Kufr ‘Aqab, Jerusalem, August 29, 2022


 Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Feature Story

Kufr ‘Aqab, a Densely Populated Neighborhood in Jerusalem, Is Left High and Dry without Enough Water in Summer


The city has all but abdicated its responsibility for the Palestinian neighborhood of Kufr ‘Aqab, which lies beyond the Separation Wall, even when it comes to the most basic needs such as water.

Mohamad Eweidat, 45, a resident of the Palestinian neighborhood Kufr ‘Aqab north of Jerusalem, was sweating profusely. “Our lives are turning into hell during the summer months, and the problem is even more compounded when the water is cut off; we only get water two days a week,” Mohamad told Jerusalem Story.1 Even on days when water is not cut off, it isn’t possible to fill the reserve tanks on building rooftops; there just isn’t enough water.

The black-and-white plastic water tanks on building rooftops extend as far as the eye can see. The neighborhood of Kufr ‘Aqab falls within the Israeli municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, but it was severed from the city when Israel built the Separation Wall. It has become a haven to so many people who want to retain their Jerusalem residency but can’t afford the high prices of living closer to the city center, as well as to those who need to travel regularly to Ramallah and don’t want to deal with the hassle of passing the Qalandiya checkpoint. The unregulated construction of high-rise apartment buildings has put the entire area in a checkpoint zone. “My water tank can take 1,500 liters of water, but during the two days that we get water, the tank barely registers a few centimeters. If I allow my children to wash their hands regularly, we would quickly run out of water,” he said.

Video Kufr ‘Aqab: A Neighborhood in Jerusalem

What happens when a city walls off a densely populated neighborhood and then abandons it?

“Our lives are turning into hell during the summer months.”

Mohamad Eweidat, Kufr ‘Aqab resident

According to journalist Reem al-Amri of al-Asima News Network reporting from the ground:

Already from May [2024], rumors have begun to run that there are cuts in the amount of water flowing to the Kufr ‘Aqab, and recently you can feel the things in the ground. There are many breaks in the flow of water, and they do not flow like in previous years. As you can see, there are water trucks behind me. They are in the streets all day every day. In order to cope with the heat and the daily needs the residents are forced to buy water and manage themselves.

The price of water is also very high, with four cups selling for 350 shekels in Kufr ‘Aqab. Approximately 100,000 people live in this small area, densely packed with residential towers. Around seven new towers are built each year, each housing about 60 apartments. The infrastructure in Kufr ‘Aqab can no longer withstand further strain. We, the residents of East Jerusalem, are struggling immensely.2

In smaller residential buildings in which water demand is lower, families sometimes redistribute their water: those with low consumption might divert some of the water in their tanks to the water tanks of larger families in the building.

Munir Zughayer, chairman of the neighborhood residents committee, was quoted in Haaretz as asking, “Why do all the surrounding settlements have water 24 hours a day and we don’t?”3

Residents Protest

The water shortage prompted Mohamad and the other residents of Kufr ‘Aqab to search for an answer. Kufr ‘Aqab is home to tens of thousands of Jerusalemites with Israeli permanent-resident IDs and other Palestinians who hold Palestinian Authority (PA) IDs. They have demonstrated and staged a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the Water Authority in Ramallah, which supplies the area with water, as they have done in the past years. In mid-June, they also protested in front of the Water Authority headquarters in Kufr ‘Aqab, raising signs with the following slogans:4

  • “We demand a continuous supply of water as stipulated by the law”
  • “120 thousand residents with water supply two days a week”
  • “Enough of discrimination and racism in rights”
Residential towers in the Palestinian neighborhood of Kufr ‘Aqab, Jerusalem

Residential towers in the Palestinian neighborhood of Kufr ‘Aqab in East Jerusalem. The black-and-white water storage containers on the rooftops enable residents to have water when the city supply is cut off. (In Palestinian residential areas, water is rationed.)


Hagai Agmon-Snir, Creative Commons, via Wikimedia

Water Supply to Kufr ‘Aqab

Water to Kufr ‘Aqab comes from the Jerusalem Water Company, whose concession covers the Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem governorates. In a press release dated June 6, the Palestinian Water Authority stated that the Israeli company Mekorot had reduced the quantities of water that were pumped to the concession areas of the Ramallah and Jerusalem Water Authority by more than 50 percent.5

The Water Authority confirmed that the reduction led to the interruption of water to many communities within the city of Ramallah, which is likely to reach other communities.

The head of the North Jerusalem Neighborhoods Committee, Munir Zughayer, confirmed that the water problem facing the town is due to the shortage of the amount supplied by Mekorot to the Water Authority in Ramallah, which in turn supplies the neighborhoods of North Jerusalem with water, including the neighborhoods of Semiramis and the airport.6

According to officials in Kufr ‘Aqab and Ramallah, Mekorot has 3,500 cubic meters out of the 11,000 cubic meters that the population is entitled to and needs.

For its part, the Israeli water company that supplies Mekorot was quoted in the Israeli daily Haaretz as saying that the problem is with the Ramallah Water Authority.7

The Jerusalem Municipality claims that it considers Kufr ‘Aqab an integral part of the areas belonging to Jerusalem. In early January 2018, the Knesset passed an amendment to the “Basic Law: Jerusalem the Capital of Israel” that (1) forbids the transfer of any governmental powers over the area within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to “a foreign political or governing power, or to another similar foreign authority,” and (2) requires that the only way that this clause can be changed (i.e., giving up sovereignty over any part of the city) is by the passage of another Basic Law that any transfer of governmental powers within the city must be approved by a minimum of 80 Knesset members—that is, the approval of two-thirds of its 120 representatives.8 This provision is intended to block the possibility of handing any part of East Jerusalem to a Palestinian governing body, such as under a final agreement. As part of this process, an agreement was also made that splitting off any neighborhoods from the city in the future (such as Kufr ‘Aqab) would require approval of the Knesset.9

“If I allow my children to wash their hands regularly, we would quickly run out of water.”

