PHOTO ESSAY: Two faces of the Hebron’s urban planning

by Diana, Hebron team

Hebron’s appearance is slowly changing… while carrying out are usual EAPPI tasks, we can observe both – the Israeli settler’s and the Palestinian resident’s efforts to transform the city.

Israeli settler efforts are concentrated mainly on Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida hill. They tend to highlight the ancient Jewish heritage in Hebron. That’s why they paint graffiti on the door of closed palestinian shops, they arrange gardens in place of streets formerly leading to the old city market, they put informative signs and mark tourist paths. Recently, they also renamed the streets in the area of settlements in the old city. On the top of Tel Rumeida hill the ongoing archaeological excavations will create a Biblical Park explaining the Jewish history of the site and the city.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) focuses its efforts on the Old City of Hebron. They rebuild houses demolished by Israeli forces, restore the former look of historical sites of the old city, and make better everyday life of its inhabitants, many of whom have moved out of the Old City after its closure. Lastly, HRC also strongly promotes tourism and other sectors of Hebron’s economy.

*Read more about the Archeological Excavations in Hebron.

*Check out our Three-part series about Shuhada Street.

Wait for the Bulldozers or Demolish it Yourself?

Self-demolition is an increasing trend in East Jerusalem. This phenomena receives little international attention as it is difficult to track, both in numbers of those affected and its psychological impact.

by Emmi & Zoë, Jerusalem team

The Haq family needed to wait for the authorities to verify the demolition before cleaning up the rubble. This took one month. Photo EAPPI/M. Kjellstrom.

The remains of the Haq children’s bedrooms. The family needed to wait for the authorities to verify the demolition before cleaning up the rubble. This took one month. Photo EAPPI/M. Kjellstrom.

One and a half rooms is what is left of the Haq family’s house in the Ras al-Amud neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. For the family of seven, this means living shoulder to shoulder.

“It is especially difficult for the older children to share,” Huda Haq, the mother, regrets.

In addition to an 18-year old son and a 16-year old daughter, she has boys aged 12 and 9 and a baby girl aged 4. Since three months ago, all of the children have been living in one room.

Last October, Ameen Abdel Haq was forced to demolish half of his house, an extension that the growing family built in 2009 . The court ordered the two rooms to be demolished because they were built without a permit. To avoid the demolition fine, a minimum of 20,000 NIS, the family was forced to deconstruct two rooms which were used as the children’s bedrooms.  

The 5 children of the Haq family all sleep in one room now. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

The 5 children of the Haq family all sleep in one room now. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

For Palestinians living in East Jerusalem it is next to impossible to acquire a building permit. The same goes for other Palestinian areas under full control of Israel, namely Area C in the West Bank. According to an Israeli peace group ICAHD, more than 94% of all Palestinian permit applications have been rejected in recent years.

“In most countries, you need a permit to build because the local municipality needs to make sure that your plans match up with theirs,” says Ruth Edmonds from ICAHD. “The problem is that in Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem there is no development planning in place.”

Waiting forever for a permit is not an option with an ever-growing population, so people build without them.

Israel frequently demolishes Palestinian homes. Last year, the United Nations reported the demolition of 406 structures in the West Bank and 48 in East Jerusalem.

The number of self-demolitions is a figure that is more difficult to track. There is no comprehensive information on self-demolition in official government data, which makes international attention more difficult to foster. However, according to ICAHD the self-demolition of personal property is an increasing trend.

Two of the major reasons that families self-demolish are to avoid unnecessary attention and to dodge high demolition fines, Ruth Edmonds says.

According to ICAHD, some families also self-demolish in order to avoid the psychological burden, particularly for children, of waiting for a bulldozer to show up at their door.

Farah, 4, and Mu’nes, 9, in their now demolished bedroom. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

Farah, 4, and Mu’nes, 9, in their now demolished bedroom. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

The Haq family in Ras al-Amud was given one month to demolish the newer part of their home.

“We discussed the reasons with the children why we need to do this. I think it made it easier for them to accept the situation. They have not been angry,” Huda Haq explains.

The family undertook the demolition together.

“It took three to four months to build the rooms, demolishing them only two days,” the mother sighs.

The oldest son of the family, Mohamed Haq, describes the mentality needed to carry on under the adversity caused by the occupation.

“If you want to be able to live in this country, you have to feel nothing.”

 *Learn more about the people affected by Demolitions & Evictions.

Our Top 10 Posts from 2014

Happy New Year to all! We want to say thank you to all you follow our blog and read our posts. It’s you who help us get the word out about the injustices happening in Palestine and Israel.

