From Tsomet Hasharon [The Sharon Junction] free weekly newspaper in the Sharon region of Israel (Netanya, Herzilya, Hadera) widely read in the region. part of the Ha'aretz group.
The Abu Shareeb family members woke up a month and a half ago and discovered that the Separation Fence is passing exactly so between their house and the rest of the houses of the village Jayyous, to which it belongs. They are disconnected from water and food, from their source of livelihood, and from health and education services. And the gates in the fence, that separates also between the village houses, and its lands, are open at the whims of guards. Security reasons, they call it in the Defense Ministry. Apartheid Wall, they call it in the village.
"Going Out of the Ordinary Fence"
The Abu Shareeb family will not quickly forget July 17. Until that morning, Ali and Zarifi Abu Shareeb and their eight children from the village Jayyous located east of Qalqilya were still able to get by. The construction on the path of the separation fence bothered them for months more than it bothered the rest of the village's people in the heart of the West Bank. Like the rest of the villagers, the Abu Shareebs knew that this fence was going to cost them dearly, but unlike the rest, they also knew that to their family the cost was to be even dearer. Here and there, they enjoyed some moments of hope, maybe because of optimism, maybe because of denial, maybe just because they counted on the fact that even between enemies there would be a limit to indifference. But then came their day of reckoning, July 17, and everything collapsed. The Abu Shareeb family was left outside the fence. The architects of the Separation Fence's path decided arbitrarily to draw it precisely in the area that lies between the family's house and the rest of the houses of the village, and by that to give a different, and much more painful for them, meaning to the term, "Separation Fence."
In the early hours of that morning came the contractors and the workers, and suspended the razor wire along the iron poles that mark the path of the fence, six kilometers east of the Green Line. To the Abu Shareeb family, that is indeed beyond the original Green Line, however inside the new line that Israel drew, all that is left is to try and digest the new reality that includes disconnection from the sources of life: from food, water, and medical supplies, from access to educational institutions, and contact with the community. A lonely house atop a rocky hill in which the ten persons are living, communicating only by cellular phone while the last village houses are only two hundred meters away. Apparently there are some farmers for whom no government will stand up for.
On Sunday, August 17, Zarifi Abu Shareeb sat on the floor of the main room in the small square concrete house while around her, barefoot children are bustling about. Ali, her husband, was looking at the same time for some possibilty of making money in Qalqilya. "We feel like we are being imprisoned in our own house," Zarifi said in desperation. "The situation is bad. Very bad." Later on, she left and apologized. She doesn't feel well. She came back after five minutes. It's probably the diabetes. 57-year-old Zarifi has been sick for a couple of years and she needs her regular insulin treatment from her doctor in Jayyous but it has been already two days since she could make it to the village, which is a matter of only 200 meters, like mentioned above. And her medical supplies are running out. In the meantime, there is no one to take care not only in minimizing damage from the disease but also to the day-to-day health problems that might arise at any time. A week after the razor wire fence was put in place, and the trail to Jayyous was blocked, Zarifi got burned from a hot burning pot while she was cooking. A big round scar is burned on her right leg, but according to her testimony, when a member of her family called a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance, the army prevented it from coming to her house. Only the next day, the ambulance was allowed to reach the isolated family and treat the severe burn on her leg. Residents from the village and international activists who stay in the village say that at the same time, one of her children was treated for an eye infection.
It has been already 13 years that the family has lived in the small poor house in the outskirts of Jayyous. Zarifi is a Palestinian who was born in the village Habla a couple of kilometers west down the mountain. Ali is a Bedouin from the Beersheva area that migrated to the West Bank 20 years ago. They got married 20 years ago, and in 1990, they moved to Jayyous to build their home. Their new life atop the picturesque village that overlooks the Dan area, the new downtown towers of Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan can be seen clearly in the horizon, looked promising. Ali remained loyal to his Bedouin tradition, choosing the mountain air over the relative crowdedness of the village, and the family practiced subsistence farming in the outskirts of Jayyous, whose residents warmly welcomed the new family to their community. The children, six girls and two boys, went to the elementary school in the village, while the parents were raising animals in the front yard and vegetables in a couple of flowerbeds in the back. But that was a different time. In the meantime, another surprise was waiting for the Abu Shareeb family. For the first time, the Israeli Shabak [General security Services] visited the house. Zarifi: "Soldiers came and some people who said they were from the Shabak. They looked for my husband, Ali. When they saw the cellphone battery that Ali received from the activists from Jayyous so we could keep in touch with them, they asked who it belonged to. There was a sticker on the battery with the telephone number. After I told them who gave us the telephone, they left."
