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Some Palestinians Survive by Garbage Picking


Palestinians in the West Bank who live near Israeli settlements have discovered a new way to make a living. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from the West Bank that some Palestinians now survive by picking through Israeli garbage.

Trucks unload their cargo all day at the Yata dump, just outside the West Bank city of Hebron. The garbage they unload is mostly from nearby Israeli settlements, and it is the main source of income for some Palestinians – young men and boys who live nearby.

This is where we met 32-year-old Faris Raba'e, a father of five who supports his family on what he finds here and what he can sell at the nearby Yata market. Faris makes between $5 and $20 a day from what he finds at the dump.

"I look for everything that is useful -- tin, iron, anything that is useful,” he says. “Today I found some boots and I found some iron. Today is a light day."

The boys should be in school, but their families have sent them here instead. "I am extremely exhausted by the time I go home. I make very little money but I am forced to be here," says one.

Health experts say the West Bank garbage pickers suffer from a variety of health problems. Respiratory diseases are rampant and many endure daily cuts and infections from picking through the garbage.

Faris says he is a sick man. "I have two major health issues -- constant back pain and I also have a lot of problems breathing."

Once he collects his cargo, Faris brings it home to clean it. Then he and his five children sort through the garbage, getting it ready to be sold at the nearby market. Faris says his children suffer from asthma and today his wife, who is expecting their sixth child, is too sick to help.

Sometimes, Faris finds something really valuable, such as computer parts. He has built several computers from parts he has found at the dump. "The Jews usually throw away stuff like that during the holiday season -- then they stop. Since the Infitida the past six years 70 percent of the people in this village now go to the garbage dump."

Faris says today business is good. Winter is coming and people need the shoes he has found at the Yata garbage dump – a dump that hundreds of Palestinians and their families depend on for their survival.