Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Jayyous: a villageís struggle for its own land

By Lien S. - September 25, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Jayyous] [Olive Trees] [agriculture] [Water]

 Photo by K. Van Dijck. 

Jayyous, a Palestinian village on the western border of the West Bank, takes pride in having the best volleyball team in all of Palestine. Yet instead of worrying about winning the Palestinian championship, the villagers have a whole range of other, more threatening, problems to face. 

Security or settlements? 

Most of the 4000 inhabitants in Jayyous, subsist on a agriculture-based income, derived mainly from olive trees and livestock. The village collectively owns about 12,500 dunums of land. Before Israel constructed the separation wall in 2002, Jayyous produced approximately nine million kilograms of fruit and seven million kilograms of vegetables every year. With the arrival of the wall, however, the villagers suddenly found themselves cut off from 8,600 dunums of their own land, in addition to six water wells. 650 dunums were permanently destroyed by the construction of the fence, meaning that in total 75% of Jayyous’ land was either cut off or destroyed As a result, the average water consumption dropped. Today, the villagers only use an average of 23 liters per person per day, about one fourth of the 100 liters a day recommended by the World Health Organization.  

All of this happened under the Israeli pretence of “security.” Yet, if it is only a matter of security, a question then arises as to why Israel chose to build a wall that cuts into Palestinian land, in some places up to 6 kilometers, instead of around the village. The answer can be found in the illegal settlement of Zufin, built on land belonging to Jayyous’ farmers in 1989. By extending the wall well past the green line, Israel has, in effect annexed the agricultural land and water wells of Jayyous and allotted them to Zufin for use and expansion. 

Photo by C. Bastin.

 Permits and unemployment

To reach their own lands, farmers in Jayyous now have to apply for an Israeli permit. Initially, around 1500 farmers were able to obtain one, yet less and less permits are being renewed. According to Jayyous’ municipality, only 500 farmers possess a permit today, while around 45% of the villagers are unemployed. “On August 25, my permit expired and it wasn’t renewed until recently,” Shareef Khalid, one of Jayyous’ farmers, explains. “This situation was very difficult for me. It was the start of the guava and avocado season and I really needed to be on my land.” 

Even though Shareef’s permit is now renewed for two years, he still does not have the permission to stay on his land overnight and must comply with the opening hours of the gates, controlled by the Israeli military. North and South gate, the two gates closest to the village, only open three times a day for one hour. Falamya gate, the one further removed from the village, is open all day. “This is occupation,” adds Shareef. 

Photo by C. Bastin.

 Bittersweet victory

In 2009, the Israeli Supreme Court decided that 2,488 dunums would be given back to Jayyous. This victory was obtained by the villagers after a range of Friday protests together with a court case. The construction of the new wall is due to be completed by the end of this year. Shareef Khalid is one of the farmers who will get a part of his land back, yet he finds it all bittersweet. “Four out of my six fields will now be on this side of the fence. But lands belonging to other farmers will be destroyed in rebuilding the fence and 5000 dunums belonging to the village will still be on the other side.” 

With the start of the new wall’s construction at the beginning of 2013, Jayyous was confronted with yet another problem. Israeli colonists had started building an outpost on the lands that are to be transferred back to Jayyous. Their caravans were physically blocking Jayyous’ water project, a project the Israeli government had agreed to earlier, which would allow the construction of water pipes to connect the village with its wells. When the villagers resumed their Friday protests against this new outpost, the Israeli government threatened to cancel the water project and halted the protests after only four weeks.

Even after the protests had ended, the village has witnessed a rising number of arrests. “During Ramadan, two 18-year olds and one 21-year old were arrested from their homes in the middle of the night, accused by Israel of throwing stones and trying to cut the fence,” says Noor, a Jayyous resident. “On August 1, they also arrested a 23-year old at North gate when returning home after having worked on his family’s field.” Earlier this summer, Israeli soldiers arrested another 20-year old at North gate on July 4 and a 23-year old at a flying checkpoint on the way to Jayyous on July 7. During the month of June, four 18-year old boys were arrested and were then unable to take their exams. All ten of them are still in prison. 

“In June, our Israeli legal adviser told us that the Israeli Supreme Court had ordered the settlers to leave, since its earlier decision to reconstruct the wall gives the people of Jayyous the right to these lands,” Shareef explains. In August, the settlers left the land that will be back on Jayyous’ side of the fence, yet the problem is not entirely solved as they have put their caravans on other agricultural land belonging to the village. 

Olive season

This time of year, Jayyous is slowly preparing itself to harvest its olives. “During olive season, there is a possibility for farmers to apply for a one-month permit. Yet this year, they keep changing the procedure to apply for it and have already sent the applications back three times,” explains Noor. 

Shareef expects that around 120 Israeli peace activists will come to Jayyous every Saturday during olive season to help with the harvest. “It’s important to me to have a good relationship with these Israeli activists because they help us with our cause. Progress may be very slow, but I feel that things are changing in their society.”



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