POPULATION. 8,000 people, according to the 2018 census.
We are received, in the Mayor’s absence, by M., a council member who recognizes us from our last visit. He is busy receiving boys who pay for their families’s electricity bills; he talks to us in between. Summer holidays in the West Bank begin on July 1 and go on till September 1.
MEDICAL SERVICES Downstairs in the Council’s building, a clinic functions from 8 am till 2 pm, with nurses 5 days a week, and a doctor once a week. When necessary, patients go to the Shechem Hospital, 10 minutes away by car.
LEISURE ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN No activities at all are provided for children during their holidays. The only football field in the village is in the boys’ secondary school, so after school hours or in the holidays, when they want to play football— boys jump over the wall.
TRUMP’S PLAN. We ask M. what he thinks of the $50 billion promised Palestinians, and of the Palestinian Authority’s answer that they prefer to live in tents (if necessary) rather than accept the money and continue the Occupation. M. looks at us and smiles.
CLOSURE. As the photo shows, the checkpoint means the way out from Awarta is through the end of Huwarra’s main road, where the IDF camp is located. In Huwarra Square today, a stage has been placed for some settlement celebration, so the checkpoint is open. Exceptionally, they can pass through Rujeib which is closer.
SETTLERS’ HARASSMENT. This takes several forms. First, intruders making noise all night. At around midnight on Jewish holidays, 5 or 6 buses of haredim, some from Bnei Brak, invade the village at around midnight, and revel noisily till morning. They come to pray at old grave sites, seen as Jewish holy sites, as they are for the three monolithic religions. M tells us that in this respect, Awarta is for them like Jerusalem. (For more detailed information, see the reports of Irit S. and Nurit P., who went to witness a pilgrimage some two or three months ago). IDF soldiers arrive before the pilgrims to close off the streets through which the bus parade will pass, to make sure the villagers will not disturb them. The pilgrims are then free to revel noisily all night, totally ignoring the rights of the villagers to move around in their own village or to sleep after a day’s hard work. The noisy settlers stay till morning. They come mostly, says M, in the “fourth month,” that is, April around Pesach.
There are also day intruders: one or two cars arrive, almost every day, from Itamar. A year ago, they damaged a car, which was equipped with cameras so the attack was properly documented. A complaint was placed but so far they have received no apology or compensation. Nor are the Palestinians sure whether the IDF took any measures to prevent these violent intruders from returning to Awarta.
LAND EXPROPRIATION. We ask about the projected apartheid road, planned to pass through Huwarra. How much land are they going to lose in Awarta, we ask? Perhaps they won’t, M. says; it seems they will take land from Odala and Huwarra.
In any case, the villagers of Awarta have already been dispossessed of more than half of the land they originally owned. Some of these lands were seized to build the settlement of Itamar. Some are still private lands, but access to them is now limited and controlled by the Israeli Military Administration. The owners of these lands must obtain a permit from the Israeli DCO (District Communications Officer) allowing them to enter and work their own land. This permit entitles them to get to their land with a wagon and donkey, or a tractor and/or a car, during 1 week to harvest their olive trees, and another 2 days to prepare the land. This time allocation is of course very insufficient, and affects the quantity and quality of the olive production. Even worse: they are now afraid that permits are only a temporary arrangement. Villagers have noticed certain signs indicating that these lands will eventually be seized and become a nature reserve—-out of bounds for them of course…
When this unjustified new seizure occurs, the lands the village possesses will have shrunk to 10,000 dunams. This is more than half of the 22,000 dunams they possessed. M. tells us that the farms, access to which is now limited, and those seized in the past for Itamar— will add up to a total of 12,000 dunams of dispossessed lands.
His words show that M. does not doubt that these lands will be annexed soon: yet another chapter in the ongoing violation of Awartans’ right to possess and work their own land.