Even the Israeli soldiers on the other side of the fence seemed keen to watch the show:
Today the Freedom Bus visited the small village of Faquaa. Although the town’s name means spring water bubbles, it has been a long time since the villagers had easy access to clean water. Since Israel erected the separation barrier, the inhabitants of Faquaa have been cut off from their land and can no longer use their traditional underground springs.
Although the village is allocated 300,000 litres of water per day by the Israeli Civil Administration, the only filling station is 6km away from the village, and the water, once divided evenly between the villagers, leaves only 75 litres a day per person. This is well below the 100 litre minimum put forward by the World Health Organization.
To access the water the villagers have to pay to hire tankers to collect the water from the filling station and ship it back to the village. This option remains unaffordable for many, who instead choose to collect rain water in tarps or large containers. This water is often difficult to sterilize, leading to an increase in illness.
The Freedom Bus performance took place outside, with a view over well-irrigated Israeli fields on the other side of the dividing fence. We were watched, from a distance, by Israeli soldiers looking through binoculars and photographing and filming the crowd over the barbed wire.
The acting troupe of the Freedom Bus performed for the villagers, inviting them to share their real-life stories of water shortage and then transforming them into short pieces of theatre, using a technique called Playback Theatre.
We heard from an older woman about how her family’s well water became polluted with sewage. The family tried everything to clean it, adding chlorine and other chemicals, but nothing worked. In the end they had to replace all the water in the well. She added that lack of access to water was so difficult because it is used for everything; cooking, bathing the children, cleaning the house, washing clothes etc. A young man also shared a story about his grandmother, whom he described as an extremely strong woman who was able to carry large jars of water. However, fourteen years ago she was collecting water from the well when she was chased and attacked by settlers. She injured herself and broke the jar. This story highlights that the problem of water access in Faquaa is not a new one, but is part of a long struggle that goes back generations.
It was a powerful setting for the start of the September Freedom Ride.
Images by Al Mayuk and Natasha Andrews.