Did you ask someone if the fence could be moved a couple of meters so that you could be included in the rest of the village?
"Yes, we asked the army, and the people who came to build the fence. We asked them to move the fence so that we could be inside the village. But they said that they are not going to move the fence, not right and not left. "
If they will close the gate in the fence altogether, what are you going to do?
"We are going to die in our house. Life will come to its end. This is death. Me, my home, and my land, not living." But in Jayyous village, which is known for its solidarity, they are not going to sit on their hands until such a tragic end, and with the help of a number of international activists who've lived the village for the past couple of months, the residents are trying to help the isolated Abu Shareeb family in every way possible. Every once in a while, they come to a point in the fence which is close to the family house, and throw medicine and food over the razor wire. The immediate problem, everyone agrees, is with water supplies. The family's water tank holds enough for only three days, and the cellular phone that the international activists gave to Ali and was so interesting for Shabak, is meant for contact at any time the food and water supply run out.
Last Sunday noon, ten activists from international organizations gathered in one of the houses in the middle of the village. Since the IDF declared them persona non grata, said one of them, they're hesitant to expose their full names and refused to have their pictures taken or the regime will not let them come into Israel again. David, a young American from New York, who is active in the organization Jews Against the Occupation, documented in his diary his stay in the last month in Jayyous. According to his documentation, on July 20, a group of activists tried to bring water to the Abu Shareeb family, but guards from the security company who watch the fence gate put them to flight with shooting. This is where I should make clear, that over the two gates in the relevant part of the fence the guards are actually civilians, the majority of them Druze, who are employed by a private security company, which is contracted by the IDF. Despite the gunfire from the guards, wrote David in his diary, a number of activists were able to conduct a conversation with the family members from opposite sides of the fence during which they heard that the food and medicine supply is running out. The next day, the activists organized another delegation to the isolated house. This time, they were able to take advantage of an opportunity and they crossed the fence through the gate, which was not locked. David's diary documents also the events on July 29 at noon, when a group of Border Police came to the center of Jayyous and started shooting water tanks without any provocation from the locals. After an hour, the soldiers left the village. During a tour among houses in the village this week, the bullet holes in a number of tanks are clearly visible. The next day, July 30, the diary says, a group of activists tried to call the Abu Shareeb family through the fence, and after a short time, an IDF patrol came and the soldiers threatened the activists that they would shoot the activists if they did not leave the area in five minutes. The activists left immediately. The same night, again the Border Guard jeep came into the center of the village, and a couple of cops got out of the jeep and started shooting the mosque's tower in an attempt to shoot out the lights in the minaret. After that they shot out the windshield of a parked car and blew it out, and also shot water tanks. "Right after these two shooting incidents, we called the DCO, and they promised to check. But nothing happened," says Mahmoud, one of the coordinators of the peace activists in the village.
The Abu Shareeb family is only the most tragic example in Jayyous of the outcome of the Separation Fence construction in its current path, not on the '67 border, and deep in the Palestinian area, but in fact all 3,000 village residents are badly effected from the fence. The razor wire partition separated most of the farmers in Jayyous from their land. According to the maps in the office of Faiz Selim, the village mayor, 73% of Jayyous' lands are today on the other side of the separation fence, and in them 97% of the farming land of the village, which is the equivalent of 10,000 dunams. All 250 of the village's greenhouses of the village's farmers, -- more than 300 out of 550 families who live there make a living from farming -- are on the other side of the fence. Also, six out of seven of the village's water wells that are used for irrigation of the plots and the greenhouses and about 20,000 olive trees which belong to the village. Selim: "The water is the most disturbing and burning problem for the village's residents today. Without direct and free access to their water wells, the farmers are lost. All their crops are going down the drain. Already we feel a shortage of water to the houses, and in a couple of houses already there is no running water. We are receiving water from the pumping station of Azzoun, the neighboring village, but at the moment the station is out of service due to malfunction. Therefore, this is why the access to the seven wells near the village is so important." The fence contractors indeed didn't seal it hermetically and left two gates next to the parts that envelop Jayyous-one south of the village, the other to its north- but much of the time the gates are locked and are guarded from the fence's Israeli side by the private security people that the army employs. Shareef Khalid, who heads the land defense committee in the village, and who spearheaded in the last couple of months the struggle against the fence in the area, is saying that the Israeli representative in the DCO promised him in the past that the southern gate in Jayyous, the one adjacent to the Abu Shareeb family house, will be left open for most hours of the day. "But for some reason, the gate is not open all the time," says Khalid, "and I do not understand why. We held a protest against the construction of the fence, and we held demonstrations while we were building it, but nothing helped. From the moment in which they built the fence and closed it with barbed wire, we don't really have anything to do. All that there is left for us to do today is to speak with the Israeli officers to let the farmers of Jayyous go freely to their plots. But this is up to the will of the officer, and not everyone is answering our requests. There are officers who do not cooperate at all."
