A day in Real Life
Today was an unforgettable day. In the morning, I went to ICAHD, the building camp, and we were informed that there was a demolition about to take place somewhere, either in A-Tour or E-Sawiyyeh. Meir said that not to provoke the Border Police, not everyone should come to follow the demolition team. We’ll have a chance to see the demolished houses later. So we left off, and after a while, we found out that the demolition was taking place in ANATA, not only in Anata but possibly, exactly, at our building site. So EVERYONE had a chance to witness!!!!
I don’t know whether to say “ironically” or “luckily,” but it wasn’t the house we were rebuilding; it was another house less than a hundred meters away. The police cars, individual units, Border Police, army, a bulldozer, jeeps – the whole set was right there in front of our eyes. Meir asked the internationals to stay away so that they wouldn’t get involved, and somehow, he didn’t want to provoke problems and make the Border Police come to the building site.
We were all stationed on the rooftop of a neighboring building, and we were all watching with silent rage and desperation what was about to happen. It was all there, like a live movie. Police dogs were the first to enter the site of the house. The police then started knocking the door down, and a few minutes they broke it and began. The house was empty of its tenants/ They surrounded the whole area and started emptying the home of its belongings.
From a distance, it looked like a very organized moving procedure: they were moving things, putting them in plastic bags, holding them, and putting them nicely at the side.
I couldn’t keep watching. I didn’t want to provoke the internationals into a situation where I don’t know its consequences. But I felt so useless.
I saw Meir, Shay, another Israeli volunteer, and one American volunteer closer to the house on one of the hilltops. I decided to go there and see if Meir would agree that we all go and try to do something to prevent the demolition or even reach the family. I went to them, and a moment later, we were confronted by three Border Policemen who were positioned to prevent us from getting any closer.
I went to the neighbors to ask about the family. How could we reach them?
The family, which consisted of nine people, had left the day before yesterday to Hebron to pay a visit to their family on the occasion of the engagement of their oldest daughter, and they were supposed to come back today.
From my place with Meir, Greg, and Shay, maybe the only thing we could do was intimidate those soldiers stationed next to us. They were behaving like robots. I was too angry to even “understand” they were being obliged to do whatever they were doing.
The area started to get surrounded by kids after half an hour. The police saw a Palestinian youth, they quickly went to him and tried to harass him. By then, the whole group was getting close, but they didn’t allow them to get as close as we did.
We were mean to the police and kept saying how bad they were. I yelled at them when they went to a boy, and as I saw those kids watching the demolition, I yelled at the police that, and in some years, when these kids grow up, you will wonder why they become what you would call terrorists. He responded: Why don’t they go to school? Why don’t they go to parks instead of coming here? And I was like: Because if you look around and see the facilities they have besides the natural dumpsters every centimeter, you would see that these kids live violence and terror; they have nothing.
It was so devastating, so unfair; we all felt useless and desperate. An old lady came and said that she was the house owner, and I had to go to them to explain to them what she was saying until they allowed her in. (It turned out that her son is the landlord). Luckily, maybe, they never suspected that I was a Palestinian, perhaps because I was so offensive and behaved as if I was so much in control. God, I was worried they would ask me for my identity card, and I would be DEAD.
When they finished demolishing, we all went to the site. A man came, the brother of the woman who lives in the house, and then another man, the owner, came. That old lady was sitting there crying, silently talking to herself. I walked through her belongings, and it killed me—a whole life of a family. A life memory, all packed and thrown in plastic bags next to rubble to what was once, not once, just a moment ago, a home. I saw school bags, books, a diary of a teenager, photo albums. The woman never expected to have “visitors” who would go into every detail of her life and her family’s. People are going through her personal belongings, her clothes, even her underwear. She didn’t know that her fridge would be lying in the road, about to be opened by total strangers; she didn’t know that the pans with left oil and grease inside the stove would be passed around through so many strangers invading what just a while ago her private life.
ICAHD decided quickly that this is a home we will rebuild at once, and by the end of the two weeks, we will hopefully get two homes rebuilt instead of one. Maybe that was hopeful. I don’t know if this is the solution. We know that they could come, actually WILL come back and destroy it, but at least we fill in a certain feeling of outrage and resist this unfair and unjust situation. It could be a kind of faint scream, but at the same time, a type of resistance that could, maybe, be helpful.
