The Electronic Intifada 16 November 2003
The wall separates Azzoun (population 7,000) from its agricultural land, which now lies west of the wall. No gate in the wall allows residents access to their lands. As a result they must travel long distances—-approximately 4 kilometers to a gate near Isla to the west, and 9 kilometers to another gate near Nabi Elias, where some land belonging to Azzoun is located. The main roads are often reserved for soldiers and settlers, and so Palestinians are forced to take even longer routes, often on foot, and cannot bring equipment to harvest their crops.
Faisal Hasan Ahmad Adwan
We have 200 dunums of land, on which we planted wheat and barley, vegetables, olive trees. One day, we found a wire fence around our land and a sign that says, it is forbidden to get close to this fence. For as long as they are working on the wall, we have access to the land. But later, they will put 3/4 of our land beyond the wire. And we can’t get to it from the other side either.
We are 5 brothers, each of us has 4 or 5 kids, so this land feeds about 50 people. Some of us have married kids with families of their own. We have no recourse with these Israelis. We appealed but we haven’t gotten a response. Now we have about 5-10 dunums left outside the fence that we have access to, 5 or 10 out of 200. What will that do for 50 people? There is also a well that collects rainwater, and that’s now beyond the fence. We can’t go near it. The land was our only source of income. Now we work as laborers in town when we can, outside if we have to. I have a tractor I use to transport things, a load of dirt, a load of manure. But there are more than 50 tractors in town.
Mohammad Hasan Ahmad Adwan
The damage caused by the wall goes beyond the loss of our land. Now there is no work. Our income is practically nonexistent. If there were work to be done in town, no one has money to pay for it. People would just record it as a debt. When the Israelis set foot on our property and took it over, I went to pick up the tree trunks. They stopped me. They brought the army in. I stayed on my land until I got my trees. For several days they would kick all of us out except one, me. They eventually stole around 15 olive tree stalks (?) from us. This is over and above the ones they cut early on. When we got to our land, they brought the army; the soldiers said, go home or you will be arrested. We can’t stop them. When we try to talk to them, they say, this is part of the Oslo agreement. Go talk to your Arafat. But we don’t really know whether this is true or not.
This hamlet of 200-250 people, surrounded on three sides by the wall, now lies in the area between the wall and Israel proper; village lands are east of the wall. In the process of creating the wall, Israel destroyed 250 dunums of land, uprooted 2,000 trees, and isolated 5 cisterns beyond the wall; the quality of the drinking water is now questionable. Some 1,200 dunums of farmlands are now inaccessible or reached with difficulty, a major problem for a population 80% of whom had relied on agriculture. Some homes are now unsafe, a consequence of Israel’s use of explosives to clear a path for the wall. For schools, garbage disposal, water supplies, and social and medical services, residents had relied on neighboring towns, all of which are difficult if not impossible to reach. Since the following interview was conducted, residents have been required to apply for permits to live in their own homes; approximately 70-80 individuals have not received permanent residency permits, and no car permits have been granted, either. The Israelis generally open the gate briefly each day, although the gates remained closed for 20 days during the Jewish holidays.
Zaki Ibrahim Awda
We received no official notice. Before we knew it, they were building this wall. We asked them why they were doing this to our land and where are we supposed to go? Now we don’t have water or schools.
They started to work on the wall in December 2002. I’m not sure exactly when. We stood in front of the bulldozers. The military governor of Kedumim came to my uncle, the head of the local council, and told him, we don’t want to see you, and you should move as far as you can from the wall. The decision to build the wall is final. My uncle told him, you said the wall would be 150 meters away from our homes, but it is more like 50 meters away. Because we stood in front of the bulldozers, they took my uncle to the settlement and kept him there until 1 am.
