500 Palestinian families in Jerusalem are about to have their homes destroyed

Action is needed to protect them and tens of thousands more who risk losing their homes under Israel’s devastating home demolition policies.

Mike Merryman-Lotze, American Friends Service Committee, Apr 19, 2019

Israeli’s home demolition policy has led to the destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes (like this one in Hebron in the West Bank) and the forced displacement of thousands of Palestinians.

Tears streaming down her face, the little girl in front of me crawled over the ruins of her home looking for toys and school books that could be salvaged from among the rubble and destruction. The night before, the Israeli army had evacuated her family from their house, set explosives, and destroyed their home.

It was 2001, and it was the first time I witnessed the devastation wrought by Israel’s decades-old home demolition policy. During the nearly two decades since then, I’ve talked with hundreds of Palestinians who have been forced out of their homes by the Israeli government. Their stories are all unique, but the result of Israel’s home demolition policy is always the same – destruction and suffering within families and communities.

Just last week, the Israeli High Court ruled that the government can move forward with the demolition of 60 buildings in Jerusalem that are home to over 500 Palestinian families. Demolitions have already begun, and thousands of Palestinians will be left without homes if this move is not stopped.

The remains of homes demolished in Nablus in the West Bank. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSCThe remains of homes demolished in Nablus in the West Bank. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSC

The Israeli government justifies these demolitions by claiming that the homes in question were built illegally without permits from the city. But for decades, the city has refused to approve zoning plans for Palestinian areas of Jerusalem, making it impossible for Palestinian residents to obtain permits and leaving them no choice but to build without permission. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, there are now over 20,000 housing units built without permits in East Jerusalem, all of which are at risk of demolition.

At the same time, the Jerusalem municipality is moving to retroactively approve construction carried out by the settler group Elad in the same neighborhood from which these 500 Palestinian families will soon be displaced.

This forced displacement will not just traumatize families, it will destroy a whole community. During the seven years I lived and worked in the West Bank, I saw this happen over and over – and I documented the harmful impacts. In 2008, I received an update from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that a home was being demolished in East Jerusalem, near the office where I worked. I traveled to the scene of the demolition and saw devastated family members break down as they watched the walls of their home fall.

At the time I was managing a program to assist Palestinian families whose homes were destroyed by Israel. Through our interviews with families, it became clear that the demolitions had deep, long-term negative impacts on family structures – increasing poverty and unemployment, raising levels of domestic violence, disrupting education, and leading to severe trauma for all those impacted.

A resident digs out belongings from the ruins of his destroyed home in Jenin. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSCA resident digs out belongings from the ruins of his destroyed home in Jenin. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSC

The demolition of 60 buildings in Jerusalem that was recently approved is unusual in its scale, but it is not unique. In the West Bank, tens of communities – including Umm Al-Khair, Susiya, and Khan al-Ahmar – remain under threat of complete destruction.

Destruction in communities also is not limited to the West Bank. After years of resistance, the Bedouin community of Umm Al-Hiran inside Israel will soon be destroyed and replaced with a new community designed for Jewish Israelis.

Continue reading

Hello from Palestine

Operation Dove, 2/13/19


Facebook video: Israel Destroys South Hebron Hills Water Piping

Today Israeli forces destroyed and confiscated underground pipes in the Palestinian villages of Jinba, Khallet Athaba, Ar Rakeez and Al-Mufaqarah. Soldiers detained the mayor of the Palestinian village of Tuwani and the head of the council of Masaffer Yatta. The confiscation has disrupted the water supply to villages and schools throughout Masafer Yatta.

The eight villages in Masafer Yatta lie within an area of Palestinian land claimed by Israel as Firing Zone 918, and used by the Israeli military as a practice area. Many of the villages within the zone have received Israeli demolition orders for homes, agricultural buildings and schools.

Caves in the south Hebron Hills bring villages back to life

Ahmad Al-Bazz and Anne Paq, Mondoweiss, February 11, 2019

Anne Paq presented Intimate Portraits of Gaza’s Lost at the 2017 Madison-Rafah Rachel Corrie Commemoration. Based on the #ObliteratedFamilies project by Paq and Palestinian-Polish journalist Ala Qandil, the project profiled the annihilation of Gaza families during the Israeli bombardment in 2014.


Mahmoud Abu Arram, 72 (left) and his family stand in front of a renovated cave in the West Bank hamlet of Ar-Rakeez in the South Hebron Hills. (Photo: Activestills.org)

For weeks under the cloak of night Palestinians secretly renovated four caves and built a tin-roofed house in the West Bank hamlet of Ar-Rakeez where only a handful of residents live. Last week they opened the homes in a “bringing life back” ceremony.

The event was not announced in advance as to avoid any potential disruption by the Israeli army, locals said.

The caves were refurbished by Palestinians from the southern West Bank villages of Susiya, Masafer Yatta and At-Tuwani who are part of the Protection and Sumud Committee, a local group that seeks to prevent home demolitions, and with support from the Palestinian Authority.

Because of rigid Israeli planning restrictions and frequent settler harassment, most of Ar-Rakeez’s villagers moved to the nearby city of Yatta over the last 20 years. Four families said they will move into the fixed up caves, joining the three families who already live there.

Palestinian youth take shifts maintaining a presence in a cave they renovated. “We want to create life and encourage people to come back,” explains Sami, 21, one of the activists of the “Youth of Sumud” group, Sarura. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Screening of a short documentary about activism in the South Hebron Hills from inside a caves that was inaugurated last week, Ar-Rakeez. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Continue reading

South Hebron Hills Update

Expulsion by a thousand cuts

Dear Friends,

The last weeks have been busy and challenging in the South Hebron Hills. Young Palestinians, with international and Israeli peace activists, have planted hundreds of trees. But this is also a difficult time. Soldiers and settlers have repeatedly forced shepherds off of Palestinian grazing land located near settlements and outposts, settlers have harassed schoolchildren and shepherds, and just last night Settlers uprooted more than 20 young olive trees.


christadelphia.org

The creativity, resilience and commitment to nonviolent resistance is more amazing here each year.

Here are a few recent events and photos.

On the night of February 4 Israeli settlers from the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on uprooted 23 olive trees on Palestinian land near Tuwani in Humra Valley. The trees have were recently planted during a nonviolent demonstration of Palestinians and Israeli and International activists.

On January 23 Israeli army and civil authorities used a bulldozer to destroy an agricultural field in the Palestinian village of Khalaya Al-Moghrabi. The farmer was already unable to work his land because Israeli authorities had confiscated his tractor.


The Palestinian road to Jinbah and the villages of Massafer Yatta

On January 31 the Israeli army used a bulldozer to destroy two sections of the road that connects the city of Yatta to Jimba village and the other villages of Massafer Yatta, making access to school, health care, commerce and other services even more difficult for the families living in the villages located inside the area claimed by Israel as Firing Zone 918.


School in Khallet Athaba

On January 30 The Israeli Civil Administration (DCO) issued demolition orders for the school and two private family houses in the Palestinian village of Khallet Athaba and a stop work order for a house in the village of Tuba.


Palestinian child from Tuba

Israeli authorities delivered a stop work order for the home of this child’s family in the village of Tuba. It is impossible for families to get building permits. And stop work orders are often followed by demolition orders.