The year 2014 was a difficult year with the assault on Gaza, the kidnapping of 3 Israeli teens, the closures & raids that occurred across the West Bank in the search for the teens. It was also a 6 year high for displacement from demolitions and human rights violations continued throughout the West Bank.  Here we shed light on the injustices that occurred and the faces of hope & perseverance through it all in 10 most viewed posts from 2014.

10. Final destination

photo of Selim Auda Jahaleen

Selim Auda Jahaleen is 107 years old. A Palestinian Bedouin, he is the oldest member of the Jahaleen tribe. Photo EAPPI/BG. Saltnes.

Israeli authorities announced plans, Nuwei’ma plans, to forcibly transfer over 7,000 Bedouin from the Jerusalem periphery/E1 area and Jordan Valley. Bedouin who have already become refugees twice, face imminent displacement again and the loss of their traditional way of life. Demolitions of homes and property are the immediate result of these plans and affect families such as Selim’s.

9. Responding to tragedy with smiles and sweet tea

The Daraghmi family after their home was demolished. Photo EAPPI/A. Batista.

The Daraghmi family after their home was demolished. Photo EAPPI/A. Batista.

Demolitions are a common occurrence in the Jordan Valley. Some homes & villages have been demolished many times. In January 2014, EAs went to the home of Nimer Hassan Hussein Daraghmi in Al Farisiya only 3 hours after his home was demolished. They found that in the face of tragedy & disaster, this family showed remarkable hospitality.

8. Humanitarian Situation Deteriorates at Bethlehem Checkpoint 300

Checkpoint 300. Photo EAPPI/S. Amrad.

Checkpoint 300. Photo EAPPI/S. Amrad.

Between 4,000 to 6,000 Palestinian workers cross the Bethlehem Checkpoint everyday on their way to work inside Israel. The overcrowding at this checkpoint is dangerous and raises serious humanitarian concerns. In May 2014, the situation deteriorated severely. Check out the fact sheet we created about it.  Although it’s from May 2014, it is not far off from the everyday reality of Checkpoint 300 and is still relevant today.

7. Archaeological excavations in Tel Rumeida in Hebron expand and destroy more Palestinian land

Ferial Abu Haikal discusses with Israeli soldiers. Photo EAPPI/W. Bischler.

Ferial Abu Haikal discusses with Israeli soldiers. Photo EAPPI/W. Bischler.

In February 2014, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) significantly expanded excavations in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. We gave an update in June 2014 and showed how individual Palestinian families and their land are being affected. Excavations continue today.

6. Palestinian Christians find hope in Pope Francis’ visit

C. Holtan Pope Francis by the Wall in Bethlehem 250514

Pope Francis visited the Holy Land in May 2014.  With his stop at the Separation Wall he did not just leave an iconic photo for the media, but also gave a feeling of hope for Palestinian Christians that worldwide Christians recognized the injustices in the Holy Land.

5. The tribulations of Khaled Al Najar

EAs inspect the damage to Khaled's wheat harvest. Photo EAPPI/H. Tyssen.

EAs inspect the damage to Khaled’s wheat harvest. Photo EAPPI/H. Tyssen.

Khaled Al Najar from the South Hebron Hills has faced numerous trials and tribulations over the years due to the Israeli occupation and settler violence.  From burned crops and livelihood to being shot in his stomach to long drawn out court cases, an EA captured his heart wrenching story.

4. “I teach all the children at the school to keep their dignity.” ~Samia, Teacher, Cordoba School

T.FJeldmann_TeacherSamiaAlJaberi_CP56_Hebron010914_2

As part of our 2014 Back to School series, we interviewed students & teachers about their challenges of going to school under military occupation and also their hopes & dreams that persist despite these obstacles.  Samia, a teacher in Hebron, shared some inspiring words.

3.Access to water in the Jordan Valley

Abu Dirra shows us the old larger Palestinian water pipe in Bardala which was severed.  Israeli authorities joined the smaller water pipe, allowing a smaller amount of water to be pumped to the village. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

Abu Dirra shows us the old larger Palestinian water pipe in Bardala which was severed. Israeli authorities joined the smaller water pipe, allowing a smaller amount of water to be pumped to the village. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

In 2014, we started a new placement in the Jordan Valley.  Our first team of EAs there took on the big task of raising awareness and advocating for issues in this contentious valley. In this article, they shed light on the injustices of water distribution. Although water is an issue all over Palestine, inequality is the worst in the Dead Sea area of the Jordan Valley, where Israeli settlers receive 10 times more water than West Bank Palestinians.