Mohamad Eweidat, Kufr ‘Aqab resident

Abdication of Responsibility by the Muncipality

Yet the city fails in its most basic responsibility to its residents: providing adequate clean water.

The Jerusalem Municipality has a legal obligation to provide full services to the residents of Kufr ‘Aqab including, of course, water. Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) lawyer Tal Hassin sent an urgent letter on June 23, 2024, to the minister of energy and infrastructure, the head of the Water and Sewage Authority, and the mayor of Jerusalem. The letter reminded them that the Kufr ‘Aqab neighborhood was annexed to Jerusalem in 1967, as part of the annexation of the entire eastern city, and that the state authorities have a legal obligation to provide its residents with full services.10

Case Study The Ghettoization of Kufr ‘Aqab

The Separation Wall and municipal neglect have transformed the Palestinian village of Kufr ‘Aqab into an overcrowded, dangerous urban ghetto slum.

The fact that in Israel, in the 21st century, residents are forced to buy water from unregulated sources, at unregulated prices, and store it on the rooftops of their homes, constitutes a certificate of poverty for any entity responsible for the water sector and its supply. Every summer, residents of the neighborhood report a water shortage, to no avail, but this summer the neglect that characterizes the authorities’ treatment of the residents of Palestinian neighborhoods living beyond the Separation Wall broke a new record. Their abandonment, while severely violating their right to life, dignity, equality, and health, is illegal and must be put to an immediate end, while finding a solution that will enable the urgent resumption of the water supply.11

This is not the first time this problem has arisen. Even as far back as the summer of 2017, residents of Kufr ‘Aqab were left with drinking water only two days a week.12 Four years ago, the residents of Kufr ‘Aqab sent a letter to the mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, demanding that their lives be improved. Jerusalem Story obtained a copy of the letter, which included the following demands:

We address you on behalf of more than 70,000 Jerusalemite citizens who live in the neighborhoods of the Kufr ‘Aqab area, north of the city of Jerusalem (Samir Amis, Kufr ‘Aqab, and the airport neighborhoods). We ask you and the official authorities to provide new services to the Kufr ‘Aqab area, which is officially subject to the Jerusalem Municipality services area and is inhabited by more than 70,000 Jerusalemite citizens who hold Jerusalemite identity cards and their families.

We call on you to take responsibility toward the residents, provide full municipal services to the region and develop it, and work on practical, quality solutions to ensure a decent and safe life for the residents, as prescribed by law and as it is within your responsibility and your binding framework of work.

We ask you, in the name of more than 70,000 Jerusalemite citizens who live in more than 18,000 homes and families within the borders of your municipality, to work immediately and seriously, and not through unofficial community centers and assistance centers that do not have the resources, staff, specialization, solutions, and who work only to provide temporary, unprofessional, and insufficient solutions.13

The residents’ key demand was straightforward: “providing drinking water continuously, without interruption to residents and homes, and not, as is the case now, two days a week, which contradicts the laws of individual water rights in the country.”14

Meanwhile, of course, the population of the neighborhood has exploded, placing even more pressure on the limited water supply. Before the Separation Wall was built in 2004–5, Kufr ‘Aqab had a population less than 12,000.15 While no reliable data exist, informal estimates were that the population quadrupled between 2003 and 2013,16 and that the number today could be over 125,000.17

It is noteworthy that the Israeli Supreme Court issued a decision on August 4, 2016, forcing the Jerusalem Municipality to submit plans for developing the area and provide a full-service plan within six months from its date and to begin implementation and work.

Almost eight years later, the residents of Kufr ‘Aqab are still waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision to be implemented.




Mohamad Eweidat, interview by the authors, June 24, 2024. All subsequent quotes from Eweidat are from this interview.


Reem al-Amiri, al-Asima News Network, via the al-Sultan Center for Culture Facebook page. Translated by Jerusalem Story Team.


As witnessed on the ground by the authors. 


Munir Zughayer, interview by the authors, June 24, 2024.


Nir Hasson, “Water Supply Reduced.”


Basic-Law: Jerusalem the Capital of Israel” (unofficial translation), May 1, 2022; “Israel: Restrictions on Ceding Areas in Jerusalem Municipality to Foreign Entities,” Library of Congress, January 5, 2018.


Nir Hasson and Jonathan Lis, “The Israeli Right’s Vaunted Jerusalem Amendment Changes Nothing,” Haaretz, January 3, 2018.


In the Height of Summer, the Residents of Kufr Aqab Have Water Only 12 Hours a Week,” Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) [June 23, 2024].


“In the Height of Summer.”


Ir Amim English (@IrAmimAlerts), “Severe water crisis in Kufr Aqab,” X, July 6, 2017, 11:23 a.m.


“Petition of Protest and Demands to the Mayor of Jerusalem and the Responsible Authorities” [in Arabic], n.d. Translation by Daoud Kuttab.


“Petition of Protest.”


Jaclynn Ashly, “Palestinians in Kufr Aqab: ‘We Live Here Just to Wait,’” Al Jazeera, January 7, 2018.


House Hunting in Kufr ‘Aqab,” Jerusalem Story, October 29, 2023.

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