Restrooms and Sanitation at Umm-Al-Kheir (a story for Shavuot)

Mohammed Salem is about 30 years old. He lives in Umm-Al-Kheir, in a home inherited from his late father right next to the fence of the Carmel settlement (sometimes spelled “Karmel”; see picture on right).

In 2005, when Carmel built an expansion neighborhood, Mohammed was beaten by settlers involved in the construction. Since this assault, he has suffered from post-traumatic stress (PTSD). He has stopped functioning, fears and runs away from any stranger, and even from some family members.

Mohammed’s home, one of the few still standing in that part of Umm-Al-Kheir – a village suffering continual destruction from the Occupation authorities – does not have a restroom. Therefore, residents must perform their bodily functions outdoors. On Wednesday, May 25 2011, while Mohammed was outside for that reason, he was harrangued by settlers yelling, cursing and making threats. These new, government-backed residents living in fully-connected homes have had enough with this ongoing sanitation problem placed not far from their doorstep.

This story crosses paths with another story: about two years ago, Ta’ayush activist Ezra Nawi initiated a campaign to build outhouses at Umm-Al-Kheir. Shortly after work commenced, Carmel settlers complained to the Occupation’s “Civil Administration” about the travesty of restrooms being built for their neighbors. The “Administration” quickly geared into action, its men arriving on site, confiscating materials and posting work-stoppage order signs on those structures already standing. This government action has caused a European organization that provided most of the funding, to pull out of the project. In particular, Mohammed’s outhouse had never been completed; the floor was laid out, but the walls and ceiling are still missing (see pictures).

In these days, in view of the plight of Mohammed and his family, we intend to resume Ezra’s initiative, completing that one outhouse and building a second one in the same part of Umm-Al-Kheir. Cost is estimated at NIS 4,000. For details, feel free to contact Ehud Krinis: ksehud “at” gmail.

We hope that this time around, the good citizens of Carmel will allow the residents of Umm-Al-Kheir to complete the construction, and thus resolve the sanitary problem that is so irritating to them.

[ A note from Assaf
Ehud sent me this story with the title mentioning Shavuot, a Jewish holiday taking place right now, from Tuesday night through Thursday. He did not explain why the reference, but here is one possible explanation:

On Shavuot, we read the Biblical Book of Ruth. Ruth was a foreigner - a Moabite widow who arrived to Bethlehem, Judea, with her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi. Naomi's family had lived in Moab for ten years, and then all men in the family had died. Naomi, about to return home, offered her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab with their families. Ruth refused and accompanied Naomi to Bethlehem, where she - a young foreign widow living in a man-less household and having no male offspring - would find herself on the lowest rung of the social ladder.

They lived in poverty subsisting on aid. Then, the wealthy landowner Boaz got to know her, fell in love and they lived happily ever after. King David is said to be descended from them.

The settlers of Carmel, observant Jews sitting in Judea, no doubt read the story today. They also spend - as is the custom - all night in Tikkun studying and discussing the ancient scriptures and their moral lessons.

All the while, they are willfully blind to the plain fact that they are playing a lead role in a twisted parody on the story of Ruth. Like Ruth, Mohammed and his fellow villagers are Gaerim - non-Jews in a territory controlled by Jews. Unlike Ruth, the villagers have lived there long before the Jews came. Like Boaz, the settlers are wealthy. However, unlike him their wealth has no legitimacy save in their own blinded eyes. The government robbed the land from the locals, handed it over to them - and they, supposedly moral and observant, couldn't care less. They believe in a different law for Jews and for non-Jews, rather than in treating Gaerim with justice.

Finally, unlike Boaz who opened his heart to the foreign woman and went through all the legalistic moves, some of them unpleasant, in order to make her his lawful wife rather than exploit her as a mistress - the Carmel settlers manipulate and control a "law" enforcement apparatus, the "Civil Administration", whose chief purpose is to keep non-Jews discriminated, humiliated and robbed of their rights and property. In short, the Book of Ruth is about individuals doing the right thing under difficult circumstances imposed on them. The settlers and the Israeli government, by contrast, impose themselves on the locals, and insist on continuing to do the wrong thing at every turn, as long as they can get away with it.

The settlers assauge their doubtlessly unclean conscience, by occasional acts of charity - all the while complaining about their neighbors' unsanitary ways and low morals.

Happy Shavuot. Please help end this disgrace to Judaism and to Jews everywhere, before our lifetime is over.]

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