2. Houses, oranges, checkpoints, guns – kids draw life in Palestine

Sadee's drawing

When I saw Sadee’s drawing I asked her if the person inside the house was holding a plate of food. She told me that it wasn’t a house, it was a checkpoint, and that the person was a soldier holding a gun. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

Art is a powerful tool for self expression.  Two EAs asked kids in Azzun Atma to draw their life in Palestine. What they got were powerful reflections from 7 and 8 year olds of living and going to school under military occupation.

1. The Tent of Nations – a nonviolent conviction to resist injustice and build hope for peace

Esther Goebel - Daher Nassar - Tent of Nations - Nassar on his farm, Jewish settlements in the background

The Tent of Nations, located just outside, faces constant threat of harrassment land confiscation from Israeli authorities and Israeli settlers. Yet, Daher Nassar refuses to give and is an inspiring example of peace and nonviolence. We wrote this article about him in February before 800 of the family’s trees were uprooted in May. This calamity did not deter him, however, and he continues to plant trees as a sign of hope.

Photo Essay: Military presence during school exams

by Ana, Yanoun team

The exams period during primary and secondary school is a very stressful period to all children and teenagers, no matter if they live in Germany, South Africa or in Uruguay. For Palestinian students, however, this is an extra stressful period of the year.

During exam periods, the Israeli army often increases their presence in and around Palestinian schools. Hyped-up by their encounters with the soldiers, it is extremely difficult for students to concentrate on their studies in the classroom.

 

EAPPI does school runs as part of its Access to Education initiative, which aims to guarantee children’s access to education despite the hardships of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The aim of the school runs is to offer protective presence to children on their way to and from school and monitor human rights violations against the children.

On 3 December, we witnessed first-hand the difficulties of going to school for Palestinian children during exam periods. On this day, Israeli soldiers prevent children and teachers from getting to school. We arrived on the scene at 7:40 am and stayed until all were allowed to enter school around 8:15 am. 

When asked why they closed the school, soldiers responded that there had been stone throwing the day before. The headmaster of the school informed us, however, that he was at school the previous day until 2pm and there had been no stone throwing.

*Find more Access to Education resources.

A Tractor Arrested

Confiscation of a tractor is just one example of the daily grinding reality of living in susiya; a village in Area C in the south Hebron Hills.

Tractor being taken

The tractor as it was being taken away. Photo EAPPI/I. Medcalf.

by Ineke, South Hebron Hills team

On 19 November 2014, the Israeli military stopped a villager from Susiya who was ploughing. His tractor was under arrest for aiding in the installation of water tanks the previous day. Apparently one of the water tanks was carried on the trailer attached to the tractor.

Why is this a crime you may ask?

Susiya lies in Area C. This means that the village and its residents are under full Israeli administrative and military control. Residents need a building permit for any new structure – toilet, animal pen, house addition and also a water tank. If there is no permit, the it gets demolished or confiscated. Permits though are almost always refused for those living in Area C villages. Over 94% of Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C have been rejected in recent years.

Since 1985, the village of Susiya, located in the South Hebron Hills, has been destroyed or relocated at least 5 times. Their olive trees have been uprooted. They are watched and harassed by Israeli settlers and closely observed by the Israeli army.

Thus when Susiya received new water tanks donated by COMET ME, it was not surprising that the Israeli authorities became aware of it. They even knew the tractor was used in transporting the water tanks.

Now soldiers stood guard around the tractor. A lady, sowing seeds in the field came to see what was happening and was clearly upset. A tractor is vital in the ploughing season and the seeds need to be sown. Of course, the Israeli authorities know this and it is not a coincidence that they targeted the tractor. It would make life more difficult for the villagers.

Water tanks too are vital for the community. With the rainy season, it is important to collect as much water as possible in the cisterns and fill the tanks. To buy water is very costly especially for Palestinians who pay five times more than Israeli settlers.

The tractor was taken into the village where the trailer was located and attached. Then both were driven onto a truck along with one of the frames holding a water tank. Another truck came and took four water tanks and another frame.

After the initial anger and distress displayed by the villagers, there was a quiet acceptance. The residents from Susiya were powerless to stop what was happening. One lady sat on a rock and cried. I too cried, not for the tractor or tanks, but because what was happening is so mean-spirited.

Yet, I know the people of Susiya will go on. It is their only means of resistance. To refuse to leave their land, to give in and give up. They will continue to have their sheep, to live in makeshift homes which are demolished time and again. And to plough, plant and harvest. Despite the difficulties. They have a strong belief that God will not allow this injustice to continue; that one day it will be better.

