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Palestinian family struggles to survive after repeated home demolitions

The Jordan Valley village of Hadidiya is no stranger to human rights violations by Israeli authorities. This is the story of one family whose life and livelihood have been affected by home demolitions, time and time again.

By Nancy Hawker

General view on the demolition in Al-Mayta.

House demolition in the Jordan Valley. (photo: Activestills)

“Watch out! The bulldozers and the jeeps are coming.”

Shirin Salamein heard the warning from one of her neighbors as she finished milking her sheep and goats close to her home. She lives in the village of Hadidiya, behind the Israeli settlement of Ro’i in the West Bank.

“I was about to start making cheese, and there was not enough time to get everything out of the way,” she told us. “The children, the livestock, food: we had no time. The sheep were all scattered over the land. We had to rebuild everything. Thank God, we survived.”

The village of Hadidiya in the northern Jordan Valley and located in Area C (under full Israeli civil and military control), is home to around 150 people. Living in tents and shacks, the local shepherds make a living on the reddish, rocky earth.

Shirin’s family has become used to demolitions. Their homes and the buildings were knocked down by the Israeli army twice in the summer of 2013 – and four times before that.

The young mother invited me to her tent to meet her family. Clotheslines criss-crossed the “room” laden with clean wet laundry. On the floor there was a mattress and under a heavy blanket two small children.

Caring for her children hasn’t been easy, particularly in the summer heat when their home was demolished. According to the Israeli army, the simple shacks, tents and animal pens are illegal because they do not conform to Israeli plans for the area, which is under complete military jurisdiction.

Local Palestinians have no input into the planning decisions for Area C, which benefit Jewish-only settlements. So far in 2014, the Israeli government has issued construction tenders for more than 1,000 new housing units. According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, 565 structures were demolished there in 2013. More than 800 people lost their homes. One of the most recent demolitions took place on 3 December, three days before we visited.

Meanwhile, the Israeli settlements neighboring Hadidiya boast guest houses, extensive agricultural lands and red-roofed villas.

But despite Israeli efforts to remove her community, Shirin values her way of life. She and other women in the community have an essential role in its economy, which relies on the production of dairy and meat products. These are sold in the market in the city of Nablus, approximately 20 kilometers away.

To make a living, the community needs to use the pasture lands of the hills of Hadidiya. This is why the residents remain in the village, despite human rights violations by the Israeli authorities, including obstacles in access to routine health services.

Shirin’s second child suffers from severe cerebral palsy – he has to be cared for in the summer heat during demolitions as well as during the winter rains. He was born in a hospital in Jerusalem after neighbors managed to get a military ambulance to take Shirin there. But since the birth, she has not been able to get a travel permit for her son to receive the treatment he desperately needs.

“There has been no more treatment for my son since the birth; he’s in the hands of God,” she said.

Shirin also faced the consequences of the travel bans when her third child was born and her family had to negotiate with the Israeli army for an ambulance to be allowed to take her to the hospital in Nablus. The Palestinian ambulance was only allowed to pick her up with an Israeli military escort.

January in Hadidiya is the season when the hills are green and the animals produce more milk. It is also  “demolition season” – every building in the community is at risk.

“Every day, I do the milking at dawn, start making cheese, then prepare breakfast, then wash the clothes and clean the homes. All the time I’m looking out to see if there’s going to be a demolition. The biggest problem here is the demolitions,” she said.

Under international law, the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal, and demolition of Palestinian property is prohibited unless absolutely necessary for military operations. But in Hadidiya, the Israeli authorities are determined to bulldoze through their homes, and international law.

