This Hurts

Last week I wrote about my young friend living in a rural village whose home was at risk of demolition.  I deliberately did not include her name or the location of her village so as not to jeopardize the slim hope they held that this demolition could be avoided.

Yesterday, the villagers received word from their lawyers that they had exhausted all legal means to save the 4  homes in the village that were at greatest risk. The only option open to them was to submit a fee of 1000 NIS per house (approximately $350 $Cdn) before Thursday of this week to apply for mercy from a judge.  The villagers were unable to pay the fee.  Today, we were thinking about how we could help them raise this money when we received word that the Israeli military and bulldozers had arrived in their South Hebron Hills village of Um al Kher.  By the time they left, 5 homes were demolished, as well as the taboun oven,  a community bread making oven shared by a number of women in the village to bake their daily bread.  Bread is a staple of the traditional Palestinian diet.  The issue of the taboun oven is currently before the courts. As such, there was no demolition order on the oven. Nonetheless, it was demolished today.

When we heard that the bulldozer was in the village, we immediately set out to go there.  Shortly thereafter, we received word that the military had declared the village a closed military zone and were blocking people from entering.  Once the demolitions were complete and the military had left, we went to the village.

Upon speaking with my young friend, she told me that I was free to use her picture and name in the sharing of this story.

Her name is Iman.

Iman, her young baby Mohammed, and myself. This picture was taken in her living room, on my visit  to the village prior to the threat of imminent demolition.

Iman, her young baby Mohammed, and myself. This picture was taken in her living room, on my visit to the village prior to the threat of imminent demolition.

In spite of our age difference (she is younger than my daughters), we share a precious and abiding friendship that began 3 years ago when I was with the South Hebron Hills EAPPI team.  She is gentle natured, kind hearted, articulate with excellent English, and carries a wisdom beyond her years. Today, the Israeli forces demolished the home she has shared with her husband Balil and their 5 month old son Mohammed.

Here are some photos of their house.  It was a fairly simple 4 room house.  A living room, bedroom, small bathroom and small kitchen. But it was more than that.  It was their home.

Iman's kitchen

Iman’s kitchen

Their typical Palestinian bathroom.

Their typical Palestinian bathroom.

The doors to the home.

The doors to the home.

The single bedroom in their home, with baby Mohammed sleeping in his cradle beside the bed.

The  bedroom in their home, with baby Mohammed sleeping in his cradle beside the bed.

The living room where we visited.  Notice the oranges on the table.  This picture was taken the day they learned that the house was at risk of imminent demolition.  In spite of the stress associated with that, she insisted on sending me home that night with a bag of oranges that Balil had brought home from the farm he works on.

The living room where we visited. Notice the oranges on the table. This picture was taken the day they learned that the house was at risk of imminent demolition. In spite of the stress associated with that, she insisted on sending me home that night with a bag of oranges that Balil had brought home from the farm he works on.

Today, all that is left of their home is a pile of rubble.

image

The gate to Iman and  Balil's home, with the rubble in the background.

The gate to Iman and Balil’s home, with the rubble in the background.

The family's belongings.

The family’s belongings.

The windows from the house that Iman was able to salvage prior to the demolition.

The windows from the house that Iman was able to salvage prior to the demolition.

Iman said that when the bulldozers arrived, she started to get their belongings out of the house.  Balil was away at work.  The bulldozers demolished some of the other homes before coming to hers. When they arrived at her house, the soldiers laughed at her as she stood inside.  Then one of them yelled at her to “Shut up and get out.”  When she was outside, the demolition started.  Unable to watch, she cried as their home was destroyed.

Very shaken, she spoke of her concern that winter is coming and they do not have a home.  Winter here is cool, windy, and damp.  The ICRC provide small tents for families whose homes have been demolished. How could they live in a tent in those conditions with a baby?

Of more immediate concern was where they would sleep tonight.  There were 5 families left homeless by these demolitions today.  All would need shelter.

Of further concern was the loss of the taboun oven.  It has served as an integral part of the village for many, many years. It is the oven that Iman and several other village women have used on a daily basis to bake their bread.

The remains of the demolished taboun oven, with the nearby settlement homes in the background.  The settlers are suing the villagers for smoke inhalation due to the oven, asking for a 500,000NIS ($165,000 Cdn) settlement.

