Responding to tragedy with smiles and sweet tea

by Amanda and Liv, Yanoun team

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

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

We arrive three hours after the home of Nimer Hassan Hussein Daraghmi and his family in Al Farisiya has been demolished. We are strangers, yet they gather their plastic chairs and some boxes to sit on, and bring us tea. Black tea with loads of sugar and maramia – sage. Patiently they tell us the numbers of people in the household, time of the demolition, when they received the demolition order, how many bulldozers and soldiers were there. The four of us take notes and ask more questions.

We are in Palestine at a time when many house demolitions occur, and it always feels awkward to meet families who have just lost their homes. They are experiencing a disaster and we want facts and photos for our reports. Still they thank us for being there, for telling their stories to the world. And say that we are welcome not only today but also tomorrow and whenever we want.

The reason for this demolition is that the family lives in Area C of the West Bank, which means they are not allowed to build any structures without a permit from the Israeli authorities. It is almost impossible for Palestinians to get these permits. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 70% of Area C is designated for Israeli settlements (illegal according to article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention), construction is heavily restricted in 29%, and only 1% is planned for Palestinian development. Therefore this family, and many others, are forced to build illegally and their homes face the risk of being demolished by the Israeli authorities.

The demolished home stands in a pile of rubble. Photo EAPPI/A. Batista.

The demolished home stands in a pile of rubble. Photo EAPPI/A. Batista.

On our way home, after a long day of documenting house demolitions from the southern and the northern part of the Jordan Valley, we are tired, but we can’t help thinking about all the contradictory feelings in our minds. It was such a sad day, probably one of the worst days for the Daraghmi family, but they could still smile, show all their hospitality and prove the strength to rebuild and start again in spite of the chaos they were in.

For how long will we be able to witness such peaceful response? The other day, after visiting two other communities that are daily suffering from the occupation, our guide, translator and driver Ghassan said:

“Israel should seize the moment while Palestinians still struggle for peace. At some point they will get tired and start trying to take their rights by hand. The younger generation is not as patient as we are. They’ve seen the peace negotiations fail again and again, and non-violent methods haven’t brought any peace for them yet.”

We drank their tea. We took our notes and wrote our reports. It doesn’t feel like much, but our contribution to bring peace to this family and this people will be to tell the world what we saw. Insh’Allah – God willing – it will make a difference while peace is still an option.

2 thoughts on “Responding to tragedy with smiles and sweet tea

  1. Oh Yanoun… oh Ghassan… oh the people from Palestine….. I will continue to advocate for a just peace. Greetings to all from South Africa.

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