Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Assyra al Qbliya

The small village of Assyra al Qbliya lies just to the south of Nablus, accessible only over some very rough, unsealed roads. In many ways it is typical of Palestinian villages - a mosque, an elementary school, a bakery, a few small shops and a collection of stone houses surrounded by olive groves and fields. Factional flags are everywhere and many of the walls are covered in political posters and graffiti. Typically, too, it is overlooked by a Jewish settlement.

Looming above the village - settlements are
always built on dominant hilltops - is the settlement of Yitzhar. It is illegal, of course, built on land stolen from the village, and surrounded by the usual high security fence. The settlers stay in their colonial enclave, cut off from the life of Palestine, except on Fridays and Saturdays. Some of them like to celebrate shabat, the Jewish holy day, by sneaking into the village and spray-painting the Star of David and Zionist slogans onto the walls of villagers' houses.

Shabat is the day the villagers fear. They sit on their rooftops, on the lookout for incursions, fearing violence from the heavily-armed settler gangs. When figures are seen on the hillside below Yitzhar, whistling goes up from the rooftops, warning the rest of the village to be prepared for what may befall them.

So, from week to week, the people of Assyra cling to the shreds of a normal life, fearing incursions and violence, fearing the time when more of their farmlands will be stolen, when more of their wells will be put off-limits.

As I say, in many ways a typical Palestinian village.

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