When we went back to Beit Arabiya, the home demolished and rebuilt four times, which serves as the base of the summer work camp, we suggested that we spend the rest of the afternoon at the newly destroyed family’s site. Maybe they need help; they would need the only non-effective thing we could offer: our support.
As we went there, I tried to stay with them as much as possible, feeling more and more desperate and ineffective. I found myself crying, looking at the poor woman who seemed to have been once upon a time, just a few hours ago, a strong woman, trying to hold back her tears, trying to manage a conversation. She kept going towards her belongings stuffed and thrown away close to the rubble from what just an hour ago was her home.
She would occasionally go inside the rubble, looking aimlessly towards things or objects she seemed not to know. She would go collect some items and try to put them together; she would check out some of the belongings and come back and sit speechlessly. I asked them what they were determined to do now, and they couldn’t answer; they didn’t know.
The family whose house was demolished couldn’t find refuge with their extended family because they, too, already lived in dangerous conditions, and they didn’t have any extra space. They couldn’t leave whatever was left, their hurled belongings, just like that. A state of complete loss, total defeat. No clue what will happen to them next? Nowhere to sleep, nowhere to go, no shelter of any kind. They were stuck, both of them unable to think or even have any clue of what to do or where to go next. I felt so bad, and again very ineffectual. If they needed anything, I asked them to call us, and we will try our best to help. We will be in the other building not far from them.
After an hour, I suggested that we go back to them again. They have decided to collect their stuff and go to Essawiyyah, where they have an empty piece of land, and they would put their stuff there and sleep there. Sleep there on the earth and get covered with the sky. This is not a metaphor or an attempt at poetry. This is all that they had.
The husband had already taken a load in his Ford and headed towards the other location. After 15 minutes, he came back with the stuff because the soldiers at the checkpoint refused to let him out, saying that they didn’t have the equipment to check the car, so if he wanted to pass, he would need to go to Kalandia, at the border with Ramallah, where they are EQUIPPED with the proper search equipment!!!!!!
LUCKILY, the neighbor from the different land, whose house had also been demolished, had a gate he could close so that their belongings would be safe.
They were hesitant to do it; the husband said that he didn’t know, so I stepped in and said, “You will have people trying to build the house again, the bulldozer started removing the rubble so that the workers start rebuilding tomorrow, and this man is offering a solution.” I looked at the man, and I asked him if he was serious; he said he was. I looked at the other one and asked: “What is the problem? Let’s start moving.” It was 5.30. I told him we had an hour where we could help. I will call the group, and we will do it quickly. Before they both even had time to think, I asked the volunteers if they were ready. One of them immediately went to call the rest, and in a minute, everyone was there. We created a chain between the two sites and started moving things.
It was the best thing we could have done. We finished in an hour.
I felt good that we had succeeded in at least being proactive and sound for once. It is so hard to think. It is so hard to think about that woman, about the man, about those children. I felt invaded and insecure the moment my purse was stolen the day before. It seemed the end of my security. I felt as if I was walking naked, without my wallet. What would this woman feel? She came home and didn’t find it. What would her teenage daughters feel? Their whole life was stolen from them today, right in front of their eyes. Yesterday they had a home, today it vanished, and it was demolished. And that poor man has a whole family who he seems to be worried about how to get them the bread of the day. Now, he cannot shelter them. What is left for them?
If losing a purse made me feel naked, how do they think?????? I felt invaded when I knew that the one who stole my disc-on-key would get to some personal stuff of mine.
What would this woman feel about total strangers holding her clothes, her underwear, her pots and pans, her whole life, her privacy, and passing them from hand to hand? Not only through the hands of the oppressors but through ours as well, those who were trying to help. Why would we have to see if she cleaned her fridge or not if she washed the dishes after her last meal at that house or not? Why would we have to have a look over a whole life that s not ours?
This family, a few hours ago, was just a family. We didn’t know anything about their existence, and now we’ve invaded them. This is so unfair. It s all unbearable. And at the end of all this, they wonder why these people become TERRORISTS.