Living in the Shadow of the Wall (Tulkarem District)

NAZLAT ISA

With the northern portion of the wall complete, Nazlat Isa (population 2,300) now falls in the no-man’s-land between the wall and Israel proper. Since January 2003, more than 130 commercial buildings and 6 homes have been bulldozed. Residents fear that Israel’s attacks against the commercial sector are designed to force them to leave.

Nazlat Isa commercial area. (Ida Audeh)


Nafez Asaad

For about 9 months we have been dealing with this problem of the house. In June we received official notice from the Israelis that they have nothing against us and that we have nothing to worry about. This morning we were surprised to find that they had imposed a curfew and that they brought about 20 bulldozers to our house. They told us we had to leave. They didn’t even give us time to appeal.

Why did they bulldoze my house? It’s a racist thing. They claim the wall passes this way, but it won’t. This is just a racist policy to break the Palestinian economy and Palestinian spirits and morale. This is a collective punishment imposed on Palestinians.

Two of our homes were bulldozed, and so were two homes belonging to my cousins. One of my cousins was to be married tomorrow. This is a crime in the full sense of the word.

Rathiya bin Abu Zeben

21 August 2003. Israeli soldiers stand guard as army bulldozers demolish over 100 shops — what remained of the commercial area after the demolitions in January 2003 — and five homes. (Ida Audeh)

I built this house for my kids. There are 10 of us in this house. My son was married here only 5 days ago. New furniture and people haven’t yet had a chance to congratulate him on his marriage. This morning, we saw bulldozers. For the past 2-3 years, we have been threatened with this [the possibility that Israel would bulldoze our homes]. This morning, they started to bulldoze our house and some businesses.

For the past 5 or 6 years, everything my sons made went into building this home. We went without many things just so we can finish the house and live in it. Now they denied us that. What are we to do now? Can no one stop their violence?

Where can we go? We are going to stay put right here. There is no place else for us to go. Arab leaders have abandoned us. They aren’t objecting and they aren’t concerned about what’s happening to us or our children, each of whom sweats blood and flesh for each cent he makes. While the Israelis chase them from street to street.

This town was quiet, no problems here. People just want to live. Why did they come to take out their hostility on us? Isn’t it a sin, this oppression they dealt us?

Suhaib Jallal Abu Yasin

My father owns this aluminum factory in Nazlat Isa. At 7 am this morning, we were surprised by a phone call telling us to come quickly, that the Israelis were going to destroy the factory. They gave us 3 hours to empty the store. We were not given a reason for this, and we don’t have an official order for the destruction.

Two months ago, our lawyer (who is Jewish) spoke to people in Beit El, I don’t know who the responsible people are, and he reassured us that our factory was safe. So this came as a complete surprise today. My inventory is worth at least 7 million shekels. That doesn’t include the machinery and the structure. Forty men work here. What can I say?

JAROOSHIYA VILLAGE

Israel confiscated about 300 dunums and uprooted about 5,000 trees when it built the wall in Jarooshiya (population 800); another 100 dunums of land and 2 cisterns became inaccessible, and a 1-kilometer-long irrigation network was destroyed. Villagers now face great difficulty in getting access to health services.

Basima Said Uthman

The Uthman family consists of about 130 people. We have 450 dunums from which 22 families live. All gone, except for the land the houses sit on. The Israelis came and cut down about 5,000 olive trees at the peak of the season, before the olives fully ripened. We went to pick the olives on one side, and the Israelis were cutting the trees on the other side. The uprooted trees were lying on the ground, and we felt like we were turning over a human being who had died. Wherever you turned, there were gnarled dead olive trees.

The Israelis cut our trees to make a road for the wall. About 1/3 of our trees remain inside the wall. The olive trees are more than 100 years old. My great grandfather planted them, and some were planted by my father. The land is about 20 meters away, but we can’t reach it. We look at it, but this year we haven’t tasted the olives or the nuts. We yearn to eat from it, but instead we’ve had to buy our olives. This year we’ll have to buy our olive oil. This is a tragedy.

The Israelis plan to cut down the few remaining trees because they want to expand the space next to the wall. Generally, we make about 1,000 cans/year. Almonds, about 5 tons per family. We exported to Jordan and Syria. At night, whenever the bulldozer comes, it runs just below the street, to make more noise and prevent people from sleeping and create a lot of dust.

Now we rely on the God who created us and who provides for us. We have to look for other things to do. For the past 50 years, none of us has worked for wages. Everyone worked the land. They got an education, built homes, got married. Now we don’t know how our children will find the means to get educated and married.