I hope and pray they are right and that some day I will visit again when they have the same rights and freedoms we enjoy and the burden of the occupation is but a memory.

Nine minors detained during night raid

by Julie, Bethlehem team 

Tuqu' Military Jeep

On 3 December 2014, Israeli soldiers raided the village of Tuqu’ at night and detained 9 minors. Photo c/o Tuqu’ municipality.

On December 3, 2014 we got a phone call from Tuqu’ municipality in the Bethlehem area. The night before there had been a night raid in their village where 9  youth under 18 were detained. We called our driver and headed out there to meet with the municipality and the father of one of the detained children.

30 Israeli military jeeps and police cars with around 200 soldiers entered Tuqu’ village at midnight, they told us. They marched the street of the village and stayed until 6 am. The soldiers threw sound bombs in front of peoples houses and entered around 50 houses. All the soldiers either wore balaclavas or had their face painted.

The father of one of the boys told us that soldiers entered their house, and shouted for his 16 year old son. They gathered the family in one room, and his son was blindfolded and handcuffed with his hands behind his back, without giving them any reason to do so. His mother wanted to give him some water to drink, but was refused. The soldiers stayed in their home for an hour while they threw furniture around and took pictures of the house and family members, and took everyone’s ID numbers.

This was only one of 11 cases of detentions during this night raid. The boys who were detained were 13, 14, 15, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 17, 18 and 22 years old. In total nine boys under the age of 18.

After 6 hours the military and police left Tuqu’ village, taking 11 Palestinians with them, without telling anyone in Tuqu’ where they were taken.

“The arrest and transfer process is often accompanied by verbal abuse and humiliation, threats as well as physical violence. Hours later the children find themselves in a interrogation room, sleep deprived and scared.”

“Most children undergo coercive interrogation, mixing verbal abuse, threats, and physical violence, generally resulting in a confession. The most common offence children confess to is throwing stones… …in most cases, the children are either shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand.”

(Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted: Children held in military detention – Defence for Children International, Palestine Section)

So why does these detentions of minors take place? Breaking the silence, an organization of former Israeli soldiers telling their stories of their military service, told us that when new soldiers need to practice a night raid the best way to do so is to actually carry out a night raid, and to practice an arrest the best way is to actually arrest someone. They also told us that many of the Israeli military’s actions are taken to “make their presence felt”.

According to Save the Children, families often define the rise of juvenile detention in their neighborhood as a tool, used by the Israeli army, to make them and their children lose a sense of security and feeling of well being in their own homes.

Note from Israeli army

The note from the Israeli army explaining why they raided Tuqu’ village the night before. 

While leaving Tuqu’ after our meeting we are met by a ”flying checkpoint”, set up temporarily consisting of an Israeli military jeep, spike belts and armed soldiers. We are stopped and given a piece of paper with something written in Arabic. A soldier tells our Palestinian driver to translate it to us. He says he will do it later, but the soldier yells at him to do it now, while his assault rifle is leveled at us. The note says:

“Recently, many terror attacks took place towards Israeli residents by youth from your village. In response, our forces carried out an operation in the village and your houses in order to prevent the increase of harm to the security of the residents. The aim of this military operation in the area is to reduce the amount of violent attacks and the disruption of order against those that travel and live in this area. Therefore, the aim of this activity is not to disrupt your routine. Make the terrorists go away. Only with cooperation will we can achieve peace in the area.”

*The minors detained the night before were detained for throwing stones.  The throwing of stones are the “terror attacks” and those who throw them are the “terrorists” that this note refers to.

Houses, oranges, checkpoints, guns – kids draw life in Palestine

by Emmi & Zoë, Jayyus/Tulkarm team

Whole Class

A class of 7 & 8 year olds draws life in Palestine.

“What are the things we have here in Azzun Atma?” asks a teacher from her class of second graders. Many hands rise, as children want to tell the visitors about their village. “Trees.” “Shops.” “Oranges.” “School.”

Two weeks ago, we had the pleasure of spending a morning in one of the schools in the village of Azzun Atma. Its trees, shops, schools and around 2,000 people are entirely surrounded by the separation wall and four Israeli settlements. No Palestinians are allowed inside of Azzun Atma unless they have a proper permit saying that they live in the village or go to school there.

Our team goes to Azzun Atma a few times a week to monitor the checkpoint at the entrance of the village, where about 90 children and 40 teachers pass each day to get to school. 

At the school, we asked the children if they would be willing to draw some pictures about their life in Azzun Atma. The photos that follow are some of the drawings we received, pieces of the stories of some 7 and 8 year olds who live and go to school there.

*Download our Azzun Atma Report.