Abu Saleh, a 73-year-old farmer, speaks with a raspy but strong voice as he points to his crops. “Everything you see around you is food grown from my own land. These carrots, this zucchini, these olives…they are all part of my survival.” He lifts his head, his voice starting to shake with anger. “Now they want to tear down my home and remove me from my livelihood. They want to rip my heart from my land – just to put the heart of someone else.”
Abu Saleh is a resident of Ramiya, an Arab community of 50 families nestled within the Jewish city of Karmiel in northern Israel. The vast majority of visitors to Karmiel will never know that Ramiya exists at all: it is hidden behind a wall of clustered bushes, making it easily mistakable for forestation that was waiting to be cleared. From the main road, the only sign of the village’s existence is a wooden shack with a banner reading “Remaining in Ramiya” in Arabic and Hebrew next to an image of the Palestinian cartoon Handala stopping a bulldozer in its tracks.
Ramiya, which has been continuously populated since the Ottoman Empire, once encompassed nearly 600 dunams, or 150 acres, of agricultural land. But in 1976, the Israeli government seized most of the village’s property along with those of many other Arab villages across the Galilee. On March 30th of that year, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel protested the sweeping confiscations in what became the first “Land Day,” a day of protest and commemoration marked every year since. The 1976 demonstrations, some of which were held not far from Ramiya, were brutally suppressed by Israeli police, who killed six Palestinian protesters and wounded scores more.
The confiscated land was used to build hundreds of new Jewish towns and cities in line with a national development plan called “the Judaization” of northern Israel. Karmiel, the city that surrounds Ramiya today, was established on land belonging to several Palestinian villages, including Ramiya. Today luxury apartments belonging to wealthy Jewish Israelis cover the area, with construction sites nearby breaking ground in preparation to build even more. “Israelis forget that we were not dropped onto Karmiel,” says Abu Saleh. “Karmiel was dropped onto us.”
For years the Karmiel Municipality has pressured its Palestinian residents to yield the remainder of their property and to relocate to another area...Read More