Villages Of Palestine’s Heartland
Update on Bruqin and Kafr ad Dik
Two villages in Salfit governorate, Bruqin and Kafr ad Dik, have been suffering from a severe shortage of water. Raw sewage and toxic chemicals are being dumped, by illegal Israeli settlements on the hilltop overlooking the villages, into the rivers running through the villages. Village wells have also become polluted.
The IWPS House Team visited the two villages and had briefings from the mayors and villagers.
Sewage from the Illegal Settlements
For years, Ariel Industrial Zone has dumped untreated waste water into the rivers that run through Bruqin as well as the other village water sources. The industrial zone holds the sewage during the daytime and releases it at night, when the smell becomes unbearable. As a temporary solution, the village is now installing plastic pipes to divert the sewage away from homes. The pipe is about 80cm in diameter and in order to solve the problem 9km of piping is needed. The sewage is to be diverted into the pipe so that rivers and other water sources are not contaminated by the filthy water. The Palestinian Authority (PA) provided 2km of pipe and the village provided workers. This is far from enough to cover the whole length needed, but it has already cost 2,000,000 NIS (about 45,600 Euros). The Ariel Industrial Zone, an illegal settlement on land confiscated from the village, does not contribute anything to the cost. If they manage to cover the 9km, the village environment would improve, albeit temporarily. However, the problem will be handed down to the next village, Kafr ad Dik, located downstream from Bruqin (see below).
About one month ago, 4 dunams (1 dunam = 1,000 sq meters) of land belonging to Bruqin was confiscated by the Israeli occupying authorities for construction of a monitoring tower. The tower is not manned by soldiers; instead it is fitted with surveillance cameras. If the Palestinians, i.e. farmers and shepherds, get near to the tower, the cameras alert security staff who appear on the scene immediately and order the Palestinians to leave the area. The cameras are to monitor the ‘boundary’ of the illegal settlement which is not ‘protected’ by an apartheid barrier. According to the mayor, Israel does not put up permanent Apaertheid barriers because they are intending to expand the settlement further. ‘You can see the settlement expanding day by day’ the mayor explained.
Contaminated Village Water
The sewage from the industrial zone invariably contaminates village drinking water as well as water for farming. There are grave concerns as to whether the vegetables they produce are safe to eat or if the milk they drink is OK. The village has observed a rapid increase in cancer and other serious illnesses.
An Israeli activist took five water samples from different locations in the village and carried them to Israel for analysis. The findings were made available to the village but they are written in Hebrew and are yet to be translated into Arabic.
Kafr ad Dik
Expansion of Illegal Settlements
All illegal Israeli settlements surrounding the village of Kafr ad Dik are expanding. Kafr ad Dik is in a strategic position as far as Israel is concerned. It has high hills overlooking much of Israel’s territory and the distance between neighbouring Deir Ballut, located just inside the Green Line, and the Mediterranean is only 19km. There are 5 settlements of concern: Paduel, Maàle Zahav, Leshem, Ale Zahav, with an attached industrial zone, and Bruchin Israel insists that this is natural expansion, which is hardly believable. Leshem settlement was founded in 2010 near Deir Abu Saman archaeological site with remains dating back to the Roman era. The mayor of Kafr ad Dik told us that Deir Abu Saman is mentioned in the Bible. Leshem in Hebrew means Holy Rock. It gained 700 new housing units in less than five years. Because of the expansion of the settlements, which comes with more land confiscation from Palestinians, the three settlements of Maàle Zahav, Lesham, and Ale Zahav, are now almost connected and will be fully joined in a year. In 2014, 550 dunams of the land belonging to Kafr ad Dik was confiscated. The land has already been flattened, ready for construction, and some machinery was delivered. But the village has not been informed by the occupying authorities what they are planning to do with the land.
The amount of water ‘allocated’ by Israel to Kafr ad Dik and Bruqin is 700 cubic meters a day. The populations of the villages are 6,000 and 5,000 respectively. Running water is available only three to four hours daily. Seven hundreds cubic meters of water is not enough for Bruqin alone; it is only one fourth of the water that the two villages need. Sixty percent of all the water used in the West Bank comes from here. Sewage from Illegal Israeli Settlements Raw sewage from the illegal Israeli settlements is a serious problem here in Kafr ad Dik as well. The temporary solution to this is the same as in Bruqin – to divert the dirty water into a plastic pipes of about 80 cm diameter. Kafr ad Dik needs 9 to 10 km of pipes and the PA provided 1.7km. Sewage is already a problem but once Bruqin has all the pipes they need in place, it will be worse. Both villages are determined to fight together against this injustice; but we were told that if they manage to pipe out all the sewage, the problem will be handed down to the village below them, Dier Ballout.
The olive harvest used to be one of the most joyful times for the Palestinians. Much less so now. Illegal settlements were built on their olive fields and settlers come down to harass Palestinians and prevent them from harvesting their olives. Settlers sometimes set olive trees on fire or steal the already harvested olives. The segregation wall was built on land that was once covered in olive trees. If one’s land happens to be in a settlement ‘security zone’, as the Israelis call it, then permission is needed from the Israeli military to go there to harvest. Even if the permission is granted, Israeli soldiers might prevent Palestinians from reaching their land. This year, the olive harvest officially starts on Oct 10. A farmer from Kafr ad Dik we spoke to was allowed only 4 days to pick his olives, though he has 450 olive trees and would need 40 days to complete the harvest. However, his fields are located within the “security zone”; four days might allow him to pick one tenth of his harvest. He also has a land in another location which is now separated from the village by an illegal settlement constructed on village land. It used to take only several minutes to get there by car, but now he has to make long detour around the settlement to reach the trees. It takes over an hour on foot. He will not be able to pick his olive on that land. Is this the 21st Century?
Powerlessness and helplessness must be eating up the villagers. Below is what the mayor told us. The Salfit region is in very bad shape. Drinking water, electricity and sewage are in a horrendous state, and things are getting worse. Today is always better than tomorrow. What does the Israeli government plan to do in the area between Kafr ad Dik and Deir Ballut? Kafr ad Dik is not being informed. We cannot even tend and manage our land without permission from Israel. ‘Look, we live in the 21st century. It is 2015. And we are still relying on donkeys!’
The mayor of Kafr ad Dik is convinced that the village will disappear within 10 years. Israel has its plans.