Arab water theft leaves Jewish farms high and dry

Water theft by Arabs in northern Jordan Valley area worsens, leaving Jewish farms with little or no water.

Shimon Cohen ,

Farm in Jordan Valley
Farm in Jordan Valley
Shimon Cohen

The growing phenomenon of water theft in the northern Jordan River Valley area is leaving some local farmers in dire straits, with little water left over for irrigation after the illegal siphoning.

Yehuda Reines, a Jewish farmer and one of the founders of the town of Mehola in the Jordan River Valley, spoke with Arutz Sheva about the impact of illegal siphoning operations by neighboring Arab villages.

“In recent days the problem has worsened,” said Reines. “The Arabs have caught on. Mekorot [Israel’s national water distribution company] already knows about the water thefts for more than two years, and according to their figures the Arabs stole 2.5 million cubic meters of water last year alone through their drilling in Bardala [an Arab village in the northern Jordan Valley]. Israel let the water pipes supplying the valley run through this Arab village and this is the result. Bardala already has a generous authorized allotment of water but they continue to steal ours.”

As the thefts worsen, continued Reines, little to no action is being taken as the relevant authorities blame each other for the crisis afflicting local farmers. All that needs to be done is to examine the water conduits and close up the holes drilled by the villagers.

“In effect, Mekorot blames the Civil Administration, and the Civil Administration blames Mekorot, while the Arabs increase the [amount] they steal because no one is doing anything about it.”

Jordan Valley Regional Council head, David Alhaini, currently overseas, has had little success in lobbying for a crackdown on the theft of water by local Arab villages, said Reines, noting that many Jewish farms in the northern valley area were without water last week, leaving thousands of acres completely dry – while nearby Arab farms are flourishing with stolen water.

“Thousands of acres of Arab farm land are being opened up with stolen water, and everyone is quiet, while Jewish farm land goes dry even though are farming is legal and our water system legally established.”