Gochya, Hamra (Beqaot)

Nurit Popper and Daphne Banai

It is seething in the Jordan Valley. The forecast predicted 45 degrees centigrade in the shade. But there is no shade. Only in the Jewish settlements.

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In the settlements all green

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Adnan and his sons

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The Jordan Valley landscape is reddish-brown or yellow, trees are nowhere to be seen – but for the deep green ‘islands’ of the Jewish settlements. Because the Palestinians are not allowed to plant any. Even if they were, they have no water for irrigation.

In such heat, the water issue becomes all the more critical. All the water goes to the settlements, and the shepherd communities scattered in this area are dehydrated, thirsting. Even the meager amount of water that is left is robbed with unmatched cruelty: during the past week residents of Umm Jemal were issued a demolition order for the tiny water duct (10 sq. m.), Abed Al Qadr from Samara had his water tanker and tractor confiscated and the authorities will not tell him how and when he may pay the thousands of shekels fine which rich, satiated Israel – that bathes in the stolen waters of the Palestinian Jordan Valley – demands as a fine in return for the tanker. Not only rifles kill. Death by thirst, be it of man, animal or plant, is no less of a war crime.

The rainwater cisterns scattered among the tents are blocked and dry, and Israel does not allow the Palestinians to open and clean them. They are not allowed to store even the few drops of winter rainwater. Israeli Taayush activists arrive there every week, descend into one of these water holes and work energetically alongside Palestinians to prepare it for rainwater storage next winter.

On Tuesday the army arrested 4 Palestinians who worked at night with Abu Saker, laying down a thin water pipe from the village of ‘Atuf (that receives water from the Palestinian Authority). Even this, of course, is forbidden (infrastructures…). The men were held in custody all night and released at 10 a.m.

Gokhia Gate has been open ever since the recent army maneuvers (about 10 days ago). We went through and drove on to Ras Al Ahmar. About 500 meters west of the earthen barrier which we always see along the Allon Road, an additional barrier runs many kilometers from north to south, preventing the Palestinian Jordan Valley inhabitants from crossing into the central West Bank, and vice versa.

The Odeh family is busy picking carrots, but not during the hottest hours. (Situated in the western part of the Valley, along the border with Area B, they receive meager water rationing from the Palestinian Authority). An orange-colored pile at the center of the encampment is waiting for collection and sale. Every Israeli army maneuver in the northern Palestinian Jordan Valley is held at the expense of the residents of Ras Al Ahmar. They are required to leave their home for many hours and go away. Nowhere. Anywhere but here. So they go south, towards the village of ‘Atuf, and sit in the seething sun (40-45 degrees centigrade), for a day or two, and when they return to their tent home, it is ‘decorated’ with shell remains that endanger them and their children. And this happens nearly every month. We have already heard senior army officials tell the Knesset supervision and construction committee that this is the way the Jewish State displaces Palestinians.