Yasuf and Iskaka

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Observers: 
Aliyah S.; Nathalie C., Ana S. (reporting). Adam the driver.
Aug-30-2017
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Morning

MAIN POINTS

Acute water shortage in Yasuf, since June. For two thirds of the population, water runs only for 3 hours a day at low pressure, and then stops altogether for 3 or 4 days. The pressure is too low for the 667 people who live higher up—they have had no running water at all since June. Similarly in Iskaka. Yasuf farmers, whose plots are near Tapuach, are prevented from working their lands by the settlers. Rechelim settlers don’t let Iskaka farmers reach their trees to harvest the olives.

YASUF

POPULATION: 2,000.

WATER. In the winter, the need for water is not so pressing, so they manage, says A. the recently elected council official. (As we know, in many homes, rain fills up the private wells in the coutyards).

The 5 long summer months, however, are very difficult. This year the water shortage is very severe, even worse than last year, says A., “the situation is bad.” Every week there is no running water for 3 or 4 days, he explains, and when there is, the pressure is low. This means that 1/3 of the population, or about 667 people—who live higher up the hill—have no water at all. This terrible deprivation has been going on since June—the month of the Ramadan fast.

But when water comes for the lucky 2/3 it is insufficent. Each home—about 5 to 6 people—receives only 12 cm per hour for 3 hours daily.

Most Israelis can’t grasp this. Plants and flowers flourish in our gardens, terraces and city streets; we and our children enjoy soaking baths or daily showers as often and for as long as we want; and of course, many flock to swimming pools. How can one live otherwise?

As reported last year (31.07.16), Yasuf shares its water allotment with the 1790 people of their neighbouring village Iskaka. To ensure an equal distribution of water, both villages open and close the central water valves, so that every three hours another neighbourhood receives water. This tiring job, we are told, goes on 24 hours every day.

Recently, before a family celebration, our host bought 2 big water tanks, holding 3 cm—to collect extra water for his uncle, who lives abroad and came for a visit. But, as he confided to us, he was ashamed because his uncle witnessed their daily deprivations. For instance, he reserves drinking tap water for his wife, while he abstains. (And, we assume, flushing the toilet is a luxury carefully rationed).

They have to divide very carefully the little water they receive, satisfying only very few essential personal needs: drinking, cooking, showers. They cannot water their trees, nor grow flowers nor vegetables; nor keep any pets. But what about washing clothes? cleaning the house, e.g. washing floors, etc.? The needs of schools and mosques?

Painfully, they see that settlers use as much water as they want. Quite unrestricted, they water their trees, vegetables, flowers, lawns; enjoy long showers, their washing machines and swimming pools. And are not ashamed to wastefully let water flow down into the road below. 

ELECTRICITY. At least the electricity supply is enough.

ARMY. It has been quiet for the past month, the army has not come. Occasionally, there are closures.

Tapuach SETTLERS’ HARASSMENT. At the entrance to the village we notice a whole row of new caravans. Tapuach settlers prevent farmers from working their plots, when these are near the settlements.

A settler took over some of Yasuf’s land and filled it with building materials. He was seen stripping off the bark from the olive tree trunks. This dries up the trees, and then they can be easily pulled out.

WORK. Our host, who speaks Hebrew fluently, worked in Israel for several years till he had a very serious accident. He was taken to Tel Hashomer, where he stayed for 4 months. The Drs told him he was half dead on arrival. His Israeli lawyer told him that had he been Israeli, he would have been paid five times the amount of compensation he received. He still suffers from several physical disabilities, so he can no longer return to his former work. He works in a small local shop, probably earning much less.                                                                                                                                          About a third of the residents, who have permits, work in Israel, others work in Ramallah and Nablus. In the village itself, there is no longer much work available, since farmers have very restricted access to their lands. Two to three days to work the land, another two or three to harvest their olives.

VISITORS FROM ABROAD. Few fellow villagers who live abroad get entry permits. His daughter, who lives in Jordan, came recently for a family wedding. But her husband was not given a permit. Whereas she has her Israeli ID, he left his village many years ago and has no identification card—so he was not allowed to come with her even for a short visit.

Another three men listened to our conversation with A. One of them, an elderly religious man, sometimes interrupted A.. For him, their worst problem is the settlers who have been taking away their private land and their water. “There can only be peace,” he says, “when we get back the water and the land we inherited, and which are rightfully ours. And when my children and grandchildren can cross safely the road below the village without being shot”. “That,” he says, “would be peace.”

While the old man’s anger was restrained though palpable, our host’s appealing look conveyed different feelings. We were touched by his restrained but deep frustration and his wounded pride.

Before we left, perhaps grateful for our empathy, he offered us some orangeade and chocolates.

ISKAKA

The main official and the secretary were away, but with Adam our driver as translator, we spoke with the man receiving payments for municipal services. He seemed well-informed; but his data differed a bit from those received in Yasuf.

WATER. As in Yasuf, there is running water every 3 days. Because of its low pressure, 20-25 homes don’t get any water at all. Each neighbourhood receives 6 hours of water; altogether, 62 cm for 35-50 homes.

ARMY. They come sometimes and set up machsomim.

Rechelim SETTLERSHARASSMENT. Rechelim settlers don’t let the farmers reach their trees to harvest the olives.