Row over electricity bill leaves West Bank village powerless
The power grid in the West Bank village of Fasayil has collapsed, and Israel is not prepared to deal with it due to unpaid Palestinian Authority electricity bills; as a result, residents are sleeping on rooftops because of the unbearable heat and are buying food one day at a time as their refrigerators don’t work
In the heat of the Middle Eastern summer, a village in the West Bank has been caught in the middle of a row between Israel and the Palestinian Authority over an unpaid electricity bill.
The approximately 1,600 residents of Fasayil in the northeastern West Bank have seen their power grid collapse, leaving them without electricity as temperatures climb as high as 40 degrees Celsius, and the Electric Corporation won't fix it until the debt is paid.
In 1993, the village was connected to electricity, but since the infrastructure has not been upgraded even though the number of residents has doubled.
As a result, the electricity infrastructure has collapsed and residents are enduring lengthy power outages, unable to cool their homes or use simple electrical appliances such as refrigerators, ovens and televisions.
"The heat is onerous, people are trying to turn on their air conditioners and then the electricity in the entire village collapses for hours," Nawawara says. "At night, everyone sleeps on the roofs, because sleeping inside our houses is inhuman."
For years, the Palestinian Authority has been responsible for paying the village's electricity bill, but it has also accrued massive debt and a necessary system upgrade in the village has not been carried out.
The residents tried to talk to officials from Israel's Civil Administration to find a solution, and even raised funds to pay for a high-capacity electricity system costing NIS 500,000, but the Israeli authorities are not ready to connect it to the main infrastructure.
In the meantime, Fasayil's residents are buying food on a day-by-day basis as their refrigerators are not working and seek shelter from the heat in the shade of trees rather than turn on their air conditioners.
The village is not too familiar to the Israeli public as its residents have actively refrained from becoming involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"We are people of peace. Our lives are entirely intertwined with the Jews - we live next door to them and work together with them," says Samih Nawawra, one of the village's representatives.
But for the last month, the residents have protested the situation every Friday at noon, blocking Route 90, a central artery that runs past the village.
"Whenever we block the road, military and civilian officials come to the intersection, request that we vacate the road and promise to find a solution. But in the meantime, nothing is moving and we remain without power in the heat of the summer," Nawawra says.
"Even our neighbors from Moshav Tomer, who are like our brothers, tried to talk to the authorities, but could not get through. If this problem were in an Israeli municipality, would they tell them to wait a year or two as well?"
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which administers civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, said in response: "Electricity payments for the village are offset by the PA's tax revenues, but at the same time, a debt of more than NIS 1 million has not yet been paid to the Electric Corporation.
"We will point out that in the past year, work has been done to increase the power supply to the village, which is currently being tested. But until the debt is settled, the Electric Corporation will not be able to advance work on this issue."