Following Dafna Banai’s emotional appeal to support the people in the Jordan Valley whose homes are being demolished by the Civil Administration, we went this morning to see the results of the actions of “Israelis suffering from an insufficiency of humanity,” according to Amira Hass, the journalist, quoting a Palestinian as he watched his home being demolished.
08:30 in the morning, as the temperatures begin to rise, the road down from Ma’aleh Efrayim reveals the valley’s primeval landscape, an astonishing view.
Soon these feelings will vanish.
The car speeds along the deserted road and past unmanned checkpoints. Here and there we see familiar tent encampments: Halat Makhoul, the Hadidiya family, Abu Sakkar’s. We reach that of the Darajma family, old friends of Ya’akov Manor, who can’t stop praising Dafna. M., a handsome youth, awaits us; he is educated, smart and modest, and speaks Hebrew well. In the family’s tent the father tells us about his grandfather, who was born here in the beginning of the last century, evaded conscription to the Turkish army and fled to Jordan but returned when the British arrived. The father says: Many have occupied these lands: the Turks, the British, the Jordanians and now the Israelis – all of them have gone and only we Bedouin remained in place, we didn’t flee and we won’t move… They have a deed to the land dating to Jordanian times, which is why their tents aren’t being demolished.
I think to myself: How can they bear the oppressive heat inside the tent all day long?
The father adds that the Civil Administration doesn’t allow them to plant trees beside the tent. The army uproots them. So there’s not a bit of shade near the tents. We talk about the duds and the live ammunition the army leaves behind which kill and wound people every year. Our hosts say they don’t understand why the army leaves ammunition out in the open. Dare we speak the answer aloud, that the state of Israel and IDF soldiers has no regard for the lives of Palestinian children?
We drive with M. toward the Tayasir checkpoint. On the way he tells us that almost every day the army evacuates residents from tents because of maneuvers with live ammunition. The people and the herds are expelled from the tents and sheds when their area is designated a “firing range.”
I think: How can they bear the terrible heat outside the tent?
We come to the Deir el Malih encampment. The road is poor; we leave the car and continue on foot for a few hundred meters. The heat is very oppressive. We encounter Muhammad, about 20 years old, who tells us that on Wednesday, at four in the morning, two bulldozers and many soldiers in jeeps appeared and demolished the six tents that housed the entire family- himself, his wife, their two children, his mother and his three brothers. They also destroyed the sheepfolds (about 150 head). We saw the sheep and goats seeking some shade, which didn’t exist. It was terrible.
And I think: Do those who operate the bulldozers really lack all semblance of humanity? Who are they fighting here? Who has the heart, in this arid landscape, to demolish the poor homes of the only people in the world able to live under such conditions?
We walk, defeated, back toward the car. The climb is very tiring but the shameis even greater. M. and Muhammad tell us about a youth who was injured here about a week ago by a shell the army had left in the field. His entire body was burned. He was hospitalized in Tel Hashomer but they’re unwilling to operate on him because the operation costs NIS 40,000 and Israel denies responsibility for his injuries, even though there were witnesses who testified that he was wounded by unexploded army ammunition.
How terrible. How can I help him?
On the way to Tayasir we see two more sites where structures for housing animals were demolished, but the people who live there weren’t nearby. During the entire trip Ya’akov Manor was calculating how much money he’d have to raise from donations in order to help the people we met rebuild their tents and sheepfolds.
I think: One man overflows with humanity and others haven’t even a drop.
A reserve soldier with blue eyes stops us at the Tayasir checkpoint. He asks where we’re going, we tell him, he asks whether we know the way, we say yes. It appears he isn’t very familiar with the area, but he doesn’t harass us and allows us to continue. The vegetation changes along the road up to the village of Akaba. The area is no longer arid, and the hills and ground along the road are covered with mastica bushes, carobs, olives, and almonds; all that green is heartbreaking.
We arrived in Akaba. It truly is a beautiful village, as Dafna said. Karin can’t stop photographing. Everything’s neat, clean, the walls of the houses decorated with colorful paintings, with ornamental gardens surrounding them. It’s a pleasure to walk around here. At the well-organized municipal building that’s full of computers we met the mukhtar, Sami Tzadek. He’s in a wheelchair; twenty years ago a soldier shot him at close range and later claimed he hadn’t seen him. Sami is certain the soldier saw him. He also has a bullet near his heart. He’s an energetic person who’s managed to recruit people from all over the world to donate and help the village and its inhabitants. He appears very pleased with his accomplishments but doesn’t understand why the Civil Administration sends bulldozers to destroy building in the village. He’s aware that all the buildings are in Area C and almost all have demolition orders, but keeps asking: Why are they doing it?
He says: We believe in peace. None of our children throw rocks. The residents don’t harass soldiers – but they still demolished five structures used for sheep and chickens, as well as two buildings on the edge of the village. He says that after the demolitions the soldiers got on the bulldozers and laughed: The Americans gave us these bulldozers to demolish the nice homes you built with American money!!! And that’s the bitter truth: European countries and the USA aid the Palestinian villages, on the one hand, and on the other give weapons and money for weapons to the IDF, which employs them against the Palestinians.
We returned to central Israel at 16:30. I promised myself to return again and again to the Jordan Valley to meet the wonderful people living there and see the unique landscapes.