Having concluded our interviews in Khirbet ar Ras al Ahmar, we began our journey back to Yanoun. We had a stop to make in Huwwara to pick up Ulrike, one of our colleagues from the Bethlehem placement. She was joining us for a placement visit to see what life is like in Yanoun.
Oh no!! Another phone call …. Another demolition underway further up the valley. More devastation and chaos.
We got Ulrike safely in the vehicle and sped back down to the Jordan Valley. Our destination: Al Hadidiya, behind the illegal Israeli settlement of Ro’i. We stopped at the home of our local contact Abu Sakker to take him with us. He is a man of wisdom and very current on world affairs.
We drove several kilometers further into the fields. In this photo, you can make out several structures on the hillside in the distance built by the Israeli military for training exercises. The exercises do not respect any fields planted in wheat or barley, or used by sheep for grazing.
We rounded a hillside and came upon this sight where a house had stood hours before:
On the concrete foundation of one of the four homes destroyed, one of the family members was praying for help:
We learned that four homes belonging to Abdul Sulieman and his sons had been demolished. He told us that 16 members of his family and sons’ families live here. There are three children, one of whom was born with physical challenges and has difficulty breathing.
The four homes will cost over 20,000 Israeli shekels each to rebuild (US$5,500). It will cost roughly the same to replace each of the seven animal shelters destroyed. The total financial damage done was 220,00 shekels (US$60,000). They do not have this kind of money.
Not only were the Sulieman’s homes destroyed, but several large animal shelters were also leveled. The family hastily erected two sheep pens from the debris to protect their livelihood – a large flock of sheep coming in from the hillsides in 50 degree heat.
And outside and inside the temporary shelters were this year’s crop of lambs:
The family’s income is derived from the sale of cheese and lambs. Abdul was worried that many of the lambs would not survive the day. All the sheep, lambs, ewes and rams, were panting heavily during our visit.
As we continued surveying the damage, this is some of what we saw:
While the men were busy tending to the sheep, the women and children were clustered under an acacia tree to avoid the direct heat of the sun. And these infants/children were lying on mattresses retrieved from the rubble, flies buzzing and crawling everywhere, trying to go to sleep in the heat.
Here is what remains of the kitchen in one of the homes.
As we were finishing our documentation, Abdul Sulieman spoke about what his family faces. They pay 100 shekels for each 3 cubic metres of water that is trucked into their village. Their homes were build near a large water reservoir that supplies the Ro’i settlement with an almost unlimited amount of water. Yet, the Palestinians are not allowed to use this water source that is pumped from their land.
He, his sons and his neighbours were emphatic — they will stay and rebuild. The neighbours are worried that the Israeli military will target their homes in the next round of demolitions. Their claims against the Israeli government are moving slowly through the Israeli military court system. Most cases are heard and no compensation or protection is offered. Yet these resilient Palestinians press onwards for their rights. They do not have access to Israeli civil courts which handle cases from the illegal settlements adjacent to the Palestinian villages.
So, to recap the events of the day, starting at 5 a.m. and concluding at 11 a.m.:
- ten homes destroyed in three villages
- 11 families with 40 adults and 31 children homeless
- hundreds of sheep and goats vulnerable to the intense heat
The question begs: why is Israel treating these people in this way? The Palestinians suggest that Israel is trying to remove them from the land, increase the size of settlements and numbers of settlers, and claim all of the Jordan Valley for Israel.
The Israeli peace organization B’Tselem asserts that Israel is pursuing the appropriation of Palestinian lands at an accelerated pace (http://www.btselem.org/publications/201306_area_c).
And we wait in Yanoun for the next telephone call: “Can you come now? The army is bulldozing my house.”
Makes one wonder about humanity’s inhumanity, about law and order versus lawlessness, about honouring international agreements versus blatantly disregarding one’s obligations.
That’s life here, near the Jordan Valley.