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From the field

Water shortage in a-Sfai al-Fuqa in the Southern Hebron Hills, December 2004

Su'ad Makhamra, mother of ten

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I live with my husband and two of our children in a cave in a-Sfai al-Fauka. Five of our children, three girls and two boys, live in a house that we have in Yatta , where they go to school. They can't travel to Yata every day because the settlers blocked the main road to the town. They come home only during summer vacation. We have sixty sheep and goats and a plot of land about ten dunam s in size. We make a living by grazing the flock, and my older sons earn money by working for other farmers.

In order to raise our flock, we need water and animal food. The water shortage is one of our biggest problems. We have one water pit that contains about 60 cubic meters. There is also a communal pit for all the residents of the village, but even in the best case it isn't enough for more than two months. We share in the expenses of filling the communal pit. We bring in water from Yatta or the Bedouin village Um al-Khayr, and sometimes from Hebron itself. Each water container of 40 cubic meters costs us 100-160 shekels, depending on where we get it from. The communal pit is a source of problems between families in the village, since some of them use more water than other families. Because of the conflicts, we've begun to rent water tanks. We use them until they are empty and then refill them. Last summer we bought twenty tanks but some of the larger families, who own more sheep, bought thirty tanks. We dug a private pit for ourselves with financial assistance from a foreign organization, but the water problem hasn't been solved . The rainwater that we've collected is enough for us until June. After that, we'll have to buy water and transport it to the village.

The water that we bought this year came from Um al-Khayr, from Wadi a-Samin in Hebron , and from Khirbet al-Majaz. One of the persons who transports the water, Nasser 'Ali Khalil, from al-Majaz, said that soldiers delayed him several times when he was bringing water. The soldiers delay drivers in general for an hour or two and then let them go. They delay them next to Um al-Khayr or next to the Carmel settlement. Sometimes we wait another full day until the tractor comes with our water.

Water containers in South Mount Hebron, Summer of 1999. Photo: Nisreen 'Alian, B'Tselem.Water containers in South Mount Hebron, Summer of 1999. Photo: Nisreen 'Alian, B'Tselem.

The tractors that transport the water travel on long, winding roads because the short road next to the Ma'on settlement is blocked. Ever since the beginning of the intifada no one would dare to use it, since the settlers from Ma'on attack people passing through it. The long road from the village to Yatta takes about an hour and a half to two hours by tractor. On the short road, the same trip takes only half an hour.

There has been rainfall, so we don't have a water shortage now. We hope that this season will be good, but the Israeli authorities don't leave us alone. Last year, after we dug the cisterns, Civil Administration officials came and gave us written demolition warnings. This year, in September and October, they gave us new demolitions warnings relating to the cisterns. My husband has them. We are afraid that they will carry out this threat and demolish the cisterns and our outhouses. This happened last year. Israeli bulldozers demolished two outhouses in a-Sfai, three in a-Taban, and one in al-Fakhit.

Su'ad Ahmad 'Ali Makhamra, age 41, is a mother of ten and a resident of a-Sfai al-Fouqa village in south mount Hebron . Her testimony was taken by Musa Abu Hashhash, at her home, on 13 December 2004.