Last week two murders occurred in the northern part of the region that lies south of Hebron. The first victim was the girl Halel Yafa Ariel, murdered in her bed at the Kiryat Arba settlement, and the second – Michael Mark of the Otniel settlement, while he was driving with his family along road 60. Following these two murders, the army implemented the severest encirclement in years upon Yatta and other towns and villages in the area. The impact of this measure is felt most strongly in the peripheral localities lying east of Yatta (the region named Masafer Yatta). All dirt tracks leading to the area have been blocked with boulders and dirt dykes wherever they connect to road 317. This has paralyzed all life lines connecting the regional town of Yatta with its outlying localities: Mnezel and Tuwane, each of which is home to hundreds of people, as well as ten officially unrecognized cave-dweller hamlets whose populations vary between 50 and 200 people.
At the same time, these days see the holiday ending the Ramadan month fast, Eid al-Fitr. This holiday is a family event wherein the extended family members traditionally visit each other, especially those living at some distance who do not normally see each other often. In our visit on the second day of this holiday (Thursday, July 7) at two cave-dweller hamlets – Mufaqara and Tuba – we happened to experience the Palestinian sumud (holding on to the land) at its utmost. Family members living in Yatta walked miles on foot or road for hours in long, exhausting roundabout tracks in order to visit their parents and siblings who live in the encircled peripheral localities. “I’m flying with joy” said to us a widow living in Mufaqara as we visited her in her cave. The reason for this is not only the holiday but also the fact that recently, members of the Palestinian-Israeli organization Comet-Me placed solar plates next to each of the hamlet’s caves. These European-financed plates supply electricity that not only enables light in the caves but also operating washing machines, refrigerators, computers and television sets.
Ehud, on behalf of the Villages Group