Vist the villages Talfit and Yatma. "Only one day permit to harvest olives"
Main Points: The olive harvest on plots near the settlements is very problematic. To have their civil and human rights again, and to live in peace with Israelis are the villagers’ main objectives.
We spoke with the head of the Council of Talfit, a village of 3,900 people.
Harassment and work permits: Now there is no harassment from the Israeli settlers. During the olive harvest it was a very different story. The settlement Eli is built on 50 dunams of land belonging to Talfit as well as on land of the neighboring villages Qaryut and As-Sawiya. Moreover, the owners of about 100 dunams of Talfit’s land which is near Eli have very limited access to it. These farmers must receive permits from the Civil Administration in order to go to their groves to harvest the olives. This year they received a permit for one day only instead of the usual 5 days (which were already very insufficient to do the work) to harvest that area. So, in addition to the initial 50 mentioned above, they have practically lost some 150 dunams of land to Eli.
Water: Now, during the winter months, there is no problem with the water supply. But during the summer months there is a problem. The village is not connected to Mekorot in Israel. Their water comes from the village Rujeib that is in Area A. on the edge of Nablus, and it is connected by water pipes to Mekorot. During the summer months the villagers in Talfit buy expensive water from water-tankers which are filled in Rujeib. They pay for the water about double the price that the tankers’ owners—who live in neighboring villages—paid for it.
Electricity: There is no problem with the supply of electricity. The village is connected to the larger village of Qabalan that is connected to the Israeli grid.
Education: There are two separate primary schools, for grades one through junior high; one school is for boys and the other for girls. In the high school, classes are mixed—boys and girls study together. We commented that this was rather unusual, as the classes at that age are usually separated. M. agreed with us, the village would prefer to have two separate high schools, but at this point they do not have the money to build another school building. Many of the students go on to study at the Universities.
Employment: A few University graduates find work in Ramallah with the Palestinian Authority or with the few companies there. 90 to 100 men from the village have permits to work in Israel in manual labor. About 10% of the men work in agriculture in the village. Among the women about 10% are employed as teachers or clerks in the village. About 90% of the women are at home. Unemployment is at 10%, low in comparison to other villages.
The Conflict: Before leaving our hosts we asked how they viewed a possible solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Their answer, “If there will be two states, and we Palestinians have our rights and can develop our economy, then we can live in peace in this land.”
We went to the Council in Yatma without prior arrangement as we had no contacts nor telephone numbers for the village. The mayor welcomed us and we sat in his office. He speaks a little of Hebrew and of English, but we spoke to a man in his room, who is knowledgeable and whose English is fluent.
Harassment: Our usual first question is about forms of harassment and/or other problems with Israeli settlements in the area. Immediately the man began a long and angry tirade against the settlers and settlements. “The settlements are the problem. They took our land. No settlers are good neighbours. During the olive harvest we have to get a permit just to go to our own groves to pick the olives. This is not the way to live in peace. After we got the permit we went to harvest the olives near Rechalim (a settlement overlooking the village). While we were working a settler came down to where we were. ‘Why are you angry?’ he asked us. ‘You took our land’ we said. “Israel doesn’t agree to give us, Palestinians, even just 20% of our homeland. The settlers don’t want to give us anything! If there is no peace, we will fight each other forever. Israelis are afraid. We could live together but our leaders are no good. Our leaders are elected by us, but they are still no good!” This is a small part of what he said. I’m sure you get the idea.
Education: “We provide education for the children from age four through high school. About 40% of the students go on to study at the Universities. The University graduates do not find work in their professions.”
Water: “Israel does not give us enough water. In the summer we get running water maybe once a week; sometimes we get water only once a month. Israel gives us 1 cubic meter and gives the settlements 100 cubic meters! We have a reservoir for water; but we need pumps to distribute the water because there is no pressure.”
Electricity: “Yatma does not get enough electric power. We take some from Qabalan [a larger village] which also supplies electricity to other villages around it [Talfit and Qaryut].”
We said goodbye and hurried to take our train back to Tel Aviv.