In spots close to the house, they used explosives. And here, about 500 meters, they exploded it all at once. Of course that affects the house. In the dead of winter, they’d force us from our homes using the excuse that the roof would come down on us. Let it! The kids would all get sick, because we woke them from sleep and took them outside in the cold and the rain. We have land far from the home. Go use your explosives there. They said no, we won’t. Our orders are to come here, near the house. We have a lot of property. Why do they have to come so close to the homes?

They fire flares and sound bombs daily. The night sky is lit up like daylight. They drop things from the sky. If they fall on a kid’s head or on a solar water heater, they’d break it. If they fall on a car, they’d burn it. And many fires have been caused by this. We believe that they are provoking us so that we’ll leave our homes. But we won’t leave, even if they bring our homes down over our heads. We won’t leave.

IRTAH VILLAGE

The agricultural community of Irtah (population 4,200) has severely limited access to farm lands. To create the wall, Israel destroyed 200 dunums of farmland and uprooted 100 trees.

Fayez Odeh al-Taneeb

I have been in farming since 1984. After my father died, I took over the farm, an area of 32 dunums. My wife and I started to work it, centimeter by centimeter, meter by meter, until it became a model farm at the district level growing all kinds of vegetables and having 7 greenhouses. We used scientific methods. We turned the farm’s organic refuse into compost and planted crops in it. We used nets to cover the plants to avoid the use of chemicals or pesticides. We were also careful to use water judiciously. We used a large tank to collect rainwater that we channeled into greenhouses and irrigated the whole farm.

In 1996 during the Barak government the Israelis decided to build a racist wall, which started as mounds of dirt on top of which they placed metal reinforced rods. One day my wife and I were at the farm and we were surprised to see a bulldozer in the middle of the farm and it was destroying our crops. I told the driver to stop, but he wouldn’t. So I grabbed the scoop but he still wouldn’t stop and the level of dirt he piled up kept rising until it reached the top of my back. My wife saw that my life was threatened, so she climbed up the driver’s side and she started to beat him until he stopped and then moved in reverse, which allowed me to climb away from the dirt. The driver said, Today I am alone and you had your way. Tomorrow I’ll be back with 2 bulldozers and 100 soldiers. And we’ll see you then.

The next day, about 20-25 military jeeps came and surrounded the farm on all sides and 2 bulldozers were running the length of the farm over the vegetables and the irrigation network. They destroyed what they could for no reason God sanctioned, and they didn’t want the farm, either. They took 8 of the 32 dunums and destroyed everything in the farm. But we are determined to live and are committed to peace. We believe we are civilized people, we want to raise our children, and we have a message and an ethical and human responsibility toward our children. So we revived our farm.

Between 1996 and 2002, several measures were taken against us in order to get us to give up our farm. They closed the entry to the farm. We found a second entrance, but they closed that, too. We created a third entrance, but then they cut the irrigation routes. We repaired them 3 times. When they saw our determination, they encircled the farm with a wire fence, even though it is east of the wall. The wire fence closed it off completely. So my wife and I cut an entry through the wire so we could reach the farm.

At the end of 2002, we were notified that they plan to confiscate the entire farm. We went to our lawyer, who took it to the district advisor (?), who refused to deal with the case, citing security issues. So we took it to the Israeli Supreme Court. A committee came to check the farm, and they suggested taking a portion of the farm and granting us access to the rest and restoring the water lines. We didn’t want them to take a single centimeter, but there was nothing we could do. But after they took half the farm, they destroyed the greenhouses and the water collection tanks, and then they refused to implement the court order to open a passage through the wire fence and to restore the irrigation routes.

As you see, my life and that of my wife and children are constantly exposed to danger. We pass under the gun of an Israeli soldier every time we enter or leave the farm.

We employed 13-14 people; this farm supported 12-14 families. These families now have no support and don’t know what the future holds for them. Today the farm generates zero income. So I ask: Is the policy of hunger expected to lead to peace? And if it leads to an explosion, who is responsible?

We are absolutely determined to stay on our farm and to keep it productive. I have obligations to this land and I have a historical bond to it. The bond doesn’t break just because the occupation destroyed the farm once, twice, or three times. I am glad I was able to get a tractor back on the farm after an absence of 1-1.5 years. But I am sad that this farm, which was the best in the district, has fallen to this state where it is full of weeds.

Interviews

  • Introduction
  • Jerusalem District
  • Bethlehem District
  • Qalqiliya District
  • Jenin District

    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 AndoniCounterpunch, 28 October 2002 and “Narratives of Siege: Eyewitness Testimonies from Jenin, Bethlehem, and Nablus,” Journal of Palestine Studies, no. 124 (Summer 2002).