Serious neglect of neighborhoods cut off by Separation Barrier: 3 month without regular running water
In early March 2014 Hagihon, Jerusalem’s water utility company, stopped the regular supply of running water to several neighborhoods in north-east Jerusalem, namely: Shu’fat Refugee Camp, Ras Khamis, Ras Sh’hadeh and Dahiyat a-Salam (literally: Neighborhood of Peace), which have all been isolated from the rest of Jerusalem by the Separation Barrier. Some homes in these neighborhoods have been completely cut off from the water supply; others receive water intermittently; and as for the rest, the water pressure in the pipes is so low that the water does not reach the faucets. As a result, an estimated 60,000-80,000 Palestinians – mostly permanent residents of Israel – have been left without a regular water supply. The residents spent three weeks in making repeated applications to Hagihon and to the Jerusalem Municipality, seeking to have running water restored. When their requests went unheeded, on 25 March 2013, ACRI petitioned the High Court of Justice seeking to have the water supply renewed without delay.
The fact that tens of thousands of people have been cut off from the water system is but another outcome of the severe and ongoing neglect of the residents of Jerusalem neighborhoods separated by the Separation Barrier from the rest of East Jerusalem. The construction of the barrier and the isolation of these neighborhoods have led to a state of neglect even more severe than that endured by east Jerusalem neighborhoods for decades.
On 2 April 2014 the Court instructed the State to respond to ACRI’s petition within 60 days, setting the deadline for the first week of June. In the meantime, the residents of these neighborhoods have no regular running water.
On 31 May 2014 Linda Abu Rajeb told B’Tselem field-researcher ‘Amer ‘Aruri what it’s like to live running water:
Since the water supply was shut off, my husband has had to walk over to his brother Kamal’s house in the neighborhood of Ras Khamis to get water. Kamal’s house is about a kilometer away. My husband takes along empty bottles and jerrycans, fills them there and walks back home, carrying the full containers. I also send the dirty laundry with him in bags. It’s a 15 to 20-minute walk. Every other week, I take the kids to my family’s home in Ras al-‘Amud to shower. We go by bus and it takes us an hour to get there. My husband showers every few days at his brother’s house in Ras Khamis. It’s still winter, so it’s okay not to shower every day, but if there’ll still be no water in the summer, it’ll be a big problem for us. It’s embarrassing and unpleasant to keep asking to shower at other people’s homes. But if a person doesn’t shower every day in summer, it gets smelly.
I have to wash the dishes in a large plastic basin. It takes a long time. It’s hard to get the soap off the dishes. It’s very awkward and exhausting. I used to wash the whole house every day with soap and water. Now I just dust and sweep the floors. If I have enough water left, I wipe down the floor with a damp cloth, using just a bit of water. I recycle the water left from dishwashing and washing the floor for flushing the toilet.
For further information on ACRI’s website, click here.
Update: In early June 2014, Hagihon water company, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Water Authority and the Ministry of National Infrastructures filed responses to the Court. The Jerusalem Municipality argued that it is not the entity responsible for water supply to city residents. Hagihon Co. stated that the Water Authority and the Ministry of Finance have been trying for two years to obtain funding for the necessary infrastructure work, which will cost an estimated 189.5 million NIS [approximately 55 million USD], and laid the blame for lack of progress in solving the water crisis at their doorstep. The Ministry of National Infrastructures and the Water Authority stated that they were working on formulating a solution to the crisis and needed another 90 days to do so. For further information on ACRI’s website, click here.