Susiya: a photo essay about one Palestinian village’s fight for survival (by EA Theresa)

EA Theresa recently visited the Palestinian village of Susiya as part of her service with EAPPI.  Her photo essay gives an insight into the ongoing fight for survival facing the residents of this small South Hebron Hills community living under occupation.

Susiya is a village of 450 people, of whom over half are children.

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Here we met Odi and his mother Sumeha from the Nawajah family.

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The family of ten make a living from their livestock, farming and handicrafts, along with most of the other residents of Susiya.

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Although life is not easy there are opportunities to feed the family and make additional income for education, transport and special occasions.

The surrounding views are far-reaching.

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And in the spring the wild flowers are stunning.

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This all sounds idyllic until you realise the families living here do not know whether their village will still be there tomorrow.

Back in 1986 the original village of Susiya was demolished and the families evicted from their own land after the Israeli government declared their village was on an archaeological site.

Now on this site stands a visitor centre for Israeli settlers.

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This is despite the village having ownership papers for their land dating back to Ottoman times.

The village was re-built again on another section of the village’s land. But all these buildings and structures have received demolition orders, including the clinic, school and solar panels. Hopefully not the newly installed playground.

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And as if that isn’t enough an Israeli settlement of the same name – Susiya – has been built on Palestinian Susiya’s land on the other side of the valley.

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Settlements are illegal under international law but this Israeli settlement, which began in 1983, is connected to Israel via good quality roads and has amenities including electricity, water and community facilities.

On March 29, 2015 a tent appeared on the land of Palestinian Susiya, just below the Israeli settlement of Susiya.

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This may seem an insignificant act but for the villagers of Palestinian Susiya this is another sign that the settlement intends to expand further onto their land.

Families in Palestinian Susiya wish that the law would at the very least be applied evenly. “They have no plans and no permits for these tents and buildings and they don’t have ownership papers for this land. We do”, says Nasser Nawajah.

UPDATE: on Monday, May 4, the Israeli high court approved a request by the Israeli authorities to demolish the tents and homes of Susiya, leaving 450 villagers homeless. You can read more about the ruling in this article.

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If you would like to read more information on Susiya then please visit the website of the Israeli peace organisation, B’Tselem.

You can also sign this petition started by Nasser Nawajah to try and gather support to save his village.