Twice a refugee – The story of Mr. Sabbagh

In recent years, Sheikh Jarrah has become the location of active demonstrations against Israeli policies in the neighborhood. After many families were forcibly evicted from their homes in order for Israeli settlers to take up residence, weekly Friday protests began.  Here is the story of one family forced from their home.

by Jerusalem Team 50

Mohammad SabbaghDuring the 1948 war, Mr. Sabbagh’s family became refugees from their village of Yavneh. They were forced to leave their homes and take only the items they could carry. They left behind not only their houses, but their entire properties that they worked they accumulated over the years. Mr. Sabbagh’s family lost 250 dunums of land.

They fled to Jerusalem and were brought as refugees to Sheikh Jarrah, an area now in East Jerusalem.  At that time, Sheikh Jarrah came under the rule of the Jordanian government.  Many refugees, including Mr. Sabbagh’s family were given houses in Sheikh Jarrah on the condition that they pay rent to the Jordanian government.

In 1967, when the state of Israel took over East Jerusalem and the West Bank and began its military occupation, Sheikh Jarrah once again fell under their rule. At this time, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the Jordanian Government transferred ownership of the houses in Sheikh Jarrah to the Palestinian families living in them.

For Mr. Sabbagh’s family, the dispute over their home began in 1972 when Israeli settlers claimed that their ancestors lived on the land on which Mr. Sabbagh’s house was built and the land and house belonged to them. Although these claims began in 1972, Mr. Sabbagh’s case came to the forefront in 2010 when the family received eviction orders from the Israeli authorities based on the claims of Israeli settlers.

Since then, the family’s lawyer is still contesting their eviction and seeking recognition of Mr. Sabbagh’s family’s ownership of the property.  Despite proof of Mr. Sabbagh’s ownership in documents obtained from records in Turkey that combat the settlers’ claims, the Sabbagh family was evicted from their home, forced to stay in tents they erected nearby.

The startling fact of families being forced from their homes, opened the eyes of many in Israel and throughout the world.  Public demonstrations began to oppose the forced evictions of Mr. Sabbagh’s family and others.  Every Friday, Israelis, internationals, and Palestinians gather at 3:00 pm in the afternoon voicing their support for the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah.

Many thoughts come to our minds as we ponder Mr. Sabbagh’s story. How can Palestinians persevere, despite the double loss of homes, property, and the dreams and memories these places carry? How much money has been wasted in support of countless human rights violations? How long can the Israeli government support the active violation of Palestinians human rights without facing repercussions?

These questions bare heavily on our minds, but we find hope in the solidarity Israelis and internationals show every Friday with the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah.  Much more needs to be done, but one day freedom will be delivered to those that are oppressed.

Read about Sheikh Jarrah on +972 Magazine.

Watch videos about Sheikh Jarrah from Just Vision.

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