My team, EAPPI* Group 39, had been in Hebron 3 days. The old team received the call. Homes are being demolished, can you come? We followed them, perplexed and not believing it possible.
We all jumped into a service, a small bus, and headed to Susiya, a town in the South Hebron Hills. From there we ran up the rocky hills, through an orchard to Ab Nir, a community of maybe 6 families, around 50 people.
30 minutes later we were standing on a hill surrounded by rubble. Mattresses, clothing, pots and pans were everywhere. People were upset,crying, wandering around, not knowing what to do or where to start.I felt like an intruder having come upon someone’s misery and unable to help. But they welcomed us, as Palestinians always welcome the visitor. One lady found a pot, some water, built a fire and made tea.
Her house was demolished and she made us tea!
Then we listened to the stories of the repeated demolition of their homes. And always the question Why? Why do they do this to us? Have they no pity? That was February 20th, 2011.
Today March 29th, it happened again.
Between February and March: The International Red Cross had given them tents and food to sustain themselves. They rebuilt the pens for their sheep using the rocks on the ground. The toiltet was rebuilt; life was proceeding as usual.
Now those tents were demolished. Two bulldozers and the Israeli army had arrived at 6am March 29th. The destruction began. If you stayed in your home, tent, you were pulled out, like the old man and woman I spoke to. A large white truck had come to take things away. There were children crying, women pleading, the army yelling, “Yella! Yella!” move!
One woman told me, “They have taken the food I just received from the Red Cross.” Each month the most vulnerable in the community receive food hampers from the Red Cross. Now that was gone too. She pulled me by the arm to take me to what had been her home. She said her money was under all the rubble. She would have to dig through to get it. Everything was a mess. The young soldiers just didn’t care. This is their job.
I wonder if soldiers’ families in Israel have any idea of the kind of work they do. Surely they do not think their sons are pulling old men and women out of their homes at 6 in the morning so they can destroy the homes and contents, then load up a huge truck with anything they can easily throw in.
The tea, coffee and rice we brought to assist seemed like nothing in the aftermath of the destruction.
Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad came to visit Ab Nir the following day. He promised the construction of six new homes for the six families who live here. He layed cement blocks and put on mortar to start the procedings. What is to stop the Israeli army from coming again to destroy the new homes. Nothing. This is area C as defined by the Oslo Agreement. No building without permits. Palestinians apply for permits, which cost, and then are denied. No new permits have been approved in this area: not even for a toilet.
And yes, even the toilet was bulldozed.
A testament to their tenacity,
to their love of this land
to their belief in human rights for them to live in peace with their neighbours,
and their hope that sometime, some way this will be resolved. If not in their lifetime, sometime to live not as an Occupied Territory.
*EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine/Israel) www.eappi.org