Rahed’s Story

This morning, our team were preparing to go out to visit a community center in Silwan when we received word of another home demolition in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina.  Our plans changed quickly, and soon we were in a taxi enroute to the latest demolition.  When we arrived the demolition was complete. The scene was another mass of rubble, with a few extended family members surveying the wreckage.   Apart from a television news crew, we were the first group to arrive.  After receiving details of the demolition, our team has contacted the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and UN OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) on the family’s behalf.

Today’s demolition destroyed the home of Rahed Abu Safa, a 33 year old Palestinian construction worker, his wife and 3 young children, ages 5 to 10 years old.  Up until a few months ago, they were an average young family, supporting themselves and living a typical life. Their house was a single storey family home, built without a building permit 12 or 13 years ago. (see previous post, “House Demolition” for information regarding why Palestinians living in East Jerusalem build homes without a building permit)  They obviously had cared for their yard, with landscaping  around the house and various trees planted.  For several years, the family have been paying a monthly fine for building without a permit.  Early last fall, the family found themselves unable to pay the fine.  Rahed was then arrested by the Israeli authorities and given a 9 month jail sentence.  He has currently served 4 months of this sentence and remains in jail, with another 5 months still to serve. While Rahed has been in prison, his wife and children have continued to live in their family home.  Yesterday, they went to have dinner and spend the evening with other family members, and ended up staying overnight.  This morning, the children went to school.  Around 9am, without prior warning, 5 carloads of Israeli police officers and 12-15 Israeli soldiers, as well as a bulldozer, arrived in front of the family home.  They broke through the closed gate to the house, destroying the gate and the cement drive way, before demolishing the family home.  According to relatives at the scene,  Rahed’s wife is understandably “ in shock. ”

Broken gate leading into the family's driveway.  Note bulldozer tracks in the grass.

Broken gate leading into the family’s driveway. Note bulldozer tracks in the grass.

Young trees planted in the yard.  In the background is the family's refrigerator, one of only a very few family possessions that neighbours were able to rescue prior to the demolition.

Young trees planted in the yard. In the background is the family’s refrigerator, one of only a very few family possessions that neighbours were able to rescue prior to the demolition.

Some of the rubble.

Some of the rubble.

Jerusalem EAPPI team member Olli (Finland) walks through the rubble of the Abu Safa family home.

Jerusalem EAPPI team member Olli (Finland) walks through the rubble of the Abu Safa family home.

Rahed’s cousin, Nasser Abu Saba, spoke to us of the difficulties the family face, and of the frustration Palestinians in general feel with the current system that makes it virtually impossible to obtain building permits on land that they own.  “This is a very difficult situation for our family right now but we have to be patient.  What else can we do?  This is our land.”  He also spoke of the desire of Palestinians to find peace with Israel, and of the frustration they feel with the ongoing conflict.  “We want to live with the 1967 borders.  We want to live In peace with Israel.  We need internationals to help us.”

Today, in an act of intentional, premeditated, state sanctioned violence, the lives of one young Palestinian family were irrevocably changed. According to International Humanitarian Law, “Destructions by the Occupying Power are forbidden unless absolutely necessary for military operations.” (Art 53, Geneva Convention IV, also Article 23(g) of Hague Regulations) Furthermore, “Extensive destruction and appropriation of property…not justified by military necessity, and carried out unlawfully, and wantonly is a war crime (Article 147, Geneva Convention IV)

When will the world notice?

When will the world act?

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,


8 responses

  1. Thanks Jan for speaking up for these unfortunate people who are deprived of their home. We need to live our religion of `justice and peace’ and may be a little less of the traditional church!

  2. Jan
    I had mixed feelings when I saw that you returned to the work of EAPPI. I was very impressed with the work you did in 2011, and I found your blog then and now extremely informative. But I also remember how exhausted you were when you left last time, so I worry a little. I’ll remember you in my prayers.
    The Gospel lesson for this Sunday includes “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”. It seemed the perfect segue to allow me to tell some of “Rahed’s Story” to the congregation I’m working with in Hamilton.
    Thanks for your work and words.

    • Thanks Thom. I appreciate your concern for my well being and am grateful for your prayers. As I discerned this call to return, it was a part of the discussion our family had. I am feeling deeply appreciative for the privilege of being here. It is a very different experience to be in Jerusalem rather than the SHH, but both offer their unique mix of challenge and gifts.
      Thanks for sharing with me part of Sunday’s Gospel reading. As I sit here in Jerusalem, it resonates in a new and VERY REAL way as I think of all that is happening here.
      Warm greetings to both you and Lynn.

  3. Hi Jan,
    Thanks for doing this important work and sharing the news with us. At Belmont this morning I shared the news about Rahed and his family home demolition. We had some discussion about the situation with people being very concerned. I struggled with trying to be non-judgemental as you are in your work – but it was tough. We held you in prayer in both the Glenboro and Belmonts services and will continue until you return. In Glenboro I told them that you were again overseas with EAPPI and they will want to hear your news whenever I take a service there. Last sunday I was in Cartwright and spent some time telling them about your trip. Ruth Mooney put a lot of the information into the paper.
    Bless you in your work,

    • Hi Beth,

      It is wonderful to hear from you. Thank you so much for the vitally important work you are doing to help people learn and understand what is happening here. It is the hope of people here that as others around the world learn of their reality, and then pressure their governments to take action, that change will happen. History has shown that real change can and does happen when it is led by the grassroots. I am blessed with a wonderful community of support and am deeply grateful to the people of Belmont and Glenboro for their prayers for myself and for peace in this area. Peace to you all. Jan

  4. Pingback: In the Wake of the Bulldozers | 4justpeace

  5. Thank you, Jan, for your continued faithful witness. I am eagerly following your blog as I did your last one. Natialie and I were at Naramata for our debriefing when you were discerning the call to return… Today I published a new post called “In the Wake of the Bulldozers.” (www.4justpeace.wordpress.com) I linked your 2 blogs on home demolitions and used one of your photos. I am hopeful it will get more people to sign on to Mosaic for Peace. We know you stand for all of us. Strength and courage! Dawn

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