Settlers and Palestinians Alike Spew Sewage in Fragile West Bank

Environment Takes Back Seat to Conflict Over Occupation

Unfit for Consumption: Palestinian children in the West Bank village of Wadi Fuki swim in water considered too polluted to drink.
nathan jeffay
Unfit for Consumption: Palestinian children in the West Bank village of Wadi Fuki swim in water considered too polluted to drink.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published July 04, 2013, issue of July 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

It is a different type of Green Line.

On a West Bank hill just six miles south of Jerusalem, a row of olive trees looks far greener than anything else in the landscape. This is not thanks to a clever form of growing technology, but because for hours or days each month the trees have been awash in raw sewage.

The fastest growing of all the settlements, Beitar Illit, has expanded quicker than its sewage infrastructure, meaning that the pumping system that carries away its wastewater tends to become overwhelmed every few weeks. At that point, the system releases sewage onto the hillside for several hours — the natural outcome of the settlement’s natural growth.

The land below the super-green olive trees, part of the Palestinian village of Nahhalin, has been abandoned for much of the past half-decade since the sewage spills became frequent. “Here, it was always planted with vegetables and also used for recreation,” local taxi driver Ahmas Chakarneh recalled. “People brought umbrellas and sat here.”

This hill and valley aren’t one-offs in the West Bank. As Israel and the Palestinians profess their deep love and historic connection to this land, and as they compete for control, both are using it as disposal ground for their liquid waste — despite the important aquifers that lie below the ground.

A new report has found that some 13% of sewage from settlements flows, untreated, into the environment. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority compiled the report, commissioned and partly funde d by the Civil Administration, the Israeli body that governs the West Bank, and by Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Asked by the Forward for a response, Israel’s Water Authority said it believes that the figure is actually higher. Its figures suggest that a quarter of settlement sewage is released without satisfactory treatment, said spokesman Uri Shor, who explained that the two authorities calculate their figures differently. Within Israel’s pre-1967 borders, only around 5% of sewage is released untreated.

As settlement sewage flows, Palestinian sewage gushes. The Palestinian Authority’s development of sewage facilities has been exceedingly slow, and almost all its sewage — around 96%, according to both Israel and the Palestinians — is released, untreated, into the environment.

Environmentalists say that the rich groundwater supply, which Israel and the Palestinians expected to divide formally as part of a future two-state solution, is in danger. “The failure is actually shooting the interests of both sides in the foot,” commented Gidon Bromberg, director of the Israel division of Friends of the Earth Middle East. “There are seeping time bombs for the water resources of both peoples.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.