Journey to the Holy Land – Day 27

November 19, 2010

Water.  The mainstay of all life.  Without water, no life on planet Earth would survive.  Humans, animals, sea life, plants and all living organisms would cease to exist.

About a week ago I read a news report naming ten large cities in the U.S. that are in danger of running out of water resources within the next 2-3 years.  Shocking, isn’t it, to even think that this could happen in the land of plenty?  The good news is that they have been given advance warning and hopefully will take measures, especially conservation of our natural resources, to halt this dangerous progression.

When I came to Palestine on pilgrimage a year ago we were made aware of the serious shortage of water resources in the Occupied Territories.  Our tour guide told us that the way we could distinguish a Palestinian home or building from an Israeli structure is to look for the tanks on top of the buildings.  These water tanks are used to store water for the native Arabs.

Even though I thought I was being environmentally conscientious when at home in Connecticut, I became even more aware of the necessity to conserve water and all utilities while visiting here.  I limited my shower time to just a few minutes and to every other day at the most.  Sponge baths were fine in between, and my hair does not NEED to be shampooed more than once every 3 days.  I became neurotic about turning off lights and other appliances when not in use.

Although I never experienced water not coming out of the tap while I was here then or now (I did experience a power shut down one night), that kind of situation is a frequent occurrence for Palestinians.  Prior to the occupation in 1967, the Bethlehem Governorate, which includes Bethlehem proper and the surrounding villages, received its water supply from locally controlled aquifers—layer of permeable rock, sand, or gravel through which ground water flows, containing enough water to supply wells and springs.  After the occupation began, the Israeli government took control of the majority of the aquifers, leaving the Bethlehem area municipality without the ability to supply this basic need to its residents.  This story is the same throughout all areas in the West Bank and there are even more severe shortages in Gaza.

According to an October 2009 report released by London-based human rights group Amnesty International, Israel was accused “of pumping disproportionate amounts of drinking water from an aquifer it controls in the West Bank, depriving local Palestinians of their fair share.  Israelis use more than four times the amount of water per person on average than do Palestinians, whose consumption falls far below the minimum amount recommended by the World Health Organization,” the report said. To read the entire article reported by CBS on October 26, 2009 go to http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/26/world/main5423086.shtml.

When I asked various people here what that means to them for their daily water needs, I was told that the municipality is not able to meet the minimum required amount of water to support their lives.

Palestinians pay 5 NIS (shekels—approximately $1.40) per cubic centimeter for water supplied by the municipality.  Unfortunately, because the supply is too low to meet the needs of the population, they are forced to buy additional water from the Israeli-controlled water pumping station located within the occupied West Bank.  In order to purchase one cubic centimeter from that source, the Palestinians must pay 25 NIS ($6.95).  In addition, the water delivery company will only bring a full tanker truck amounting to 8, 10, or 16 cubic centimeters.

Apartment buildings that house 24 or more families and have storage well below the building will order the larger amount delivered which gives them a slight price break of 18.75 NIS per cubic centimeter.   If a family lives in a single house and does not have enough water tanks on the roof to accept the full delivery, they must still pay for the entire minimum delivery amount of 8 cubic centimeters.

According to an article written by Jad Isaac of the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (www.arij.org), Palestinians have about 73 liters per capita per day available while Israelis have 300 liters.  The Palestinians have only about one fourth of the recommended amount of water by the World Health Organization.

In Bethlehem, the population of 180,000 gets only 71 liters per person (all of which must be purchased from Israel during the dry months of June, July and September) while an Israeli settlement only 6 kilometers away which houses 7,714 people gets 217 liters per person.  The situation is worse in Hebron where 70,000 Palestinians have 27 liters per person and the nearby settlement housing 396 people has 194 liters per person.  (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territory.)

Another local resident told me that before washing clothes she must go to the water pipe, open the valve and see if there is water inside.  If not, she cannot do laundry.  She said that water is not available 2 or 3 days each week.  She indicated that most of the water goes to the settlements in the West Bank and that the Israeli Water Authority controls the water.  She said that the water either comes to everyone in the area or to no one.  They never know which days they may not have water access.

Before there can be a peace settlement to this on-going conflict, the need for basic human rights must be discussed and resolved.  One person described the situation here in this way.  “Israel doesn’t want to marry the Palestinians but they don’t want to divorce them either.”  He equated this statement to a legally married couple living separately but who is not willing to get divorced and go their separate ways.  Pee or get off the pot already!

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Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 9:42 am  Leave a Comment  

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