Did you submit an official request to include the Abu Shareeb family in the fence zone with the rest of the houses in the village?
"No. A step like this would be interpreted as a Palestinian recognition of the current outline. We understood that we would not be able to say, 'the Abu Shareeb family is inside, and the olive tree plots that belong to the village are not.' Then, we would be caught in the trap that Israel set for us, as if we are giving up our land and accepting the fence."
Before the Aqaba summit, Khalid set up a camp in front of Abu Mazen's office in protest on the damage the separation fence in Jayyous. Eventually, the Palestinian Prime Minister invited him to a meeting in his office, and received a letter from him that describes the gloomy situation in the village. Abu Mazen promised to present the letter to President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon. "Now we know it didn't help and the Israelis didn't agree to re-locate the fence backward far away from village," says Khalid.
It is unclear if it was an act of desperation or a pragmatic move, but at a certain point, Khalid advised the village's farmers to sleep on the other side of the fence, if only to avoid the daily harassment of crossing the fence and the whims of the guards. Abu Sufian, one of the farmers that has been sleeping in the fields for a couple of weeks, is living in an old shelter that he improvised from an old car in his olive plot. "Before, I slept there in my noon nap," he says, "now I sleep there at nights. I'm not willing to leave my land, and therefore I stay here six days a week. I can live without the village but not without my land."
The rumors that have been spread among the village farmers say that in 2005 the gates will be locked permanently. "If this is true, the meaning of it is death," says Khalid. "These people will die."
There is a dream
The desperation is seizing the young. 27-year-old Muhammed is one of the young social activists that host the international activists and coordinates their activities. Before the intifada, he managed to work for a couple of years in Rana'ana, with a renovation contractor whose name is Elan. (" I'm still in touch with him, maybe one day I will go back and work for him." And his Hebrew remains fluent.) On Sunday, he pointed with yearning eyes at the fence, which from a high vantage point in the village, looks as a pincers that close on its houses from all directions around, and he repeated the name that all the village's residents are using, "The Apartheid Wall."
"We feel like we are in a prison," he says. "The village is entirely surrounded with a barbed wire fence, and even if someone managed to get his lands, and get something out of his lands, many times he is not able to sell it in the market because of the checkpoints in the villages in the area and in Qalqilya. I wasn't in Qalqilya for two years. Do you get it? Ten minutes drive, and I can't get there. One of my best friend's from the village biggest dream-- Faddi, who is only 22,-- is to go to the sea. Only five people from the village received a permit last year to work in Israel. My land is only 50 meters from the village, and I can't get to it. I can't take my sheep over there, and at the moment, they don't have a place to eat. You have to understand that the land is the most important thing for the Palestinian. Over at your place, no one understands how important it is. This is our culture. My grandfather lives for his land. If he cannot going to his land, he will die. If the southern gate is closed, so to get to his land today, my grandfather has to go out of the northern gate and go around the village to his plot which is on a hilltop which is south of the village. You don't know what it means for a farmer when you uproot 150 old olive trees. I know that in your media they say that the gates next to Jayyous are open, but it is not true. Sometimes they are open, sometimes they're closed. One time they opened them only between five to eight in the morning. The next day, it was closed in the same hours. It's all up to the guards. The guards are mostly Druze and there are some who behave very badly. They call the young men who want to pass 'terrorists.'"
Are the international activists able to help you?
"We need the international and the Israeli activists, because when they go with the farmers from the village and to the fence, the soldiers and the guards treat them better. They also help us with the farm work. My compliments to them. But this situation is unbearable. Why do I need someone to escort me to my own land? Why do I have to wait until the gate is open so that I can graze my sheep? We in the village can live off our land. We don't need anything other than that. But only if they let us work it, and not disconnect us from our source of livelihood. "I grew up during the first intifada," continues Muhammed, and his voice becomes ever more determined. "Only seven years passed by and the second intifada started. We are the second intifada generation. We are not coming out of it, at all. This is what our lives look like. "
Do you not understand Israel's immediate need to stop the suicide bombers?
