Access to water is just one of the many issues of the West Bank.

Q: How do you tell the difference between a Palestinian house and an Israeli one?A (dirty) water source near Jericho

A: The Palestinian home will have a water tank on the roof.

Q: Why?

A: Because the Israeli government doesn’t allow mainline pipes to be connected to Palestinian houses.

Q: Why?

A: Good question

Looking at the complicated web of Israeli and Palestinian authorities involved in the supply of water to Palestinians in the West Bank, is enough to do one’s head in.

But when it is all boiled down (pardon the pun), it’s pretty simple: the Israeli authorities have engineered the system in such a way that restricts, and in cases denies, Palestinians’ access to clean water.

This denial takes different forms dependent on the area of the West Bank.

Cutting a long story short, the West Bank is divided into different areas, and each area comes under different control. Either full Palestinian, part Palestinian-part Israeli and full Israeli. I.e. the water of different areas comes under different authorities’ control.

Some villages have their water turned off for months; some areas like a bedouin village near Jericho are not allowed to take water from the local well whilst Israeli settlers in the area have mainline pipes and access to all the water they want.

In Bethlehem there is a big under supply of water.

According to mayor Vera Baboun, Bethlehem municipality (which takes in Beit Jala and Beit Sahour) is permitted to buy 12km³ a month, it needs 16km³ for the population of about 25,000.

Water is trucked in and allows the tanks on top of the houses to be filled.

The day this happens, which is every two to four weeks, is a day of cleaning and washing.

Piles of washing are done, floors are mopped, plants (if they are still alive) are watered, proper showers can be had and dishes can finally be washed in clean water.

There are Palestinians who are lucky enough to have ground wells, but these aren’t common and even for those lucky ones, water still needs to be conserved.

IMG_5663Palestine is in the desert, so it is expected that water would be somewhat scarce. But looking at Israeli settlements inside the West Bank dotted with swimming pools surrounded by lush green trees, right next door to Palestinian villages who can’t even get a glass of water out of the tap at times is infuriating.

The water supply is there. Golan Heights (which is Syrian territory occupied by Israel) receives 1500mm a year; most of it is diverted straight to the Negev desert (in Israel proper).

There are many things I take for granted. Turning on a tap and getting almost endless clean water is one of them.

For many Israelis would be the same. But their Palestinian neighbours are not.

(The water system and the imbalance of it is explained in depth here)

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