Tuesday November 9, 2010
The sun shines on Nahalin’s jasmine bushes that welcome visitors to this village close to Bethlehem. With a population of 7,000, it is situated on a small fraction of its former 17,000 dunams, about 6,000 dunams. Since the Oslo Accords, only 1,000 dunams of Nahalin is located in Area B, the rest is under the harsh restrictions of Area C.
Eleven thousand dunams of land have been lost to the four settlements surrounding Nahalin: Betar Illit, Neve Daniyel Rosh Tzurim, and Jabout. Today, a high-pressure electricity system is being built. On both sides of the 6 – 7 kilometer line surrounding the village, an area 60 meters on each side will be confiscated.
Nahalin's main water source comes form Ein Faris near Rosh Tzurim. To the west of the village there are sewage pumps flowing from the settlements. Rosh Tzurim's sewage pump often spills into Nahalin's natural spring nearby, making this water source completely unusable.
The village council has brought attorneys to fight the case for the owners of land in Nahalin. Many farmers feel that the only way to fight their situation is to try to reclaim their land. Land in Area C is attempting to be reclaimed by farmers and occasionally the civil administration arrives, threatens the farmers to stop their building, and confiscates their equipment.
Villagers encounter problems even when getting much-needed project grants from nearby villages. ARIJ wanted to build a sewage pump but construction could only be done in Area B, which is necessarily next to villager’s houses. The sewage pump creates an awful smell for nearby residents. Nahalin has the highest percentage of educated people in Bethlehem district. USAID built a high school, also in Area B, while the village is running out of residential space due to the restrictions to building houses.
In the 1970s, the settlements of Rosh Tzurim and Neve Danieyell began construction at the same time. Not only do settlements take land from the village, but the settlers attack villagers of Nahalin occasionally. They harass farmers who are working on their land, throwing pamphlets at them warning that they should not be working in that area and threatening to confiscate their equipment. In 2010, 180 olive trees were uprooted. The village went to the police station and the court, which is the only recourse to destruction of land and property for Palestinian residents.
The expansion of settlements is often granted under the terms of Area C designation, even though it is defined as open and beyond the control of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Houses built in Area C get demolished by Israel. The stone factory in Nahalin has been issued a demolition warning. Recently, six houses have been demolished and others have received demolition orders.
To arrive in Nahalin, it is necessary to drive on a tunnel road, due to the surrounding apartheid road system that connects the settlements. There is fear that the Wall may one day be built all around Nahalin, completely isolating it, as has happened to other Palestinian villages.
During the First Intifada, at one morning five people were killed. Since then, the village has lost 22 people to Israeli occupation. At the moment, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for residents of Nahalin. Everything about their lives depends on the larger political situation.
The village residents of Nahalin are living in a perpetual state of conflict. Although living daily in conflict they still are living. They refuse to give up. They feel they must not give up. People need hope to live, said the village council chair. He went on, “We like life and we respect all religious people. We are not aggressive terrorists, we are looking forward to have a normal life for ourselves and kids. We have nothing against Israelis except for the occupation. We respect the life of others but we have the right to live the way we want. We thank America because they donate money for projects. As Palestinians we have our culture, history, and education, just like any other nation in the world. We hope peace will ball over the world for everyone. Tomorrow might be a new day. A nice, good, better day.”