The remains of the demolished taboun oven, with the nearby settlement homes in the background. In what can only be described as a further act of cruelty and harassment,  the settlers are suing the villagers for smoke inhalation due to the oven, asking for a 500,000NIS ($165,000 Cdn) settlement.

Prior to the army’s declaration of the village as a closed military zone during the demolitions, 3 volunteers from the Italian peace organization Operation Dove arrived in the village.  Operation Dove are a well respected peace group in the South Hebron Hills and do excellent work observing, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, as well as providing non violent protective presence.  Today, one of the 3 Operation Dove members who went to the Um al Kher demolitions was arrested in the village.  We were told that he is currently being deported from the country.

It was a deeply painful day today in Um al Kher.

Tonight, I have no words to express the suffering in the village.  But I do know, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that demolishing Iman and Balil’s home will not further the security of the State of Israel in any possible way.  This is an absolute act of willful cruelty.  As an occupying power, Israel has the legal obligation under International Law to provide for the well being of the occupied people.  Demolishing people’s homes does not provide for their well being.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly stated that Canada is Israel’s best friend.  I do not believe that Canadians support actions that dehumanize and inflict needless suffering on innocent individuals and families.  I do not believe that Canadians support the actions of foreign governments that so blatantly contravene International Law.  It is time that our elected representatives actually represent the values of the Canadian people on the world stage and hold nations states accountable for their actions.

Tonight, let us pray for the those who have been hurt by this act of violence.

Tonight, let us pray for peace.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Jan

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10 responses

  1. Dear Jan
    How can the destruction of life and community bring settler security? There are no words. Only shock and sadness and anger at this deliberate cruelty meant to cause pain.

  2. Dear Jan, thank you for all the work you’ve done in preparing this record of a real travesty. Jan, please extend my greetings and deep sorrow to the community of Um el Kher. Your photos truly tell the story.

  3. Pingback: Witnessing pain – Friends object. | Peacing Stories

  4. Dear Jan: How my heart aches with sorry and anger. How I long for a true sense of peace and justice to come to all the peoples of this land. I am so grateful that you are there as witness, as compassion and as our voice that Canadians are not all with the Harper vision. Bless you and carry solidarity and kindness with you on behalf of those of us who can do little, but pray. And that is NO SMALL THING.

  5. I heard of this demolition earlier today (I’m on the last day of a two-week visit to Palestine, getting ready to fly home tonight!) I’ve heard too many stories like this – when will the world wake up?! I continue to pray for the people and work for justice – as you obviously are doing as well!

  6. Dear Jan. I had not been following your blog and was surprised to to find this. My heart aches for this family. Please share my blessings and prayers with them. The photo of your embrace of Iman and Mohammed conveys the love that you have for them and it touched my heart deeply.

    It moved me to write to my MP, Dave van Kesteren, and I share some of what I wrote to him:
    “You will recall that…I met with you in your office in Chatham this August past about the Israeli attack on Gaza and the threat of bombing a church. You said you were going to look into it and get back to me. I am still waiting to hear from you.

    In the meantime, I would urge you to read the following blog by a friend. It is heart-wrenching and exposes the heartless destruction of Palestinian homes and violation of human rights by the Israelis in the occupied territory. I do not understand how your government can support such action. The tragedy that this family suffered is despicable. The action of your government to oppose the Israeli occupation and continual expropriation of Palestinian territory is necessary to enforce the UN resolutions condemning the Israeli government’s contravention of international law.

    Please read the article below and let me know if your government has a response.”

    Thanks for sharing your witness. I hope that it will also touch the heart of Mr. Van Kesteren.

    • Thank you, Curtis, from the bottom of my heart. These people have taught me more about non violent resistance than anyone else, or any book. They truly are a peace loving and peace living community. Thank you for standing in solidarity with them. Jan

  7. Reblogged this on marthiemombergblog and commented:
    Five houses were demolished, yet only the issue of the flattended taboun bread oven serves before the Israeli court. A very dear friend of mine is now for the third time in the West Bank of Palestine. To be more specific, she is in the South Hebron Hills. Read her riveting, shocking account of what happened to the community she knows so well.

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