Home of Abu Ghassan, an elderly blind man, was demolished less than 3 weeks after Israeli authorities delivered 18 stop work orders to the bedouin community of Jabal al Baba in the E1 area of Jerusalem.
by Phil, Jerusalem team
Just four kilometres east of Jerusalem’s Old City lies the hill known as Jabal al Baba, named after the Pope because the catholic church owns land nearby. The location is a special one, with magnificent views, and the hill itself crowned with pine trees. Since the early 1950s it has been home to a community of Jahalin Bedouin who live here in shacks and caravans, along with their flocks of sheep.
But gradually this community is being placed under siege by the Separation Wall, which Israeli authorities continue to build. When completed the separation wall will surround them on three sides, and cut them off from even the nieghbouring town of Al Eizariya. Already, temporary checkpoints have been set up, maybe twice a month, between them and Al Eizariya. The Bedouin are well aware that their hilltop lies in a strategic place: the E1 area located directly between Jerusalem and the already-built settlement of Ma’ale Adummim.
We first visited this community on February 25, when 18 stop work and demolition orders on structures in the community had been issued two days earlier. Villagers told us that the next week, on March 3, an Israeli court would consider an appeal to freeze the orders. Nobody was hopeful for this and knew that demolition might happen any time after that. Four homes have been demolished before. Israeli authorities have offered an alternative for them – and many other Jalalin – to the north, near a large garbage site, but this solution is alien to their way of life.
Unfortunately, on March 12, the fears of villagers came to fruition. A large Israeli military procession of jeeps, bulldozers and soldiers entered the village and demolished the home of Abu Ghassan. Abu Ghassan is an elderly resident of Jabal al Baba who has been blind since 1993. He has a family of eight and so depends on his children for everything.
Now that the family’s home was demolished, they have nowhere to go – so they will rebuild. Abu Ghassan’s words show a mix of perseverance and pessimism:
‘We will fight to stay here but sooner or later we will be evacuated. Send us back to Tel Arad and I’ll be very happy.’
Although he has never been there, Tel Arad was their ancestral home in the Negev from where they were forcibly evacuated by Israeli forces in 1950s.
He added, ‘Near the garbage site there would be no space available for each family, and we could not continue life with our animals. There would be no privacy between families.’