NABI SAMWIL, August 21 (JMCC) – The Palestinian village of Nabi Samwil
is tiny as West Bank
villages go. Its 300 or so residents are squeezed into 11 homes.
But because Israeli regulations prevent residents from building in the village, Nabi Samwil has little chance to grow.
Eid Mohammad Barakat, 46, is the father of four. He left the village in 1996 after Israeli authorities confiscated a trailer he was living in and twice demolished a house he built.
Barakat waited nine years until his father passed away, thereby vacating the family home, before he could move back to the village with his family.
“We are completely prohibited from constructing anything,” says Barakat. “We live here in a tightly-sealed prison, forbidden from leaving the village, prohibited from building in it. We can’t move freely around the village, as it is full of surveillance cameras – all we can do is survive with the basics.”
The village is surrounded by the Israeli settlements
, Har Samuel and Givat Zeev
. But in Nabi Samwil itself sits a mosque that has been commandeered by the Israeli military, Jewish worshippers claiming it as a religious site.
Villagers complain of harassment and violence from area settlers.
“They constantly set our lands on fire,” says Ameer Obeid, a member of the village council. ‘They damage our crops, prevent our freedom of movement, and confiscate our properties. Some seized a piece of land in the middle of the village and are living on it -- they are allowed to do everything while we, the rightful owners of the land, are not allowed to even complain.”
Obeid, father of six, lives in three rooms – a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom constructed of branches and tin sheeting. His mother and sister live next door in a cave.
According to Barakat, even those families living in standing structures are not immune from eviction. Most homes were demolished by the Israeli military in 1971, while those left standing happened to be the homes of those who fled in the 1967 war.
“They tell us to live in these houses owned by absentees so they can apply the Absentee property law, transferring the ownership of properties to the state of Israel
,” says Barakat. “At any moment, they could come and evict us from these houses, which we don’t own.”
‘UNTIL I DIE’
Moreover, outsiders are forbidden from entering the village and residents may only leave with the issuing of Israeli permits. One bus enters and leaves the village at designated times, transporting people and goods.
“It is used for everything, transporting people and merchandise,” says Barakat. “Often we are more than 25 people in the vehicle. We have no other alternatives.”
If residents fall ill during the night, they must wait until the morning hours when the bus arrives to seek medical treatment. One young man injured his hand but had to wait until morning to go to the hospital. His fingers were amputated.
“We know we cannot stay in the village,” says Obeid, “Today I live here with my family, but when my children grow up, where will they go? How can we all live in the same room? They will certainly leave, but I am staying here until I die.”