial photos of 1967. In 1984 the State of Israel declared about 1200 dunams in that area as state land, and soon enough settler-colonies grew nearby – Maon, Susya and Avigail.
Road 317, paved in the 1980s, connects these settler-colonies to road 60. A few years earlier the Israeli army declared an area of about 37,000 dunams as “firing zone 918”. According to the OCHA report, (the UN Office for Coordinating Humanitarian Affairs), the physical security of communities living inside a closed military zone is upset, their living conditions worsen and they are impoverished, for these are shepherd communities living on their sheep herds. Restrictions in their access to grazing grounds wreak havoc on their livelihood.
The descent from road 317 to Ummafaqara is directed by a road sign that mentions only Mitzpe Avigail. The way leading to the illegal settler-colony, too, looks very different from the one leading to the Palestinian community. In order to prevent the settler-colonists from going on wild rampages there, the villagers scattered rocks on the track leading to their site.
Fadel and his wife welcomed us warmly. Hadera, his first wife, embroiders the wedding gown of their daughter who is about to marry, in a room nearly empty but for some chairs. Fadel’s young children from his second wife were also glad to see us. Fadel told us they live in constant fear of the Israeli army and Avigail settler-colonists. About a month and a half ago Israeli Secret Service personnel came in the middle of the night and searched their home until morning, while all four young children were home. This is how ‘Zionist lovers’ are reared…
Apparently, the water pipe that is being laid along road 317 will not reach Ummafaqara. The photo below shows the water system from the tank which is filled from a tanker tied to a tractor, passing among the villages. I suppose that in settler-colony Avigail things look different…
We came with a carload of clothes, blankets and children’s games. They were very happy with all of this. And at Meitar Checkpoint sewage still stinks.