On Tuesday, March 23rd, Friends of the Earth Middle East hosted a tour of the Palestinian Jordan Valley for a group of Israeli human rights activists and FoEME field staff. The one-day trip brought the group to several communities in the Jordan Valley where discussions with village representatives, mayors, and families highlighted the issue of restrictions to water resources for Palestinian communities in the region, and some of the issues faced by communities on a daily basis.
The day started off at the Auja spring, north of Jericho, where the group saw the once plentiful spring now complete dry. Nearby, the hum of the Mekorot pumps for the wells drilled next to the head of the spring was clearly audible – the irony of which was not lost on the group. To compensate for the reduction of water from the spring to the community of Al Auja, Mekorot has supplied the community with piped water. However, this does not address the issue of water rights and fair access to water resources for Palestinian families in Auja – a central theme to the day’s activities.
As part of this group, I was fortunate enough to see some parts of the Jordan Valley I had yet to visit, and talk with both the Israelis in the group, and the local individuals we met throughout the day. Perhaps the most striking part of the day was our visit to several Bedouin communities. Such communities in Israel and Palestine often have access to no more than 20 liter per person per day of fresh water. Our group was welcomed into the communities, where we saw first hand the harsh conditions many of these families live in. One Bedouin community we visited is faced with possible eviction from the land they have been on for the last 15 years. The night before our visit, a group of settlers erected a tent beside the Bedouin family, in an attempt to lay claim to the land, and pressure the Bedouin family to leave.
Our group also visited the Ein Al Beida School for Boys, part of the FoEME ‘Good Water Neighbors’ project, in Ein Al Beida, north of Jericho. This community is the only Palestinian community remaining in the Jordan Valley that is located east of road 90 – the main road running North-South in the Jordan Valley, separating the Jordan River from the Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley. Our group met with the Mayor of Ein Al Beida, who told the group how his community has lost access to springs and wells, which once provided water for this community and it’s fertile agricultural land. Currently, the community survives on little more than 2.5 million cubic meters a year, down from the estimated 22 million cubic meters a year they used to have access to in the 1970s. This has caused almost half of the original 1,800 farmers to abandon their land and find work elsewhere.
On a personal level, I found this trip to be extremely important and enlightening, to be able to see the facts on the ground, and talk to individuals whose lives have been disrupted and changed from a lack of fresh water and restrictions of movement and access to water sources.
This blog post was contributed by Jesse Baltutis, intern at FoEME’s Bethlehem office.
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