Fadia al-Wahsh heads the women’s committee in the West Bank village of Jubbet adh Dhib that is trying to get electricity for the community. (Anne-Marie O'Connor/For The Washington Post)

Let there be light.

That is a plea of residents of this Palestinian village who have waited nearly three decades for electricity while well-lit Israeli settlements sprang up around them. Now they are pinning their hopes on a new local women’s committee that is determined to get them on the grid.

Just a 20-minute drive from bustling modern Jerusalem, on the side of a mountain whose name means “Paradise,” Jubbet adh Dhib is like a step back in time.

Without refrigeration, food goes bad. Elderly Palestinians fall down in the dark. Children can’t study at night. With no WiFi and limited television, villagers feel cut off from the world.

“Our children don’t have a good childhood,” said Fadia al-Wahsh, the leader of the women’s committee.


“They see kids everywhere, with iPads and Internet” in more prosperous Palestinian communities, she said. “My son says, ‘Why do you make me live here?’ ”

A few hundred yards from Jubbet adh Dhib are the bright lights of Sde Bar, a small Israeli settlement and a neighborhood of the larger settlement of Nokdim, where Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman lives. But the villagers have no access to the schools, cafes, art galleries, garbage collection, tennis courts and public pools at these or other settlements just minutes away.

The village is one of 241 Palestinian communities in the Israeli-controlled West Bank — a zone known as Area C — that lack services because “Israel practically bans Palestinian construction” while helping Jewish settlements grow, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

International donors began installing solar streetlights in Jubbet adh Dhib in 2009, but Israeli authorities ordered them dismantled, saying permits had not been issued. But there is a long history of non-permitted construction in Jewish settlements, such as Sde Bar, which was built as an outpost in 1998 and not authorized by Israel until 2005 as part of the 1982 settlement of Nokdim, according to the nongovernmental Israeli group Settlement Watch.

The inequities facing impoverished Palestinian villages such as this one are receiving renewed scrutiny as the Obama administration steps up criticism of the settlement enterprise on the grounds that it perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Earlier this month, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said a recent settlement-construction proposal would be “another step toward cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation that is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Jamal Dajani, a spokesman for the Palestinian prime minister’s office, said the disparities are part of a “systematic land grab” by the Israelis.

“It’s a demographic and geographic battle to get more land, and more [Israeli] settlers on the land, and squeeze the Palestinians out,” Dajani said.

A spokeswoman for Israeli military authorities in the West Bank said that there are plans for electricity service that “will include a cluster of houses” in Jubbet adh Dhib but that Israeli authorities must first finalize a housing plan for the area.

Israeli soldiers have demolished Palestinian homes and European-funded schools, latrines and solar installations for Palestinians in Area C, where ideology-driven Israeli settlers oppose new “facts on the ground” they view as supporting aims of a future Palestinian state.

In 2014, Israel granted only one Area C building permit for Palestinians — out of 242 applications — and approved 37 of the 1,640 Palestinian permit requests for the area between 2009 and 2012, according to B’Tselem. Area C makes up 60 percent of the West Bank.

“Israeli occupation authorities have an obligation to provide these services,” B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said. “But the Israelis don’t provide, and if the Palestinians provide for themselves, the Israelis knock it down.”

Jubbet adh Dhib first requested electricity in 1988, villagers said.

Solar energy heats the village’s water and charges cellphones, and a few televisions run on two village generators when diesel is available.

But that’s not enough, some villagers say. “This is 2016. We have a right to electricity,” said Fatima al-Wahsh, who, like most of the 165 people who live in the village, shares the surname of a clan of an Arabian tribe that claims pre-Islamic roots.

The committee members push their cause with utility officials, politicians and international donors.

“They keep talking about electricity, electricity, electricity,” said former Palestinian minister Mustafa Barghouti, who said he was at a loss advising the women on how to break the Israeli permit deadlock.

“Their whole life is a misery,” he said. “Their whole life is a battle to get normal things that most people take for granted.”

The village, whose Arabic name means “Well of the Wolves,” was founded in the 1920s. It sits below a volcano-shaped peak with ancient ruins that some Israeli archaeologists believe were the biblical palace of King Herod, now the Herodium tourist site.

Israeli settlers who live near Sde Bar describe the village as peaceful and mutual relations as cordial.

Built on village grazing land that is now out of reach behind settlement fences, Sde Bar includes a residential program for troubled young men who weathered a loss of state support in 2010 over reports of drugs and sexual abuse — which Sde Bar leaders deny. One resident, Amit Barak, conceded that tensions were caused by one of 25 Israeli youths from a remote hilltop settlement who “were not right in the head” and lived at Sde Bar for eight months this year.

“The police were here every day,” he said.

Sde Bar guards use a drone “to detect terrorist movement” and range as far as the Herodium tourist overlook a mile away, where they recently stopped a Palestinian activist and a reporter, demanding that they wait 15 minutes while guards tried to persuade soldiers to investigate them.

Nokdim was built on 114 acres of Palestinian private land, according to Peace Now, an Israeli nongovernmental group, and Palestinian villagers say settlers have pushed them off private property where they raised crops and sheep.

A former Sde Bar security chief and two settlers were convicted of attacking local shepherds in 2004, leaving an elderly villager, Khalaf al-Wahsh, disabled and needing to use a cane, villagers said. Israelis ordered Palestinians to herd far from Sde Bar, villagers said.

Now, all but 100 of their sheep have been sold, and they are allowed to visit some of their remaining olive groves for a few days twice a year, with an Israeli army escort, villagers said.

But Israeli settlers are free to walk and ride near the Palestinian village, and settlement dogs have gotten loose in recent years, killing two sheep, residents said.

Sde Bar security chief Levi Zohar said he was able to persuade Israeli authorities not to stand in the way of villagers who wanted to pave the rough dirt road where Palestinian children trudged two miles to school and villagers struggled to evacuate stroke victims and women in labor.

Palestinian villagers say the settlements’ very existence leaves them in the shadows: shrinking land and access to water, forcing farmers to become day laborers or move.

“We have been marginalized,” committee member Amina al-Wahsh said. “But we want our children to have a better life.”