Nancy Hawker is a Campaigner in the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

Related:
PHOTOS: Palestinians establish new protest village in Jordan Valley
WATCH: Jordan Valley settlements drying up Palestinian water supply

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Danny

      The next time someone asks why Israel should be boycotted, refer them to this piece. Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley is reason enough to BDS this country back to the 1970′s.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ginger Eis

        Danny, perhaps you can (a) define “ethnic cleansing” for us, (b) answer the questions below constructively, and after that (c) tell us if you retract- or still stand by the accusation of “ethnic cleansing”. This is a challenge, Danny. Be a man this time and don’t run from the debate.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ginger Eis

      How do you violate the human rights of someone who (a) without building permit (b) builds a structure on (c) an isolated piece of land he owes not, with (d) the knowledge that the structure will be demolished and after it has been demolished (e) rebuilds the same structure at the same place, with (f) the knowledge that the second structure will be demolished and after the second structure has been demolished, (g) rebuilds the same structure yet again, while other alternatives are available?

      Why should building permit be issued to someone who (a) has no money to build a house as prescribed by law, to (b) build isolated Ashanti-huts on (c) land(s) he has no private ownership of?

      What I see here is a difficult situation driven by culture of poverty. Amnesty Int., Oxfam. Etc. should be providing these poor people with (job)education, jobs, etc. and wean them off nomadic lifestyle, instead of pontificating ad nauseam and making false allegations against Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tim Arnold

        So explain why the hundreds of of illegal israeli settlements remain untouched. Not only untouched but connected to isreali power and water and serviced by settler only roads.

        Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        Ginger you should know by now that Israel rarely, if ever, gives building permits to Palestinians. The land where Israel is demolishing homes is not Israel. It is the occupied West Bank where Israel, in violation of international law, continues to build settlements, settlements that never have a problem getting building permits.
        Right now the illegal Jewish settlers have all the rights in the occupied territories. They can harm Palestinians, firebomb their homes, beat elderly farmers, destroy Palestinian olive trees, stone Palestinian kids on their way to school and be backed by the IDF. It is the Palestinians, living under the Israeli boot, who have no human rights. Time you opened your eyes and recognized that.

        Reply to Comment
      • sh

        “Local Palestinians have no input into the planning decisions for Area C, which benefit Jewish-only settlements. So far in 2014, the Israeli government has issued construction tenders for more than 1,000 new housing units. According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, 565 structures were demolished there in 2013. More than 800 people lost their homes. One of the most recent demolitions took place on 3 December, three days before we visited.

        Meanwhile, the Israeli settlements neighboring Hadidiya boast guest houses, extensive agricultural lands and red-roofed villas.”

        To make it even easier for you, let’s add: “To make a living, the community needs to use the pasture lands of the hills of Hadidiya. This is why the residents remain in the village, despite human rights violations by the Israeli authorities, including obstacles in access to routine health services.”

        Next time maybe read the article before commenting?

        Reply to Comment
      • Rau

        a) has no money to build a house as prescribed by law, (c) land(s) he has no private ownership

        Ginger, suppose she has enough money for the land and house construction, will israeli authority issue the permit?

        Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          IF he has enough money to build, the place he wants to build must also be designated as residential area (not a park or somewhere already allocated for road-constructions, etc.) and may not belong to someone else. If the land belongs to someone else or is public property, he would have to lease or buy it BEFORE applying for building permit. BTW. I appreciate your very good and engaging question. You see, the problem from my point of view is not what the author of the article alleges against Israel, but that the Pals are not making good use of the Israeli Courts. Everywhere you go, governments always find something to deny applications for building permit (even the PA does that). If the matter comes to the Israeli Court, the Court will have to look at ALL aspects of the dispute including the possible discriminatory nature of the zoning plan.

          Reply to Comment
    3. JG

      “How do you violate the human rights of someone who (a) without building permit (b) builds a structure on (c) an isolated piece of land he owes not, with (d) the knowledge that the structure will be demolished and after it has been demolished (e) rebuilds the same structure at the same place, with (f) the knowledge that the second structure will be demolished and after the second structure has been demolished, (g) rebuilds the same structure yet again, while other alternatives are available?”

      Thanks for clarifying that occupying jewish settlers have no human rights in Palestine.

      Reply to Comment

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