Llanidloes - as-Sawiya Friendship Association


Today in As-Sawiya, West Bank, Palestine

 

As Sawiya is a typical Palestinian village, built on a hillside, with fertile land stretching into the valley below.

The population is approximately 3,000.

The main occupation of the inhabitants is farming. The crops include olives, figs, wheat, beans and grapes, with a range of vegetables grown for household use and the families being largely self sufficient for their own food. They also keep livestock, especially chickens and goats. Farming methods are simple and traditional, mostly unmechanised.

Delicious bread is made in a way that has survived the passage of time, right from the harvesting of the wheat to the finished product.

There is a mosque, a community centre, several shops and 3 schools. There is a clinic, but a doctor visits on only 2 mornings per week and residents rely heavily on clinics in Ramallah and Nablus and for hospital treatment, on travelling to Jerusalem. This immediately creates difficulties because such a journey entails obtaining a permit and passing through a military checkpoint. Not only does this typically involve queuing for hours, but it may mean an ultimate refusal to proceed. It is not unknown for people to die at checkpoints and several babies have been born at them too.

As Sawiya is positioned right in the centre of the West Bank and its name means “central”. It is approximately half way between Nablus and Ramallah. but is completely surrounded by illegal settlements, in particular: Eli and Ariel. At night, every hilltop is lit up and harsh searchlight are trained on As Sawiya. During the day there are powerful cameras focussed on all the activities in the village. The Israeli Government has backed the proliferation of settlements for decades:

“Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements, because everything we take now will stay ours.” Ariel Sharon (1998).

The settlers have broken the water pipe which provided spring water to As Sawiya and the village now has to purchase water from the Israeli owned water company at rates they can ill afford, while in the nearby settlement Ariel, the Palestinian spring water has been diverted and is used for a swimming pool. The settlers conduct frequent raids on As Sawiya, setting fire to schools and damaging or stealing equipment. Because of their close alliance with the Israeli forces, no action is taken to bring culprits to justice.

The houses in the village vary. Some are small attractive single story dwellings that have been there for centuries. We even saw a cave that had been lived in by people together with their animals, until some time in the nineteenth or even twentieth century. Then there are large modern two storey houses with large elegant rooms and beautifully tended gardens. None of these are safe from threat. In 2010, 47 families received notices from the Israeli Authorities to say that their houses were “illegal” and would be demolished. These families do not know when this will happen, but despite many attempts, experience indicates that they will have no recourse to legal process. Once homeless, families can not build another home, without a permit from the authorities. No permits are ever issued to Palestinians. So, if they build again, their new home will be designated “illegal” and again will be subject to another demolition order.

A fast and efficient settler road, highway 60, was built in 2002. It runs right through the valley below As Sawiya, cutting many of the houses off from their land and skirting close to the schools, thus making them particularly vulnerable to settler violence. Settlers regularly prevent the villagers from harvesting their crops, especially the olives which grow on trees that have been tended for generations by As Sawiya families. A wonderful woman in her late 70s, related her experience of being attacked as she tried to harvest her olives. Settlers tried to take her donkey. She held on tightly and was determined to stop them. She was accordingly attacked and kicked by them as she fell to the ground. Undaunted, she remains determined not to let this event stop her from continuing her work as a farmer.

This story illustrates the courage and stoicism of the Palestinian people. After years of human rights abuses, they remain determined to carry on the struggle to maintain their way of life and their livelihoods, against all the odds. Meeting them and hearing their stories fills you with admiration. Our friendship link may not have a lot of power against the malign forces they are dealing with, but as they continually remind us, it is extremely important to the people of As Sawiya.


 
 
 
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un international year of solidarity with the palestinian people

  Llanidloes - As-Sawiya Friendship Association  Chair: Sue Prince     Secretary: Marg Munyard     Treasurer: Angela Scrase
  Sue: 01686 413753 | Marg: 01686 413513
 

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