Ensuring Rights to Water in the South Hebron Hills

12:00 Jun 14 2012 Susiya and Sadat al-Tha'alah

from Rabbis for Human Rights

This project aims to repair a number of destroyed water cisterns, enabling the 500 or so residents of Susya and Tha’ala villages in the South Hebron Hills to collect rainwater for irrigation, livestock, and household needs. The Israeli civil administration, with the help of Israeli settlers, have systematically demolished water infrastructures in this area over the last few years, jeopardizing the lives of the Palestinian residents; without adequate and easily accessible water resources, these villages are threatened with displacement. Currently, these villages are forced to buy water tanks from nearby Yatta at prohibitive costs, spending up to 1/3 of their income on water.

In the past year, there has been a significant increase in the destruction of cisterns serving Palestinian villages in South Hebron specifically and in Area C of the Occupied Territories in general. These cisterns are vital to the livelihoods of the marginalized Palestinian rural and herder communities, who rely on them to provide water for livestock, to irrigate crops and sometimes for domestic water supply. Since 2009, a total of 44 cisterns in Area C have been demolished, with 20 alone being demolished in 2011.

Destruction of cisterns abuses basic rights to water, as dictated by both Jewish and international law. Basic Jewish moral principle requires us to provide water to the stranger and even to our enemy (Proverbs 25:21: “if he [your enemy] be thirsty, give him water to drink”).

The Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights proposes to repair a number of destroyed cisterns that have been destroyed in the South Hebron Hills. Specifically, RHR plans to work repairing wells in the Palestinian village of Susya, inhabited by 350 people, and where the majority of structures are threatened with demolition. In 2011, two water cisterns were demolished in Susya. RHR also intends to work in the village of Sadat al-Tha’alah, where a cistern repaired last year by Taayush activists has since been destroyed. Home to 150 residents, Tha’alah is unrecognized by the Israeli Civil Administration. RHR is a familiar name in these villages, as a result of our legal work in helping residents of these villages regain access to lands confiscated by settlers.

In May, 2012 RHR identified the cisterns and the international volunteer groups that will aid in repairing of the wells. In June, RHR will work together with our fieldwork team to put together informational data and maps about these cisterns and their locations. In July-August, we plan to coordinate with Palestinian residents in the areas, and bring groups of international volunteers out to the sites for several days at a time. In coordination with local residents, RHR will acquire the necessary equipment. During this time, RHR will also engage in media work around rights to water, working with Israeli and foreign journalists. This project will also enable RHR’s legal staff to begin gathering information so that we can conduct legal work around the issue of rights to water and destruction of property and vital resources.

About Rabbis for Human Rights
Founded in 1988, Rabbis for Human Rights is the only rabbinic voice in Israel that is explicitly dedicated to human rights. Representing 100 Israeli rabbis and rabbinical students from different streams of Judaism, we derive our authority from our Jewish tradition and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our mission is to inform the Israeli public about human rights violations, and to pressure the State institutions to redress these injustices. In a time in which a nationalist and isolationist understanding of Jewish tradition is heard frequently and loudly, Rabbis for Human Rights give expression to the traditional Jewish responsibility for the safety and welfare of the stranger, the different and the weak, the convert, the widow and the orphan.

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