Life under military occupation is never easy. By it’s very definition, one party suppresses another with armed might. It is dehumanizing, cold, and cruel.
On Sunday afternoon, I visited a young friend living in a vulnerable village in the rural West Bank. It was a happy sharing of friendship. Since we had last seen each other she had married and now has an infant child. Her husband was away at work. She was excited to introduce me to her infant son and showed me through their small, basic home. As we visited, she gave me her baby to hold and we looked at her wedding pictures. When it was time to leave, we made tentative plans for me to return, and she was insistent that I come at mealtime, so that she could cook for me and we could share a meal together. It all seemed pretty normal, as if for a moment we could forget the harsh realities of life under occupation.
But not for long. Tonight we visited again, this time under very different circumstances. Today, this young family received very strong indications that their home will be demolished by the Israeli forces tomorrow. Why? I chose not to ask that question, as I knew the answer. The house was built without a building permit, a permit that is required by the Israeli authorities but which the Israelis do not grant to at least 99% of Palestinian applicants living in the rural (Area C) part of the West Bank. Unable to obtain the required permit and desperate for housing, families build without.
Tonight, I met her husband for the first time – a kind and gentle natured young man who warmly welcomed me into their home. The baby was asleep in his cradle. Sitting in the living room, we visited and drank tea. He spoke of the difficulties a house demolition would bring upon their family, particularly with the winter season fast approaching. And yet, he said, other Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, are facing serious difficulties as well. I was moved by their courage.
She asked if I would come tomorrow if their house is demolished. I assured her that I would do my best to get there.
International volunteers are staying in the village tonight.
This is life under occupation.