A Bleak Future for Bruqin and Kufr al-Dik
With growing illegal Israeli settlements, daily lives of Palestinians living in the villages of Bruqin and Kufr al-Dik are quickly, and steadily deteriorating. Land is progressively being confiscated for settlement growth, sewage from settlements flows freely onto Palestinian owned including between the village houses, there is a limited supply of water, and there is not nearly enough land to support Palestinian population growth and building construction.
Bruqin village, with a population of about 4,000, is located in the zones B and C. The 1993 Oslo Accords define them and Palestinians are allowed to build in zones A and B, but not in area C, which is under complete Israeli control. Area C covers 61% of the West Bank while areas A and B make up the remaining 39%.
The Mayor of Bruqin, Lawyer Nafiz Barakat explained that, over 200 houses within Bruqin are located on area C, and over half of them are under threat of demolition. One agricultural building and 19 houses were demolished in January this year and three houses and a mosque have current orders to be demolished.
Also, the land privately owned by the Bruqin villagers continues to be illegally confiscated by the Bruchin settlement. Recently the three villagers whose land is under threat of confiscation started court proceedings against it. The Israeli court has already rejected one farmer’s case and has not yet come to a decision with the other two.
The village of Kufr al-Dik, located west of Bruqin, has a population of 6,000. About 75% of its land is located in area C and because of this, there is no land left for building in areas A and B. This immensely hinders Kufr al-Dik’s development and growth. The Kufr Al-Dik Mayor, Jamal al-Dik, commented on the lack of space for any new buildings and he said: “In five years, I don’t know what we will do!” Villagers are already being forced to build in area C, meaning that at any time the Israeli forces could come to demolish their homes.
Along with most other villages in the West Bank, Bruqin and Kufr al-Dik have a massive problem with sewage and waste waters coming from the five illegal Israeli settlements that surround them. To the north of the villages is the Bruchin, to the northwest are Alei Zahav and Leshem, to the northeast is Ariel West industrial zone (Ariel being the second largest settlement in the West Bank), and to the southwest is Pedu’el.
The waste water from these settlements have been contaminating Palestinian agricultural land and because of this, sickness, disease, and a fear of eating meat or drinking the milk from the animals grazing the land, has spread. A nearby spring and water pool called Ein al-Fawwara, which was a popular picnic spot where many Palestinians would come to swim, has since been contaminated with sewage water creating a foul smell and appearance. It is no longer safe to use Ein al-Fawwara as a place of recreation. These two villages have the largest number of deaths to cancer in the entire Salfit region of Palestine.
Much of the sewage issue started with ‘land grabs’ made by the settlements, bringing them extremely close to villages in the West Bank. The illegal settlements are strategically built on hills above Palestinian villages and frequently on land owned by the villages.
Often, Palestinians who own land in area C are banned from doing any work and making any changes on their land. They can neither plant a tree, nor move a stone; if they do, the Israeli military will come and order them to return the land back to its original state. At the same time if the land is not worked on for three years Israel will confiscate it using an old Ottoman law. In almost all such cases, the land confiscated from Palestinians would be handed over to illegal settlements.
A project, partially funded by the Palestinian Authority, helped install 1.5km of pipes in Bruqin in order to prevent the sewage from illegal settlements to flow freely in between homes. That alone cost 1,800,000 NIS, or nearly half a million dollars and there is still 9km needed to complete the project. In Kufr al-Dik, 15km of piping is needed to address the same issue, but neither Kufr al-Dik or Bruqin have enough money to install the needed piping.
With the constant ‘land grabs’ made by the nearby illegal settlements, both Kufr al-Dik and Bruqin have lost control of the springs owned by the villages and they are now forced to buy their own water from Mekorot Water Co., an Israeli water company that provides Israel with 90% of its drinking water. The villages get only 250-300 cubic meters a day; this equates to about 250,000-300,000 liters of water. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 100 liters of water per capita per day, and even 300cubic meters does not provide these two villages with nearly enough water to meet the WHO recommendation.
About 40% of the water purchased goes to Bruqin and the other 60% to Kufr Dik. With the shortage of water, it is necessary to have a technician whose sole job is to organize the distribution of water amongst the two villages and between the villagers. The villages have to purchase electricity from Israel as well.
Another growing concern is the increasing number of wild pigs roaming the agricultural land. Wild pigs are extremely aggressive and can seriously injure; they are especially dangerous for village children. They are also extremely destructive for the vegetable fields and even for olive trees, which are the main source of income for Palestinian farmers. The pigs will eat a tree to the point where it can no longer survive. There is speculation that nearby settlers released the pigs into the area about 15 years ago, and they have since become a major issue for farmers during the harvest season.
With more problems mounting every day, both the mayors of Buruqin and Kufr al-Dik expressed grave concern for the future of the villages. The extent of the troubles was illustrated by the words of the Kufr al-Dik Mayor, who said: ‘Salfit region is like Jerusalem, covered in settlements and very much wanted by the Israelis.’