Monday, November 7, 2011

Rain in Palestine!

If there is one thing that we are all desperate for here in Palestine, it's rain; the water situation here is quite grave. Because Palestine's water supply is controlled by Israel, there never seems to be enough to go around. In my neighborhood, the water is usually turned on for a few hours, once every 1-3 weeks.

Now, coming from a country where the water is on 24/7, this made absolutely no sense to me. At first I thought that the reasoning behind this had to do with a water shortage in the Middle East, but then I discovered that Israel has 24/7 water, as do the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. So every day, we cross our fingers that we don't run out of water, but right up the hill from my village, the settlers living in Gilo, an illegal settlement that is currently in the process of being expanded, could leave every single faucet on all day every day and never have to worry about not having enough water. Hey, if they use too much, the Israeli government can just postpone turning on the water in my Beit Jala neighborhood for a few days. Many would care, but no one would have the freedom to speak up.

I tried to figure out why the schedule for getting water is so random, and I discovered that we get water depending on... well... nothing. There is no rhyme or reason to how often our water gets turned on; the timing is completely arbitrary. I have heard that the rationale behind this is to prevent the Palestinians from relying on anything, or getting into a routine. It makes sense from an occupying force's point of view: if you never know when the water will be turned on, then you are kept on your toes. You have no way to ration your water or plan how you will use it. You are completely at the mercy of your occupiers for one of the most basic human necessities.

These tanks would be expected to supply a family of between 5-10 for 1-3 weeks.

To help avoid running out of water, every home has huge water cisterns on the roof. In the few hours that the water is turned on, the goal is to get as many of those tanks filled up as possible. Then you use your stored water slowly, and pray that it doesn't run out before the next time that your water is turned on. This is a huge frustration for people, because if you run out, then you run out. You can buy small bottles to drink, but those are expensive. So no showering, no laundry, no dishes, no flushing toilets, no cleaning, nothing until the next time the water is turned on.

It is also a big vulnerability. One way that soldiers and settlers will terrorize people is by going around shooting out their water tanks. Obviously, this is devastating for a family whose sole source of water is these tanks.

At about 3 PM the 14th of April in the old city of Hebron,
5 Israeli settlers trespassed onto the roof of a
Palestinian house, puncturing the 5 water tanks
owned by the family and draining all of their water supply.

For more information on settler violence,
Wikiepedia's articles are generally a good,
unbiased way to be informed.
Rain is such an incredible gift here, not only because it helps our plants grow, but also because it gives us the ability to collect water. Here, water falling from the sky is almost the equivalent of money falling from the sky in the States. It is treated as this incredible gift. The idea that water, something that I completely and utterly waste at home, is such a precious commodity here, is such a mind-blowing (and humbling) concept.
So this year, we've had early rain. Our latest storm came at 10pm on Thursday, and I cried. I cried partly from relief that my family wouldn't run out of water, partly from happiness that I could do something as familiar as playing in the rain, partly out of devastation that the powerful are able to withhold such a necessary commodity as water from the powerless, and partly in awe of my God who always, always, provides for His children.

I took some pictures for you guys; granted, by this point it was almost midnight, so the quality isn't too great, but I wanted you to get to experience the joy of this rain along with me:

The view from my balcony.

The road leading up to my house, covered in water!

The road leading away from my house, covered in MORE WATER!
As an American, I am used to living in a place where everyone is equal under the law, and where everyone has a platform to speak out if they feel that they are being mistreated. The fact that I now live in a place where people have no voice, no right to speak against injustice, absolutely sickens me.

Every day, I feel like I see the absolute worst side of humanity in many different ways. Today, I see an occupying force that has the ability to confiscate your wells and water sources, and then refuse to give you a portion of that water simply because you were born in the wrong village, speak the wrong language, or are the wrong color.

If you want to see incredibly blatant racism and absolutely unabashed discrimination, come to the West Bank. Palestinians are silently enduring despicable treatment that will leave you completely shocked, disgusted, and furious. You'll wonder why you never heard about any of this before; you'll wonder how this is able to be kept a secret; you'll want to do everything you can to break the imposed silence on this issue, because you, as a Westerner, have the ability to do that without fear of retribution.
You won't have to worry about having your house demolished in order to "teach you a lesson." 
You won't have to worry about your children disappearing in the middle of the night. 
You won't have to worry about being carted off to an Israeli prison where you'll sit for years waiting for formal charges to be filed.  
You have such incredible power. We have such incredible power, and it is wasted on deciding who is going to be the next American Idol, or focusing on what color is going to be "in" this season, or betting on which team is going to win the Super Bowl. 

So the next time you turn on the sink, and don't have to think twice about whether any water will actually come out of your faucet, think of me here in the West Bank, and say a little prayer for your brothers and sisters in Palestine who would give anything to have that same security.

1 comment:

  1. To say this is powerful would be an understatement. Thank you, Meredith, for your clear writing and much-needed reminders that the world is so much bigger than us and the lives we know.