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As Israel prepares to demolish Bedouin school, activists lay out backpacks for each student

As Israeli authorities prepare to demolish Khan al-Ahmar’s school, a group of activists lay backpacks outside Israel’s Supreme Court — one for each student who may soon find himself without a place to learn. 

All That's Left activists place backpacks outside Israel's Supreme Court to protest the decision to demolish the village of Khan al-Ahmar, including its eco-friendly school, which serves the local Bedouin population, Jerusalem, July 10, 2018. (Courtesy of All That's Left)

All That’s Left activists place backpacks outside Israel’s Supreme Court to protest the decision to demolish the village of Khan al-Ahmar, including its eco-friendly school, which serves the local Bedouin population, Jerusalem, July 10, 2018. (Hailey Mann)

A group of Israeli and foreign Jewish activists laid 174 backpacks outside Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning as a protest against the impending demolition of the entire village of Khan al-Ahmar, including its school. Each backpack, say the activists, was meant to represent a student who studies at the “tire school” and will be left without a place to learn.

The action, organized by All That’s Left, a collective of anti-occupation activists living in Israel-Palestine, comes less than 24 hours after the High Court issued the second of two temporary injunctions against Israel’s plans to demolish the village and forcibly displace its residents.

The school, built in 2009 out of mud, tires, and clay with the help of an Italian NGO that specializes in ecological structures, serves the Bedouin Palestinian population in the area. Just a month after it opened, the Israeli army ordered it demolished.

Abby Kirschbaum, an activist with All That’s Left, told +972 that the group wanted to bring attention not only to the demolition itself, but the way in which it compromises children’s access to education.

“Everyone can relate to carrying their backpack to school, and we wanted to use an image that shows that these children are real people,” Kirschbaum said. “The backpack is a tool of humanization.”

The activists are planning on donating a portion of the backpacks to the children of the Khan al-Ahmar, complete with a care package.

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Members of All That’s Left are among a number of solidarity activists — Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals — who have been spending time in Khan al-Ahmar over the past few weeks, many of them sleeping in the school’s courtyard, in the run-up to the demolition.

Students walk in the yard of the school in Khan al-Ahmar, February 23, 2017. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Students walk in the yard of the school in Khan al-Ahmar, February 23, 2017. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

The destruction of Khan al-Ahmar and displacement of its residents is part of Israel’s plan to expand its settlements in the E-1 area, a 12 sq. kilometer area located between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim. For decades, Israel has hoped to build up the area with settlements in order to connect the two cities. Doing so would bifurcate the West Bank, leading to what many have described as the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.

For the activists of All That’s Left, however, their most pressing concern is the humanitarian one. “We wanted to address the issue of the school itself, says Kirschbaum. “It is part of a community that represents no security risk to Israel, so why is the state treating these children like they are a threat?”

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