Palestine: At-Tuwani: On the Grid at Last

by Samuel Nichols

pal_feb_09_036In August, after nine years of persistently petitioning the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO) has electricity.

Intense lobbying efforts by at-Tuwani residents, international human rights organizations Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove, Israeli activists, and others resulted in at-Tuwani receiving permits by the Israeli DCO to be connected to the Palestinian electrical grid.  The at-Tuwani Village Council brought in Israeli and international activists, politicians, Palestinian Authority officials and Palestinian electrical engineers to help accomplish the mission of bringing electricity to the village.  Quartet envoy Tony Blair came to hear about the lack of basic services for the South Hebron Hills. The Palestinian Authority eventually provided the supplies to build the electricity infrastructure.

The Israeli government gave in to a village of 250 Palestinian farmers, shepherds, and schoolchildren.  The villagers’ dedication to the pursuit of equality, to the recognition of their rights as human beings, has brought one small victory in the sea of obstacles and injustices that remain for the people of at-Tuwani.  

At-Tuwani lies in the South Hebron Hills, where the State of Israel has long denied Palestinians amenities automatically granted to neighboring Jewish settlements and outposts. These include Havat Ma'on, an outpost of Ma'on settlement, home to Kach party-affiliated extremists arrested in 2002 for attempting to blow up a Palestinian girls' school in Jerusalem. The founder of Ma'on farm, Yehoshafat Tor,  told the New York Times regarding the bombing of the girls' school, "The Torah says we should kill all the Arabs, not just Arabs who maybe help terrorists.  Everybody."

While Yehoshafat Tor and his family have access to infrastructure Israelis take for granted, Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills are forced to truck in water, heat it with donated solar panels, burn their trash, dig cesspools, and rely on rainwater to nourish their crops. Lush, green, developed settlements lie adjacent to the arid and seemingly desolate village of at-Tuwani.  Settlers remain above the law as they attack Palestinian schoolchildren, farmers, and shepherds on a regular basis.

But on 12 August 2010, when electricity came to at-Tuwani, it seemed, at least for a day, that the arc of the universe did not bend toward ethnic cleansing.  Inshallah, (God willing) for many nights to come, the electricity will shine in at-Tuwani.