By Tom Perry, Reuters
RASHAYIDA, West Bank | Thu Jul 28, 2011 6:43am EDT
(Reuters) – – Hewn from rock, the cavernous cisterns which dot the desert beyond Bethlehem have for centuries harvested winter rain to provide shepherds and their flocks with water through summer.
Under a baking sun, an elderly Bedouin explains how cisterns he remembers from childhood, many of them restored to full working order in the last few years, are once again helping his goat-herding community to survive.
That, he concludes, is why the Israeli authorities who control the West Bank have demolished at least three in the area since November.
“Maybe they are doing this to make us leave. We will not leave,” said Falah Hedawa, 64, sitting on cushions in his tent home pitched in the hills that slope down to the Dead Sea.
Out into the desert, a stagnant pool marked the spot where one of the cisterns, chiseled out of a hillside, had stood until its recent demolition. A mud trail on the otherwise dry ground indicated where the water inside had drained away toward a wadi, a valley which becomes a river when the rain falls.
Israel has demolished 20 rainwater collection cisterns in the West Bank in the first half of this year, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which monitors conditions in the Palestinian territories.
Phi Beta Iota: There are two crimes against humanity here, the first against the Palestinians, the second against the centuries old cisterns that collect winter water.