This past weekend, while doing a placement visit with the EAPPI Yanoun team, I had the privilege of visiting a Bedouin village in the Jordan Valley.
The Bedouin people are traditionally nomadic herders. Many Bedouin were forcibly moved into the West Bank from their land in the Negev desert after Israel achieved statehood in 1948. As a result, they now live in villages. Care of sheep and goats informs their traditional way of life and livelihood.
Unfortunately, poverty is a daily reality. In this village, as in every other Bedouin village I have seen, the people live in tents and shacks. They have no electricity and no runnning water. A number of years ago, water used to flow through a culvert structure that runs alongside the road beside this village. That stopped after the Israelis diverted the water elsewhere.
Israeli water infrastructure pipes sit in a fenced in area just up the road from the village, but the Bedouin cannot access water from that system.
Nor are they allowed to dig wells deep enough to reach water. Instead, the Bedouin must purchase water by the tank load and haul it to the village. Overhead electricity wires pass by the village, but the Bedouins are not allowed to hook up to the system.
“All we want is water, electricity and the ability to expand our community” a Bedouin woman from the community told one of our EA’s a few weeks ago.
On a hillside adjacent to the Bedouin village sits an Israeli settlement. From the road, one can observe neat houses, streets, and ornamental trees and bushes.
They obviously have a plentiful supply of water. Electrical wires go into the settlement, providing power.
The Bedouin village school was demolished last year by the Israeli army (IDF). School demolitions are directly contrary to Article 150 of the 4th Geneva Convention which states: “The occupying Power shall ….facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children.” The 60-70 students from the village now must travel approximately 6 km to the next village to attend school – a reality that makes education all that much more difficult to access. Many students drop out of school by age 11 to work at herding sheep. Others continue in school until about the age of 15, when they quit to work as labourers on the Israeli settlements in the area. With support from the grassroots group Jordan Valley Solidarity Movement, the community is currently rebuilding their school with a mud brick structure. As unbelievable as it seems, there is now a demolition order on the mud brick school.
During my time here in Palestine I have witnessed a number of things that have been deeply troubling. I have seen, and heard, immense pain in so many places….pain that affects real human beings, pain that affects real people. People who are so much more than statistics, people who are so much more than numbers on a page of a report filed “somewhere.” These are real, human people who are struggling through the dehumanizing effects of poverty induced by this Occupation. An Occupation that continues to remove freedoms from them, an Occupation that continues to take their land, an Occupation that continues to squeeze them from every conceivable angle. These are people who have repeatedly told us “We are so tired of this. We simply want to live in peace.”
Since coming here in September, we have witnessed a marked deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the areas we have visited. Much of the human suffering is directly related to the Occupation. The deliberate choice to supply Israeli settlements with ample water and electricity while nearby Palestinian villages go without is both cruel and appalling. It directly contravenes International Humanitarian Law and cannot be justified by caring people of any civilized society. But a demolition order on a yet to be completed mud brick school? What kind of mind thinks like that?
Peace, Salaam, Shalom