‘Buying Our Own Stolen Water’ in Bethlehem – Scorching Summer Awaits Palestinians in the West Bank

‘Buying Our Own Stolen Water’ in Bethlehem – Scorching Summer Awaits Palestinians in the West Bank

Summer always comes with an Israel-imposed water shortage for Palestinians in the West Bank. This year, it will be worse than usual.

by Fayha Shalash, reposted from Palestine Chronicle

During the past few weeks, Israel decided to reduce the amount of water allocated to the cities of Hebron (Al-Khalil) and Bethlehem, in the southern West Bank, by about 35 percent, while increasing the settlers’ share of water resources.

The Israeli Mekorot water company, which controls the amount of resources that reach Palestinians in the West Bank, officially informed the Hebron municipality of the new provision.

The decision has intensified the state of anxiety among the residents of the two cities.

Summer Nightmare

For Muhammad al-Talahma, a resident of the city of Dura, south of Hebron, the summer season has been a nightmare for years, since the Israeli occupation decided to reduce water quantities.

The residents of Hebron, which is famous for its agriculture and fertile soil, are experiencing a state of continuous psychological pressure. Due to the reduction in water, many residents have been forced to reduce their crops because they cannot afford irrigation.

Al-Talahma told the Palestine Chronicle that he has become a policeman in his own home – constantly monitoring his six children’s use of water.

This, however, is not enough.

In the last weeks, the water has been cut off several times a month, making life almost impossible.

“We are reducing everything, including showering and cleaning the house. My wife is forced to use the water to wash the dishes to also clean the floor,” al-Talahma said.

“We live as if we were in the Middle Ages, in houses without water,” he added. “Every few days, we are forced to buy water for astronomical sums, if we find it at all.”

A water tank costs more than 400 shekels (108 dollars) but al-Talahma is forced to buy it regularly to meet his family’s needs.

He said this is a huge financial burden in light of the harsh economic conditions.

To make things worse, Palestinians in the Hebron area are aware that the settlements that were established on Palestinian lands can enjoy large amounts of water resources.

Moreover, the illegal Jewish settlers take control of the water springs throughout the city’s mountains, forbidding access to their Palestinian owners.

“It is painful to see that my children are thirsty, while settlers’ children are swimming and having fun in pools around the water springs that our ancestors built,” al-Talahma stressed. “Armed soldiers are deployed around them to ensure we do not approach them.”

Double Standards 

Therefore, the recent announcement that water quantities for the Palestinians will be further decreased has made matters even more complicated.

The Hebron Municipality appealed to the international community to intervene to solve the water crisis, especially since the population is growing.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates the population of the cities of Hebron and Bethlehem at about more than 1.1 million people, noting that Palestinians depend mainly on water extracted from ground and surface sources. This amounts to 75.7 percent of the total available water.

According to the Bureau, “the Israeli occupation’s measures led to limiting the ability of Palestinians to exploit their natural resources, especially water, and forced them to compensate for the shortage by purchasing water from the Israeli water company Mekorot.”

The amount of water purchased from the Israeli company for domestic use amounted to 98.8 million cubic meters in 2022, which constitutes 22 percent of the amount of available water.

Also, according to the statistics, the average daily Palestinian consumption is 85.7 liters. In contrast, Israeli consumption is three times greater, at about 300 liters per day.

In the case of illegal settlers, numbers are even more shocking; they consume more than seven times the Palestinian per capita consumption.

Forced Displacement

Hassan Barijiyah, a Bethlehem-based expert on settlement affairs, told The Palestine Chronicle that the city is built on a pool of groundwater that would be sufficient for all its residents and even exceeds its needs.

Barijiyah believes that all of these Israeli practices – the most recent of which was the reduction of water – aim to forcibly displace the Palestinians by cutting off all means of life for them.

In parallel, there is a declared Israeli war on every Palestinian who tries to dig wells to store water under the pretext that they are not licensed.

“If the Israeli occupation did not exist, we would distribute water to all the Palestinians, but we are thirsty and we are forced to buy water from the Israelis who steal it from us,” he said.

“They always come to the Ancient Pools of Suliman, Ain al-Hiniya, and Fukin Valley, swim in them, and steal their water under the pretext that it is sacred, while we are prevented from accessing and benefiting from it,” Barijiyah said.

Fayha’ Shalash is a Ramallah-based Palestinian journalist. She graduated from Birzeit University in 2008. She works as a reporter and broadcaster.


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