Demolition of houses in the Jordan Valley 29.3.2012
Translator: Charles K.
Ruins of the Sawaftah family’s house.
El Hama Ruins of the bathroom after it was demolished.
A daughter doing homework in their temporary tent.
The chicken that survived the destruction.
On Monday, 26.3.12, darkness fell on Khabis Sawaftah’s family. While the family members were busy with their morning tasks, two bulldozers, 12 vehicles
from the Civil Administration, Border Police personnel and about 40 additional soldiers descended on them, ordering them out of their home. Khabis, his wife and their five children stood 20 meters away, the soldiers standing between them and the house, watching Civil Administration personnel dumping their belongings, sacks of lentils and rice tearing and spilling everywhere. Blankets and mattresses, schoolbooks and clothing – all tossed around as if they were garbage.
When they finished emptying the house of its inhabitants’ lives, Civil Administration personnel entered to photograph the empty structure (to prove that the compassionate occupier destroys only empty homes and not, God forbid, their contents). Then it was the reaper’s turn; in a few minutes the home had been turned into a pile of stones, boards and plastic sheeting.
The family cat refused to abandon her kittens; the house was demolished around them. But cats, of course, have nine lives, and a few hours later the family saw the cat climbing out of the rubble, carrying her six kittens, hale and hearty. The chicken that hid in the aluminum stove also survived but, traumatized, refuses to leave it.
The lives of Khabis and his children (the oldest is 13) have been destroyed. Khabis is a wage laborer, the poorest of the poor, living on land belonging to our friend Nidal, which is registered in his name in the tabu – the land registry. Nidal employs him to cultivate the fields and take care of the date palms in return for meager pay and housing. But they somehow managed to survive. Now the house is gone, everything that provided even a minimum of security, a place to lay their heads, store some food and shelter from the burning sun and the rain – all gone.
People from the UN, the Red Cross (which brought a small plastic tent) and many politicians from the Palestinian Authority arrived a few hours later with fine, encouraging words, praise for the family’s steadfastness, their attachment to the land, the same politicians who disappear immediately afterward, leaving Khabis and others like him to deal with demolition orders and to pay court fees ofmore than 1000 shekels to delay the demolition order (the homes of those who paid weren’t demolished). Khabis has barely enough money for food and books for the children – how can he pay court fees?
After they depart, Khabis is left with his pain, helpless – what happens now? What can he say to Khaled, his 13 year old son, who refuses to greet the Jewish women two days after their countrymen destroyed his life, looking at us with such justifiable hatred. And we sit with the family, the little girl seated on the ground in the tent doing her homework, listening to them tearfully repeat what occurred during those forty terrible minutes. And we have nothing at all to say in reply. Because, no matter how much solidarity we feel, we can’t even begin to imagine how terrible it must be when a bulldozer demolishes your home.
But, when we leave, Khaled lowers his head as we pass, whispering in Hebrew, “Goodbye.” And my heart breaks.
According to the OCHA report: “At El Hama and Furus Bet Dajan, on 26.3.12, six residential buildings, three structures housing animals and three storage buildings were demolished, leading to the forcible uprooting of 36 persons, including 13 children.” The army demolished an additional 12 structures housing animals at Khumsa and El Farsiyya, affecting the livelihoods of 40 people who are particularly weak and vulnerable and have difficulty surviving in any case. And during the previous week the army demolished structures at Fasi’el-al-Wista and Jiftlik.
Every such incident makes entire families homeless, broken and at a loss, like that of Khabis.
We saw no point on such a day to record that people were delayed ten additional unnecessary minutes at a checkpoint, or had an annoying wait for the occupier to wave them through. Today we let the checkpoints be.
What, then, did we do? We met A., who gave us a power of attorney document for a lawyer. A. had been jailed in the Ofer base; his belongings (telephone, money) weren’t returned when he was released. The lawyer will try to obtain them.
Then we met S., who had also been released from jail. Two weeks ago they’d brought him in the middle of the night to the Shomron gate, an entry point to Israel, and released him. Only then did he discover that the police officers hadn’t brought his ID with them. S. walked from the checkpoint along Highway 5 for an hour and a half, at night, without an ID card. Why did he walk? Because Highway 5 is an apartheid road, Palestinians are forbidden to drive on it, settlers and other Israelis won’t stop for him and give him a ride to the nearest locality where he can get a taxi. When I telephoned Hadarim prison to ask about the ID, I was told that only S. or his lawyer was allowed to come pick it up. But how can S. come to Israel (the jails are in Israel, in violation of the Geneva Convention) without an ID? Get a lawyer – and who’ll pay? He hasn’t any money. So S. is stuck, unable to move around, confined to his home because he has no ID.
And that’s it.
The occupation’s routine in the Jordan Valley.