May 11, 2016

Hizma - Example of oppression

The Palestinian village Hizma, where I have several friends, is the location of many of the events in my posts. Though yesterday there was a bomb attack at its entrance in which an Israeli army officer was seriously wounded, it's mostly a quiet village. 

On this Day of Remembrance, I want to tell you a bit more about Hizma; a village suffering badly from the occupation. With the imposed hardships, it is not surprising that anti-Israeli sentiment is on the rise, in this village like in many others.
Hizma is geographically adjacent to the Jerusalem neighborhood Pisgat Ze'ev, a Jewish Israeli settlement. The two places are separated by the wall, which has a passage with a checkpoint. The checkpoint is open 24 hours a day, though at some hours there is substantial waiting. Israelis can pass freely in both directions, but only Palestinians with permits can enter Israel. Hizma is situated on the main road between the Palestinian towns Ramallah and Al-Eizariya. At certain hours in the day, queues at the checkpoint obstruct the stream of cars at the Palestinian side of the wall, so that also those who are passing by and do not want to cross the wall need to wait in line.

The history of Hizma dates back to biblical times. In the last population count, from 2007, it had 5650 residents, but by now it probably has many more. In 2010, there was an unemployment rate of 30%, but likely higher by now. (For more factual info, see Hizma village profile.) Hizma has suffered over the years from the Israeli occupation, through closure by the wall and confiscation of lands, but there are more ways of oppression. Many of its small shops and garages, oriented toward Israeli customers and Palestinians passing through.

No entrance to the village

As I explained in the story about the theft of my phone, the West Bank is split into administrative divisions. Hizma has a village council appointed by the Palestinian National Authority. However, most of Hizma is considered Area C, which is under Israeli army jurisdiction and only a small part is Area B, which is under Palestinian civil control. Moreover, a part close to the main road, including several businesses, was confiscated and now belongs to the Jerusalem municipality. Consequently, it is highly confusing to whom to turn for which issue. In addition, administrative processes are not transparent and may take years. Thus, businesses that have tried to get official permits, often fail. What happens then is that that businesses don't even try to get legalized and from time to time one Israeli authority or another comes and closes, or sometimes destroys, a business, or confiscates merchandise or machinery. This is also what happened more than once to the "Bedouin Garage", previously called the "Garage of Peace", and to neighboring shops, that take months to recuperate from such setbacks. Consult with a lawyer did not help in finding a better solution to this situation.

In the last year, the socio-economic situation is getting worse. Life in Hizma is hindered severely, because of Israeli roadblocks on both sides of the village, which prevent people from entering, unless they live there. So, if you come to work, do errands, or visit, you're not allowed to enter. In some cases roadblocks were put after some youngster threw a stone toward a car at the outskirts of the village, as a way to express frustration with the occupation. However, in most cases there is no clear reason for cutting off the village from the rest of the world. One doesn't know in advance when the soldiers or police will appear, nor when they will disappear. Roadblocks are there for many hours, sometimes the whole day and sometimes for several days in a row. They are guarded by armed police and/or soldiers, who can be seen from far and thus oppression is felt consistently. Not surprisingly, anti-Israeli sentiment is on the rise.

Out of work!

As a result of the roadblocks, many of the small businesses in Hizma have lack of income. Businesses have immense hardships to keep things going and not all survive. This is extremely difficult, since anyway a large proportion of villagers is out of work and those who do have work find themselves responsible for feeding - often large - families.

The "Bedouin Garage", on the main road of Hizma, relatively flourished just a few years ago. It had ten workers, who made a modest living for their families. Now, it lost much of its clientele and has three employees left, who part of their time are forced out of work, sit in front of the garage and drink coffee, or simply go home because there is nothing to do. Some of the workers live far away, so even if the roadblocks are lifted shortly after they went home, it may take them hours to get back to the garage. The next door restaurant, see my story "Ramadan Kareem" on its opening, did not survive this situation and closed shortly after its start, since potential clientele couldn't enter the village. At least, it wasn't destroyed by Israeli authorities, like the car wash on the other side of the road.

For years, the main street of Hizma needed repair, because of large bumps and holes in its surface, which made driving dangerous. The only point of light in the village is that the Palestinian Authority just asphalted the street and provided it with a sewage system.

Check out more of my stories on events that happened in Hizma - click here.

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