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

(page 2 of 3)

An everyday scene for locals in Nahhalin looks strange to outsiders. A woman in modest attire and elegant shoes hitches up her dress as she gets into a car. She doesn’t want it to trail in the sewage that routinely runs down the street — overflow from Nahhalin households that don’t bother to empty their cesspits. Despite international aid to the P.A., outside the big cities, cesspits are the norm— and even when residents do empty them, this just means moving the waste, untreated, to a less populated spot of the West Bank.

In nearby Wadi Fuki, children play in the pools that collect spring water for farmers, but village elder Mohamed Rachad Manasarah acknowledged that because of pollution by the village, this spring water isn’t safe to drink. And when the sewage overflows from Beitar Illit, which stands above this village as well as above Nahhalin, “you can’t breathe because of the smell.”

Moshe Friedman, spokesman for the Beitar Illit municipality, acknowledged that there have been a “number of malfunctions” but said that repairs have been carried out which will prevent the problem from recurring.

The environment of the West Bank doesn’t only have its own sewage — around 75 million cubic meters a year altogether — to deal with. More liquid waste flows from East Jerusalem into the area. There, the Jerusalem municipality, which is responsible for disposing of it, just pumps the sewage out of the city into the surrounding area. Friends of the Earth estimates that 11 million cubic meters flow from Jerusalem and its surroundings, down the Kidron Valley and into the West Bank.

The Jerusalem municipality referred the Forward’s request for a comment on the flow of untreated sewage from Jerusalem to the company that manages its sewage, Hagihon. The company’s spokesman Kuti Fundaminski said: “We have hired a Dutch company to take care of it.” Once the Dutch company, which was engaged around six months ago, has finished its project, all Jerusalem sewage will be treated, he said. Fundaminski said that he did not know the timeline for that.

The Israelis and the Palestinians blame each other for their respective poor performances on sewage. The peace process of the 1990s required each to approve major water-related development in the West Bank. That hasn’t happened. And each group says it is being held back by the other’s obstinacy.

“We have a plan and a budget to take care of all this sewage, but we need Palestinian agreement,” said Shor, who stressed that Israeli plans would deal with sewage from Jerusalem as well as from settlements. But even though Palestinians have approved plans in the past, they say today that they won’t approve any sewage infrastructure for settlements.

“We will not be part of legalizing anything that relates to settlements. We won’t approve any project that will later benefit the settlements,” said Ashraf Khatib, adviser to the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat.


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!
  • 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?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • 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.