I arrived in Duheisha Refugee Camp, in Bethlehem, at dawn and I knocked an unknown door. I was looking for Samira*, all I knew about her was that she is a well known and respected member of the Duheisha community and that she would be able to tell me her story in reasonably good English.
“All the words on the dictionary couldn’t explain about our feelings, our suffering.” Said Samira, when we eventually settled down to talk.
08-11-2016 Ad-Duheisha Camp, Bethlehem. 08-11-2016 Ad-Duheisha Camp, Bethlehem. Inside the camp, the graffiti on the walls tell their stories. EAPPI/Elina.
“We didn’t have time to pack everything; lots of our things were destroyed that day in front of my eyes…along with the house”. Maryam, a bright young bedouin woman, animatedly recalled the stormy February day in 1997 when her home was demolished and entire community uprooted by the Israeli forces . That was when she and her eight siblings were forcibly transported, along with a small container full of their possessions, to al-Jabal, where they were left homeless. She has lived there ever since, in what has now evolved into a township.
11.06.16 Jerusalem district Mother plays with child in Khan Al Ahmar Bedouin Community Photo EAPPI/Emily
We have all heard about what is going on in Susiya lately. Demolitions, demolitions and demolitions. But we have not heard from Khan al Ahmar. In Khan Al Ahmar, a small mixed primary school made out of used rubber tyres is being threatened with demolition by the Israeli Civil Administration.
Khan Al Ahmar. Thirteen year old Nasreen a student from the school that wants to be a teacher. Photo EAPPI 11.08.16
Before us about 20 tents mostly made out of black or white tarpaulin sheets are nestled into the rugged landscape. The only sounds that can be heard are the faint sound of a television in one of the furthest tents, sometimes the bleat of a sheep, our footsteps, and the wind lifting up the dust earth beneath us; it barely alleviates the stifling summer heat. A number of small water cisterns are scattered amongst the tents. It looks like a makeshift camp even though it has been here for decades. We are in the Palestinian village of Susiya, in the south of the West Bank. Here there is no proper infrastructure, no running water or electricity supply. It stands in stark contrast to the Israeli settlement nearby, which looks like your average 21st century housing estate (settlements are fully integrated into Israel’s national power grid, water and telecommunication systems).
Palestinian village of Susiya in the foreground and the Israeli settlement of Susya in the background. Photo EAPPI/ L.l. Pianezza 28.06.2015
Three weeks ago, EAs visited a village called Wadi J’Hesh which is also know as south Susiya, in the Hebron governorate. This village is located between the Palestinian village of Susiya and the illegal Israeli settlement Susya. During the visit we learned that, thanks to the intervention of local and international humanitarian NGOs, living conditions have been improving for residents. Wadi J’Hesh now has access to clean, safe drinking water and electricity. Despite these small improvements in living standards, the Israeli authorities have not yet recognised their village and the community still lives with the constant threat of demolition. At the time of our visit forty three structures in the village had pending demolition orders. Although they await a major court case on the 1st of August that will decide the fate of these structures, they know that demolitions can happen at any time. Continue reading →
When we arrive at Areef Tootanji’s house in Wad al-Joz, at 5 in the morning the bulldozers are still tearing through his house. Areef is beside himself shouting at the military who are blocking both the family and us from getting to the house. For a moment we are at a loss for words, what can you say to someone who’s house is being demolished in front of us? What can you say to someone who was woken up at 4AM in the morning by soldiers, who with no prior warning, and given five minutes to leave their house? Areef points at his slippers and tell us he didn’t even have time to put on his shoes. Later we find the family’s ID cards in the rubble of what was once their home.
18.05.16 Wadi Joz. Areef Tootanji in front of remains of his house. Photo EAPPI/ J. Svanelind
According to UNOCHA, 613 Palestinian houses have been demolished so far in 2016, and 887 people have been displaced due to house demolitions. This is already more than in total 2015 when there was 531 demolitions and 688 people were displaced. In Jerusalem alone we’ve had 72 demolitions, with an average of 3 demolitions per week. Continue reading →
The Hebron EAPPI team sat around an open fire with a group of 30 Palestinians and international human rights workers eating warm kanafe. We huddled under ancient olive trees at the top of Tel Rumeida in Hebron and celebrated the opening of the closed military zone (CMZ) in H2, an area completely controlled by Israel. This community has been living under occupation since 1967 but what does this “opening” actually mean? And how will it impact Palestinians whose freedom of movement has been denied and whose lives have been disrupted since the 1st November 2015 last year?
23.05.16, Tel Rumeda, Kanafe is a traditional Arabic cheese pastry with a shredded wheat top crust drenched in sugar syrup. Photo EAPPI