After Decades of Darkness, Palestinian Village Gets Power

Following a High Court petition, Israel takes steps to provide the West Bank village with electricity

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Residents of Dhaher al-Malah with a generator
Residents of Dhaher al-Malah with a generator in August 2017Credit: Rami Shllush
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

Asma Rashid Hatib, 76, used to get out of bed and crawl to the bathroom every night. In Dhaher al-Malah, a village in the northwestern West Bank where she lives, there was never an orderly link-up to the electricity. There was no light on the street at night, and Hatib was afraid of falling. “I did actually fall many times,” she told Haaretz.

The lives of Hatib and the other 240 residents of the villages changed dramatically early last month, when Israel’s Civil Administration finally turned on the switch and the little village was linked up to the electricity network for the first time in its history. “Life before electricity was different. It was dark. Now everything has changed,” said Hatib.

Dhahar al-Malah is one of the few Palestinian villages whose residents have lived in Area C for around ninety years. It is now under Israeli military and civil control — and is located on the western side of the separation fence, near the Israeli community of Katzir. Those who live and work in the Palestinian Authority have to cross a checkpoint every morning to the Palestinian side of the fence. 

The village was built in the 1930s and has never had electricity. In 1967 it had about 10 buildings and now it has several dozen. A few are defined as illegal, but most fell between the cracks, and Israel did not grant them official recognition until now.

In February 2016 Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights petitioned the High Court of Justice demanding proper infrastructure and electricity for the village. The Civil Administration, which had a plan, promised to take the necessary steps. The work is still incomplete, but the village has been connected to electricity.

“The village was always cut off,” said Ahmed Hatib, in charge of infrastructure. “There was a generator that worked for four hours, and every house has a generator that worked for two or three hours. It was noisy and dangerous.”

The villagers lived in unbelievable conditions. They bought food every day, because the refrigerators worked for only four hours. They didn’t have cold drinks or air conditioning.

The Civil Administration said that the plan, which includes cancelling demolition orders for some of the newer buildings, is in advanced stages, and that the link-up to electricity is part of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s “carrot and stick” policy toward Palestinian villages.

Architect Alon Cohen-Lifshitz of Bimkom said that the plan is insufficient but is still a significant improvement.

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