Dear friends, I am on a little time-out as I visit friends following meetings in Jerusalem related to my work with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.
I noticed this article from Christian Peacemaker Teams. Last week I made a day trip to Hebron and Yatta and other parts of the south Hebron hills, and I saw the devastating effects of draught and lack of access to water - so Reinhard Kober's article struck me.
Al Khalil (Hebron): Water shortage - a daily Palestinian experience
by Reinhard Kober
Abu Jamal is head of a well known family in Halhul, to the north of Al Khalil. It is a beautiful town, on top of a hill, surrounded by fields and lovely gardens. Like other cities in the Palestinian controlled area A it’s population has grown from some 3.000 in the sixties to 30.000 now. Because of this, the infrastructure must expand greatly. Every year there is a need to open a new school.
Living east of the green line border Abu Jamal and his sons, as many other people, lost the possibility to work in Israel. Developing their own business, they invested in greenhouses, cultivated eggplants and tomatoes and were generally successful, at least at first. But that has changed . When asked him how farming is going, he shrugs his shoulders, and his face shows immediately, that things are becoming worse. “We don’t have the water we need. Just three hours of water access per week is not enough. Buying water in tanks is too expensive. We can’t do anything.”
Listening him I am reminded of my last walk to the vegetable market in Al Khalil / Hebron. When the Israel army shut down the old market next to the Avraham Avenu settlement, which violats the Sharm-Al-Sheikh agreement between Israel and Palestine, the entire city suffered. Reading piles of boxes with Hebrew labels, you get an idea of how Israeli companies make much profit by taking advantage of the inadequate water resources. According OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and an Amnesty International report Palestinians are denied next to their own water aquifer, which is under their own land. On average Israelis use 300 liters of water per day, Palestinians only 60 liters. Palestinians are not even allowed to dig their own wells. The situation in area C, which is controlled by Israeli forces is worse. Cisterns, which collect rainwater, are often destroyed by the Israeli army, to make life in this area more difficult. An official said: “It’s easy to make the fields bloom in dry areas (in Israel) when you deny others the use of their own water. “
For Abu Jamal it is important that his children get good education. He wants them to study in Abu Dis University, which is very expensive. That’s why he is risking a lot, sneaking across the border to earn money with an illegal job in Israel and sleeping without a shelter. On the one hand he finished his report, saying again: “What we can do?” On the other hand I am still thinking, he is still hoping for a better future for his growing family – not giving up.
These issues of water deprivation, loss of economic opportunity and injustice do not get much attention in the conventional media. Please do more reading on this and encourage others to be informed. See the most recent OCHA Protection of Civilians Weekly Report (it's a pdf file).
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