Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem have been suffering from a severe water crisis for 10 months.
Israel’s High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the state to find a solution to the severe lack of running water in four East Jerusalem neighborhoods located beyond the separation barrier.
Despite their location within territory that Israel unilaterally annexed to its capital, the Palestinian neighborhoods of Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the Shuafat Refugee Camp have been suffering from a severe water crisis since last March, when residents went three weeks without any water supply.
They have since been forced to buy water bottles at a high cost, and must limit their consumption by using electric pumps and industrial containers.
The court ordered the Israeli national Water Authority, the private water company in Jerusalem “Hagihon,” the Jerusalem Municipality and the minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources to meet with representatives of the four neighborhoods within two weeks in order to find a solution to the water crisis. The Palestinian neighborhoods are represented by attorneys from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
Steps to upgrade the central water mains should be taken immediately, the court ruled, adding that the two sides in the case should report back to the court within 60 days. The justices also said that East Jerusalem residents should be assessed fees to help pay for the upgrades.
Palestinians comprise more than one-third of all Jerusalem residents, and over three-quarters of them live below the poverty line, according to ACRI.
The Jerusalem Municipality does not provide basic municipal services like trash collection and mail delivery to its neighborhoods beyond the eight-meter wall. There is an estimated shortage of over 2,000 classrooms in East Jerusalem. Even police rarely enter and there is no ambulance service in neighborhoods like Shuafat camp, which are completely surrounded by the wall.
Two years ago several young residents of Shuafat decided to take initiative and start an emergency response team (which they named “Taqam Taware’ Assalam,” or Emergency Peace Team) in order to fill in for the lacking infrastructural services. They trained in first-aid and rescue skills and started to work together as a group.
“Since the construction of the wall and the collapse of local infrastructure, Jamil Sanduka, Chairman of the Ras Khamis Neighborhood Committee, explained, “the authorities have attempted time and time again to impose upon us the responsibility of providing residents with basic services in an area that is part of Jerusalem, and whose residents are Jerusalemites.”
”We have already begun repairing the roads and building schools at our own expense, since the lack of support from the municipality has left us feeling desperate,” Sanduka continued. But we have no way of providing ourselves with water. What do they expect of us? That we haul buckets of water on donkeys?”
Last year, the Jerusalem municipality’s water company “admit[ed] that presently the water infrastructure can support 15,000 people; the area’s population is estimated to be between 60,000 and 80,000,” according to ACRI.