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Eye witness in Palestine

Doris Richards is a member of Sutton for Peace and Justice, and is currently in Palestine as an Ecumenical Accompanier on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) – see below for more information.

Doris made the following report from Palestine on 9 July, on

The bringing of water to the Jordan Valley

“Last evening I was handing out bottles of water at a village in the Jordan valley within a few metres of Israel/Palestine’s only major river. I was surrounded by small children and their families who have not had clean water on tap for over seven weeks. I am angry, confused and distressed. How is it that Israel can spend billions on armaments while allowing a village in the country’s most fertile area to be without water?

The Jordan Valley is an area of stunning natural and rugged beauty. The mountains are barren, the cultivated valleys are green and yet it is also an area of discrimination and grinding poverty.

At the Bedouin encampment of Ein Al Hilwey, 25 families are harassed by Israeli forces and the settlers who surround them. The settlers live in well made houses with running water which they use liberally. The Bedouin are living in tents and have to collect their water from a well that is an hour’s drive away along a road they are not supposed to use. A trip to collect water may bring a fine of several hundred shekels. The starkness of the contrast in life styles is unmistakeable.

The situation was no better in the village of Fassayel, where recently the school was saved from demolition by the intervention of the ‘Quartet’ of the UN, EU, the USA and Russia. We were offered hospitality, tea and water by the Mayor’s family and when we moved outside to talk with the children, they showed us the tap that has been dry for the last 7 weeks. Both water supply companies involved blame each other for the problem and they are currently referring the problem to a third party while the villagers remain without water.

What could we do? Two weeks ago two EA’s met the Administration President of the Palestinian Rural Development and Industrial Company, the Yanabee Water Company is one of his projects. He was also the Mayor of the nearby town of Beita. We decided to tell him about Fassayel. Using the number from our bottle of water we phoned him, explained the situation and asked for his help. Immediately he offered to supply 80 packs of 6 x 1 ½ litre bottles of water if we could collect them from the factory that evening. He phoned back later offering to increase the number to 3000 bottles.

Our driver Ghassan and I drove to the factory to collect the first batch of bottles. Arab Al-Shorafa, the Administration President met us and promised to provide more water and the truck for another delivery the next day. We drove back to Fassayel, by which time it was dark, and distributed the water to the families as they appeared through the darkness with their children. We returned in the morning with more water.

Together these deliveries have provided enough water for each family in that village for a week. Will that be enough time for the authorities to solve the problem of the dry tap?

In the conversations that followed the deliveries speculation was rife – for some the problem of the dry taps was just that, a practical problem needing a solution; others believed it is just another part of a strategy to drive them from their ancestral lands. For us it is impossible to know, but we were simply glad to be of help.

In temperatures reaching the mid 30s centigrade we appreciated our next glass of water. This has been a salutary experience for the team, so please enjoy your next glass of water and thank Arab Al-Shorafa for his kindness and ask yourselves again what are the responsibilities of an occupying power? Surely one of those responsibilities is to ensure access to food and water to those living under their control. ”

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is an international initiative of the World Council of Churches, managed by Quaker Peace and Social Witness. The programme sends international volunteers, known as Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The EAs:

  • offer protection through nonviolent presence;
  • monitor and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law;
  • support Israeli and Palestinian peace activists;
  • undertake advocacy work including public speaking in the UK and Ireland on their return.

Sutton for Peace and Justice will be organising a meeting in Sutton in the Autumn where Doris will relate her first-hand experiences of Palestine.

For more information about the EAPPI UK programme see http://www.quaker.org.uk/eappi, and for the international programme see http://www.eappi.org

(The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of QPSW or the WCC.)


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