"I understand, but the Apartheid Wall was not meant to prevent it. If they were really interested in that, they would build it on the Green Line, and not deep in the Palestinian areas. Why did they have to push the fence six and half kilometers inside? In actuality, all the way up to the first house in Jayyous? Why? Because they wanted to take our land, and our water. In a couple of years, they are not going to allow the farmers to go out to their plots through the gates, and Israel will be able to take control over our land behind the fence. I think this is the fence's real goal." Did the village become more radical in its positions since the construction of the fence? "Actually, not. The majority of the people here support Fatah. The Hamas and Jihad are very weak. Everyone here wants peace, but not with this path of the fence. This way, there will never be peace. Give us our land back."
On Sunday evening, Ali Abu Shareeb came back to his home after an arduous day's journey to Qalqilya and back, using donkey trails. He's helpless, and he doesn't see any better future. "I, as the head of the family, that has to take care of my wife and feed my children, am facing today very difficult problems. I can't bring food and water from the village to my family, and no food for our farm animals in the yard. If somebody from my family will be sick, how will able to call a doctor or an ambulance, as it already happened to Zarifi? And of course, there are smaller problems. daily problems, in the fact that I cannot reach the village. For example, two brothers of mine who live today in Jayyous and I used to visit them everyday, and they would come to visit me and my family in my house. All of that will have to change now. Because of the Apartheid Wall, we will not be able to meet each other. The same with other residents in the village who used to visit me and my family a lot." How are you going to send your children to school in Jayyous on Sept. 1? "This is a very big problem and I'm utterly confused. I simply don't know what to do. It looks like they will have to stop going to school." Are you going to rely on Qalqilya?
"No, it's very difficult to get there too. I'm facing the same problem to enter Qalqilya as to enter Jayyous, because also Qalqilya is behind the fence for me. You have to understand what happened is me and my family was annexed to the state of Israel. This is not normal. This wall is destroying the life of my family."
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"This is the appropriate path."
The Defense Ministry and the IDF see only operational considerations in front of their eyes.
Responses: Border Guard spokeswoman said that Border Police activity in this area is conducted under the IDF command, and therefore it is required to direct our response request on the shooting events in Jayyous to the army.
IDF spokesman responds: "The IDF operates in an ongoing fashion in order to enable the most possible regular life for the Palestinian residents in Judea and Samaria, and that includes the residents who live adjacent to the security fence which is process of construction. The operational consideration is the decisive consideration in the demarcation and the path that was determined is the one that is the most suitable for the operational requirements. Part of the farming land of the village residents are located West of the Separation Fence path that is passing adjacent to the village.
"The discussed house is seven hundred meters far from the rest of the houses and is separated even from the village itself. Due to that, the gate located in the fence adjacent to the house remains open at that point all hours of the day, 6:00-18:00 and is open any other time if necessary with advanced coordination.
"In a meeting that was held with the mayor in the beginning of the month, different proposals were brought up whose goal was to enable to the farmers who live in the village to work without interference the lands which are located west of the separation fence. At that phase, it was decided that the two farmer gates remain open during all times of the day. In the near future, permanent open and closed times to the gates will be decided, so that they will open three times a day, and farming will be enabled in an arranged fashion and without interference."
From the Defense Ministry, which is responsible for the construction of the Separation Fence, the following was announced: "The operational consideration is the decisive consideration in the demarcation in the seam line space obstacle location of the demarcation. An operational consideration means control over an area, i.e. location in height and also in area. The path that was decided in the Jayyous area is the most appropriate path for the operational demands."
From StoptheWall.org, on Jan. 18, the following report:
Jayyus, Qalqiliya District
On Sunday the 18th of January, the Occupation soldiers did not allow Ali Abu Shareb's four children and their mother who waits for them in the village until school is over, from going to their isolated home behind the Apartheid Wall. They were demanding the children to tell them which individuals have been throwing stones at the soldiers. The Occupation Forces continued holding the children until 7 p.m. and did not let them pass until representatives from humanitarian organizations interfered. The Occupation Forces also did not allow the farmers in Qalqiliya and an engineer from Jayyus from supervising the implementation of irrigation projects to reach lands isolated behind the Wall. They were all forced to return back by threatening them with their weapons.