They completed the wall here and locked the gates. Now we have to take mountain routes, which really is a lot of wear and tear on the cars. Just to bring food for our kids. There is only one road out, and they closed it. Now we pass through an opening in the fence that they created for themselves. When they finish the wall, they’ll close that passage. They created a road they claim is for our use, but it doesn’t look that way to me. Even when we try to use it, they don’t give us a chance to walk on it. I haven’t seen a single person use it. They say they will help us, but I haven’t seen that. We have to go through the Alfe Menashe settlement, and then pass a checkpoint, and then go to Qalqilya and Azzoun. And they tell us this is the shortest way out. We don’t really know if this is the road we can use. We don’t know what they will do to us.
We don’t have water and we don’t have electricity. The wells are all beyond the wall. We buy water containers for 100 shekels. Each container has 10 cubic meters. How long does that last? The water comes once a week from Kufur Thuluth. Sometimes we bring water tanks in on tractors or donkeys. We lack just about all services. There is no activity here at all.
There are about 50 or 60 houses here. We have an elementary school and a preparatory school. We don’t have teachers. The teachers are from Azzoun, Kufur Thuluth, Habla, and Ras Atiya, and they can’t reach us at all. Our high school and university students can’t reach their schools. This is a huge problem for us.
We have no doctors here. Generally we go to Qalqilya or Habla or Azzoun. When we call for an ambulance, it can’t reach us here. A patient might die on the way before he gets to an ambulance. We have to drive patients a distance before we get to the spot the ambulance waits for us. Just this morning, someone was taking a woman who had had a stroke to Qalqilya, and they were stopped at the checkpoint and prevented from passing, even though he had a permit. Qalqilya is 3 km away, but with the road as it is, you drive 30 km to get there.
We were told that there is no code number for our village, that we weren’t even on the map and we weren’t recognized. I am 37 years old, and I was born in this village, and I know that my grandfather and his father all lived here. So how can there be no code number for this village? Why is it not on the map? We are completely tied. We don’t know what future we have.
I used to work in Israel, but now there is no work. I have a tractor, so I do a few odd jobs with it. Only 2 or 3 people in this area work, and they are government officials. There is no work to be had.
I have about 25 dunums outside the wall. And I have another plot of land, about 30 dunums. If they let us through the fence, I have to cross a distance of 20-25 km to get to my property outside the wall. To buy groceries, we go to Azzoun or Habla or Kufur Thuluth. This is a big distance. And the police always stop us along the way, whether or not we have permits and drive correctly. There is always either a fine involved or license suspension, 500 shekel fines, and courts. We don’t know what we’re going to do about this. When we see the police, we try to avoid them because they question us: where are you going? And when we tell them, they say, do that some other time, this is not the time.
Our cars are not allowed on the road without a permit. And they don’t give us permits. This morning my neighbor went out to his property. He should be able to cross the wall and be on his land in about 5 minutes. Today he tried to leave but couldn’t. It took him 3 hours to get there and 3 hours to get back. He can’t drive there, he has to go on foot. This is not workable. We can’t tend our land when we spend so much time on the road. Two-thirds or more of the village lands are now beyond the wall. The wall isn’t complete yet, but we still can’t reach our land. When the wall is finished, we won’t be able to go anywhere.
We were told we would get 6-month permits. In Beit Amin, they were given permits that were canceled after 1 or 2 months and the gate was locked, and people couldn’t move.
My sisters and cousins are in neighboring villages. I can still see them. But when the wall is complete, I won’t be able to see them anymore.
We try to imagine what the future will bring. We can’t build anything. If we want to do something for ourselves, we can’t. We don’t know what our destiny will be.
Ida Audeh is a Palestinian from the West Bank who works as a technical writer in Boulder, CO. She went to the West Bank in August for three weeks to visit family and to learn more about the effect of the wall on the lives of ordinary people. She is the author of “Picking Olives and Removing Roadblocks as Acts of Resistance: An Interview with Ghassan Andoni” Counterpunch, 28 October 2002 and “Narratives of Siege: Eyewitness Testimonies from Jenin, Bethlehem, and Nablus,” Journal of Palestine Studies, no. 124 (Summer 2002).