by Leif, South Hebron Hills team
I am going from Jerusalem to our house in Yatta. It is easy to move with the local Palestinian small buses. The buses do not follow a schedule, but go once they are full. If you have to wait an hour, no one cares about it. Time is plentiful. Waiting is a part of life in the West Bank.
“I’m optimistic in the long term,” says the man next to me in the bus.
He points out that no country with such a system has ever survived in history.
Still the waiting erodes patience.
In the village of Um al Kher the taboun, a traditional outdoor oven, has given fresh bread for over fifty years. Such an oven is a focal point. A lifeline. Bread gives life. Water and bread. And some sheep, chickens and donkeys.
The land which the village is located on was bought for 100 camels after they fled in 1948 from what today is Israel. It was a high price. Since 1981, the village has been under pressure from the Israeli military and settlers. Today the price is not counted in camels. Today it is about the village and the children’s future. It’s about people’s lives.
Early on the morning of Monday 27 October, Israeli soldiers and police went into the village. They were joined by two bulldozers. Five houses were demolished as well as the taboun.
The next day, Tuesday, villagers build a new taboun to bake their bread.
The following day, Wednesday, Israeli soldiers return and destroy the new taboun.
Thursday, October 30, we drive into the village to see with your own eyes what has happened.
Almustasem Al-Hathaleen (26) tells what happened when they destroyed the houses and the oven. He believes the reason they destroyed the oven that did not have an demolition order was that the wind periodically blows against the Israeli settlement of hundred yards beyond. They do not like the smell of Palestinian bread, or the smell from the open fire in the taboun.
The neighbours have complained.
“We do not control the wind. It is beyond our control,” says Almustasem and shakes his head.
Not all Israelis are agree with what goes on. When we arrived at the village, there was a hive of activity to lay the groundwork to build new houses. Palestinians and Israeli peace activists working side by side. They sweat in the heat, and dust lies thick on the outside skin and clothing.
“I think the only solution is peace. When houses are being demolished, it destroys the heart. I am here for my own sake, and for my children’s sake, and to show that not all Israelis are dinosaurs”, says Israeli Eyal Shani who helped with the building.
Eyal added that he might not live to see when there is peace between neighbours, but that someone has to start working to achieve it. He has taken a day off from his work. He hopes that one day there will be no need to do what he does.
“When children see that their home is destroyed before their eyes, it does something to them. Soon they’re teenagers. What happens to them then?” asks Eyal.
He knows that hatred grows and patience runs out. He continues to carry crushed elements of the destroyed houses to build something of that which is overthrown.
I also take a bucket and fill it with pebbles and elements of what once was a wall. Large and smaller pieces. A sweat. There is a walk in sorrow. A Via Dolarosa on the West Bank. A walk of pain at the edge of the desert.
After a few hours in Um al Kher we drive some kilometers on bumpy roads to the village of Khashem ad Daraj. The day before they also received the visit of an bulldozer and Israeli soldiers. Some toilets, a cave, a shelter for sheep and a home was destroyed. Several more homes are under demolition orders.
We are served tea. Five children watch us. Two of them were at home when the soldiers came. The others were in school. The fear is great when strangers come to the house. They fear that soldiers will come again with guns in hand to tear down what little they have. And soon the winter will come.
*Read more about Um al Kher and its struggle to save the village taboun.