Different kinds of heat

Posted on 07 August 2010

It is hot. Much hotter than usual, which makes it difficult to do anything much. Especially when we have no water to shower properly or wash our clothes. Of course, not everyone in the district has a water shortage, only Palestinians. Settlers still water their lawns when there is a heatwave.

The other night we drove over the mountain to Deheishe, to yet another family wedding. The water tanks which adorn every roof in the camp were bathed in the soft, golden light of the setting sun. They sparkled like jewels. But those tanks are more valuable than any jewel as they are the only source of water storage. Those lucky enough to have a little land are now digging storage wells, but there is no land in the camps. During the early years of the second Intifada, water tanks were a popular target for  Israel’s occupying forces. I lost count of the number of water tanks that I saw shot up.

When I was working with Beit Sahour municipality, we had to launch an appeal to the international community to help replace the damaged tanks of families who had no money. We may not be getting our tanks shot up any more, but the water shortage is acute. So while over 500,000 settlers take around 80% of water in the West Bank, almost two-and-a-half million Palestinians get what’s left. And it’s only going to get worse.

Even within Palestinian areas, water distribution is inherently unfair. The camps are usually the first to lose supply and the last to regain it. We’ve had no supply in Doha for around three weeks. The areas where there’s tourists – central Bethlehem, where most of the hotels are – never seem to lose supply. Some believe that Muslim areas suffer greater water shortages than Christian areas. I cannot say for sure, but I do know that certain areas only lose supply for a few days, rather than a few weeks. So, today we had to schelp to a sister’s home just to have a shower and get our clothes washed. And to remove all traces of chocolate ice cream R was covered in following a chaotic trip with some of her friends to the new ice cream parlour.

Palestinian society is made up of many layers, and just how open and willing to share information with you very much depends on who you are and who you know. I realise my privilege; my history means that generally people are very honest and frank with me. But not always.

I went, without prior arrangement, to visit a prisoner who had been released a few days earlier. A didn’t know me or my connections here. As I interviewed him, I could tell he was telling me what he thought I should hear. He had been held for just over two years on the basis that he had helped his uncle, who was wanted. He was assassinated a while back now, and before that he used to be represented in the Israeli military courts by a friend of mine. Even though A felt he couldn’t be entirely open with me, I also hope he felt that there are people outside Palestine who do care very much about what has happened to him and his family.

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