Blocking the roads in Massafer Yatta-Jinba

Dear friends and Supporters,

Few days ago we traveled on the crossing road of Massafer Yatta, the caves dwellers area of south Mt. Hebron. We could saw then (photos attached), that after a month of total block, the Israeli army bulldozers made small breaches in the in the long earth mounds they build few weeks ago in order to isolate the residents of the caves dwellers villages from the rest of the world. Small and temporary as they are, these current breaches enable the Italian organization UCODEP to send its water supply to southern villages of Jinba, Mirkez and Hallwah after a long period of the delay, which include also a continue rain halt in the region. Erella’s notes attached here, can give you a glimpse on the silent heroism of the caves dwellers of Massafer Yatta, that for more than a quarter of a country struggling against an everyday brutal oppression of the Israeli occupation forces.

Ehud krinis

Villages Group


Thank you Jinba, my dear,

The weatherman said it would rain in the south on Thursday. It didn’t. An autumn breeze caressed the South Hebron Hills swaying down towards the Arad Valley and Judean desert, into the sleepy morning mists. We, too, were there. Ehud and I and our friend Muhammad, native of the area, who led us to Jinba. We went to see the new barriers that had just gone up, blocking the only road left open to Jinba, and to listen to its people. Had we not gone to see roadblocks, only the striking beauty of the place would catch our breath. But the searing pain was there, too, as well as the dissonance between the two.

We walked down the road to Jinba through Bir al Eid. This is a dirt track which the Jinba inhabitants paid to have opened in 1989 (120,000 shekels) on the western side, shorter than the eastern track that crosses the cave-dweller area near Yatta, the regional urban center. Both are rough dirt roads which only tractors can travel.

On the ‘short road’, the tractor could travel for two hours, and on the ‘long road’ it would take five hours to reach Yatta – to buy food for the family and livestock, run errands, or get a doctor, God forbid.

But the ‘short road’ has long been blocked so that the people who built it may not use it, while two Jewish colonies have settled on stolen land. The Yaacov outpost and Havat Yair outpost are far enough from the road but not far enough from blindness, brute force and dominance.

Ten days ago, the ‘long road’ was blocked, too.

When we arrived at Jinba, this is what Musa Jibrin told us:

“A month-and-a-half ago they closed here. The army bulldozer came and closed the road at some points with dirt piles, but some days later they came back and opened the barriers about 3 meters wide so we could get through with tractors. Then, ten days ago,” Musa carries on in fluent Hebrew, “they closed again, even more. More than ten barriers.” Musa visualizes these barriers in order to give us the exact number. “Dirt piles over a meter-and-a-half high. No tractor can cross. We’re totally cut off from Yatta now. The water problem is the worst” says Musa.

“We have enough water for another two months. From our ten open wells. We have another ten wells but the army blocked them over the years. In 1987 a central water cistern was blocked. Lately, we appealed to the DCO in Hebron to let us clean it up, not even rebuild one. We were told the Antiquities Department would have to be brought here to give their okay. Were they brought here? No way. And they don’t intend to, either.

“Halawa and Markaz (villages further east of Jinba, on the blocked route) have only four wells and their water has run out, and they can no longer get water by the EU’s water tankers, the way they did before the blocking. They come to ask us for water. Now they haven’t any, and we still have a little, so we give them. They will have water for another few days, and we have water for another month, not two. We’re becoming equal.”

So simple, I think to myself and remember a phrase Lao Tze wrote in 600 BCE:

“…They lived together in freedom, giving and taking without realizing they were ‘generous’… For this, their deeds were not acclaimed. They did not make history.”

We sit in Musa’s cave all the while. While Musa spoke, his wife served us flat bread, white cheese and olive oil in a dish. She shared whatever they had with us, no apologies nor complaints.

At the same time, through the cave opening we saw the army Hummer speeding towards four youngsters from Yatta who had tried their luck to get into Israel, looking for work. They will no longer cross today.

Musa continues his description of the latest blocking process: “A week ago I went over to the soldier operating the bulldozer. I asked him: “Why are you blocking us?” He said, “So Palestinian workers without permits will not cross into Israel, nor terrorists.” So why not block your own area? Why do you close us in and don’t let us live? I asked. He said, “Ask the bosses. I’m not the commander here.”

“I don’t need to ask the bosses”, Musa tells us, his face very clear. “I know. They want the land without the people.”

“You see,” Musa continues, “before the Israelis, there were the Jordanians here. They did lots of bad things to people. And before them were the British, and the Turks before that. And now the Israelis. later there will be a Palestinian government. But it will fall, too. Governments fall. Governments whose intentions are not pure, don’t last. But I don’t belong to governments. I belong to the land. They will not move me from here, because I belong to the land.” Musa said this lightly, with an ease of things that are obvious and self-evident. There was not a bit of pomp in his confident voice. Only a kind of simple inner truth which he felt he could share with us. In my mind I heard the familiar echo of occupiers and settlers and colonists who say, “We shall not be moved, for the land belongs to us.” A sudden tightness closed in on my heart that had felt open and light with Musa’s words. And suddenly, that little difference opened wide and spread itself before my heart like the Arad Valley and the Judean desert lying there in front of me, huge and open, lazy and simple as the noon sun of an autumn day, one of many, a day that will be here tomorrow, too, and was here yesterday. This was the simple knowledge of the difference between “I shall not be moved from here, for I belong to the land”, and “I will not be moved from here for the land belongs to me.”


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