AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Water shortage—a daily Palestinian experience

15 October 2011
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Water shortage—a daily Palestinian experience

by Reinhard Kober

Abu Jamal is head of a well-known family in Halhul, to the north of Al-Khalil.  It is a beautiful hilltop town, surrounded by fields and lovely gardens.  Like other cities in the Palestinian Authority-administered Area A, its population has grown from some 3,000 in the sixties to 30,000 now.  Because of this growth, the infrastructure also has needed to expand.  For the last few years, the town has needed to open a new school each year.

Living east of the green line border, Abu Jamal and his sons, like many other people, may no longer legally work in Israel.  They invested in greenhouses, cultivated eggplants and tomatoes, and were generally successful at first.  When I asked him how his farming is going, he shrugged his shoulders, and his face showed immediately that things are becoming worse.  “We don’t have the water we need,” he said.  “Just three hours of water access per week is not enough.  Buying water in tanks is too expensive.  We can’t do anything.”

Listening him, I am reminded of my last walk to the vegetable market in Al Khalil/Hebron.  When the Israel army shut down the old vegetable market next to the Avraham Avinu settlement, (which violated the Sharm-Al-Sheikh agreement between Israel and Palestine), the entire city suffered.  If you look at the piles of boxes with Hebrew labels, you get an idea of how Israeli companies profit from taking advantage of the inadequate water resources.  According OCHA (U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and an Amnesty International report, Palestinians are denied access to the water aquifer underneath their own land.  On average, Israelis use 300 liters of water per day, Palestinians only sixty liters.  Palestinians are not even allowed to dig their own wells.  The situation in area C, controlled by the Israeli Civil Administration is worse.  The Israeli military often destroys cisterns, which collect rainwater, to make life in this area more difficult.  An OCHA official told me,  “It’s easy to make the fields bloom in dry areas [in Israel] when you deny others the use of their own water.”

  Abu Jamal wants his children to study at Abu Dis University, which is very expensive.  So, at great personal risk, he sneaks across the border to earn money at an illegal job in Israel and sleeps without a shelter.  On the one hand, he finished our conversation, saying again, “What we can do?”  On the other hand, I think he is still not giving up on a better future for his growing family