Thursday is House Demolition Day in the Jordan Valley – #3 Sulieman Families

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.

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We rounded a hillside and came upon this sight where a house had stood hours before:

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On the concrete foundation of one of the four homes destroyed, one of the family members was praying for help:

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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.

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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.

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And outside and inside the temporary shelters were this year’s crop of lambs:

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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:

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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.

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Here is what remains of the kitchen in one of the homes.

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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.

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8 Responses to Thursday is House Demolition Day in the Jordan Valley – #3 Sulieman Families

  1. Robert Sims says:

    Good Morning Norman; This is the reality of the Israeli occupation. Illegal settlements receive the full protection of the Israel while living a typical North American suburban middle class life style with unlimited water and swimming pools and Palestinians subject to destruction of their homes with minimal notice and no recourse. There is an article by Harriet Sherwood (The Observer) in the Guardian “Isreali authors fight to stop eviction of Palestinian villagers from army zone” that I read yesterday. This has been going on since 1948. Thank you for your journey of witnessing. Robert Sims, Emmanuel United.

    • Good evening from Bethlehem Robert, where I have visited all parts of the Church of the Nativity today. And I walked by the Separation Barrier yet again and thought about how it has changed the life of those who live here and the pilgrims who come to see the place of Jesus’ birth. I saw a crypt today that is said to have been the resting place for young males under the age of two, the objects of Herod’s search for the newborn King. I will look for Harriet Sherwood’s article and reflect on it. Thank you for accompanying me — it is a comfort during those days when the ugly truths present themselves.

  2. Peter Short says:

    Norman, greetings from Canada where water is a problem in many places – too much water. Somehow one can accept the apparent inequalities arranged by Mother Earth (alright, with help from climate – changing humans) but what humans can do to other humans is inexplicable. Thank you for the sacrifice you make in order to lay out these terrible truths of our condition. We have work to do.
    We look forward to your safe return and to seeing you in a few weeks.
    Pete

    • Dear Peter,
      It is, indeed, so good to have your comment. The terrible truths are abundant here. What worries me more is that we in Canada are complicit. My government, the one I served so loyally for nearly 28 years is either in denial of these truths or deceiving the Canadian public. Yes, much work to do. And this is not a sacrifice, it is an honour to have the unique experiences and to forge respectful relations with Palestinians, Israelis and other internationals working to tell the truth and hold governments accountable for their actions and inactions.

  3. Phyllis MacRae says:

    Good Afternoon Norman
    I am sitting here in my cool, lush, well-watered back yard enjoying a peaceful Ottawa Canada Day. What an incredible contrast with what you are living and seeing. Many people in Canada, in and outside of government, are well able to ignore the kind of experience that you are telling us about. They do not want to know about it, so close their eyes and ears. This is very easy to do when we are surrounded by the comfort, luxury and safety of our life in Canada.
    Stay well and enjoy your return to Canada soon. Although I imagine your re-entry will be a tough challenge.
    Thinking of you.
    Phyllis

    • Hi Phyllis,
      I am so glad to have your reflection on this post. Yes, as Canadians we are so fortunate to live in the situations in which we find ourselves, and so easy to dismiss those things in the world that are not right and could be changed if we put our minds to it. My re-entry will be manageable, but the deep affection that I have for so many Palestinians who have shown me by example what true grace is will likely be my biggest challenge. You know what I mean. I am looking forward to seeing you when I get back and after I have had time to readjust and process these powerful experiences. Blessings on you and on Richard. I miss you both.

  4. Robert Sims says:

    Good Afternoon Norman,
    We take too much for granted in North America and do not realize how fortunate we are. This was evident in the presentation during Emmanuel’s service yesterday by our pilgrims who have returned from a month in Kenya. The depth of poverty was well evident in the pictures they took and for each of them this was a life-changing month which they acknowedged in their presention and private conversations.

    Like Phyllis I have also enjoyed a quiet ‘Canada Day’ where I listened to Vivaldi on Cd’s this morning while bringing a sense of order to part of my home, taking my canine companion for walks along the Rideau Canal and buying fresh strawberries. This stands in stark contrast to the lives and experiences you have been describing.

    There are additional articles in the Guardian which you will find interesting. The first three are from January 2011 when the Guardian published ‘The Palestinian Papers’ and the last is two weeks old:
    Jonathan Freedland, “Now We Know – Israel had a peace partner” 23 January 2011.
    Seumas Milne and Ian Black, “Palestinian negotiatos accept Jeewish state papers reveal,” 24 January 2011.
    Seumas Milne, “Only Authentic Leaders can dliver a Middle East Peace.” 26 January 2011.
    Harried Sherwood. “Palestinian Hopes for two-states ‘not possible’, says Israeli Minister.” 17 June 2013.
    None of this material has appeared in the North American news that I am aware of and the Palestinian offer of a ‘Greater Israel and Jerusalem’ remains ‘terra incognita’ in North America. Thank you for your reflections, Robert

    • Hi Robert,
      Thank you for the additional references in the Israel-Palestine situation in the Guardian. Tomorrow is my day off to find these articles and read what others are saying. I hope that you enjoy Canada Day and that you reflect on the marvelous country in which we live. I know that the youth who spent a month in Zambia will be reflecting on their experiences and the opportunities that they have at home.

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