Water Shortage and Flower Power in the West Bank

A friend of mine from architecture school works for the organisation Visualizing Palestine, which produces and circulates striking infographics illustrating the lived reality of the people of Palestine.  Here’s one they produced recently on water shortage in the West Bank.  Amazingly, Ramallah gets more annual rainfall than London, yet the water is apportioned in such a way that the average Palestinian survives on less than the minimum daily amount of water recommended by the  World Health Organization.  The picture says it all.


Above: West Bank Water Shortage Graphic by Visualizing Palestine.  See their website for more brilliant infographics

I had the opportunity to visit a settlement yesterday as part of a trip with Green Olive Tours, and saw just how much water is used in the settlements in order to ‘green’ the streets with trees and plants and flowers, which just wouldn’t grow naturally in these places – it is a desert, after all, and the settlements are on mountaintops to boot.  They even have an enormous fountain!

photo 3 photo 2

I also visited some Palestinian villages and farmlands where the water is only turned on intermittently – and so they have tanks on the roofs of their houses in which they attempt to stock up while they can, in order to survive the undeterminably long stretches without running water.

One of the places we visited was a Bedouin village in the South Hebron hills.  Their story is a difficult one I won’t get into here, of having their village demolished several times and experiencing on-going antagonism, and encroachment onto the land they farm, from religious settlers in a nearby settlement.  And they’re also short of water.

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Above: Tents in the Bedouin village, with the hilltop settlement beyond

Anyway, through foreign aid, which provides a lot of support to Arab villages across this region, the villagers were set up with the equipment and training with which to keep bees and make honey.  They have recently harvested (if that’s the right word) their first batches of honey and are selling pots of it to visitors to the village.  They were proud to inform us that they’ve even been shipping further supplies to returning customers in America.

And the best bit?  The villager we spoke with laughed when he told us how the bees don’t have to worry about fences or security – they can fly right into the neighbouring settlement and feed on the sweet nectar of all the beautiful flowers that are being so meticulously watered and cared for, then fly freely back to the village with their sweet bounty, and make honey.  The settlers, through their flowers, are inadvertently helping the Bedouin villagers to support themselves, through their honey bees.  How’s that for cross-pollination?!


One Comment on “Water Shortage and Flower Power in the West Bank”

  1. paulbower says:

    Thanks Aisling for a revealing post. Especially for the ‘Visualising Palestine’ link – I think this aspect of ‘visual literacy’ and communication is critical in findings ways to act in contested space. Although I think you add something with your pun at the end (Cross-pollination), and that is the added dimension of humour to expose the absurdity of such situations, which I think is missing in the infographics that ‘Visualising Palestine’ have produced so far. Having said that, it’s a very well produced outfit, especially their process cycle. Look forward to catching up in Belfast on your return. P

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