I heard a story today, about East Jerusalem. It’s about a family, a Palestinian family of Islamic Arabs, that want to build a home.
This family goes back generations, maybe 6 or 7, back into the histories of this land and this city. Jerusalem is their home, they have known no other. This family wants to build a home, or at least an addition to their family house. This house that they have lived in for years is on land that they have occupied for centuries. Like any modern home owner in any city in the world, they pay rates to the municipality to reside on that property. The young children are getting older, bigger, and the family is expecting a new baby soon. They want to extend their house, so they apply to the municipality for the rights to do this. They wait, months go by. 5, 6. Then a year. Then two years, then six, then ten. There is no response to their application. The children are all much, much older now, the baby born is already almost a teenager, the house has long outgrown them and still they hear nothing. They cannot wait any longer, so they build an extension without the necessary permit. When it is complete, they move the furniture in, followed by the family. Life carries on in this new space, 5 months, 6 months.
Then it happens. One night the family wakes up to the sound of heavy machinery maneuvering just outside their home. They are surrounded by large demolition vehicles and security forces. It is dark and the only lights are the strong beams from these machines, and the torches of soldiers, armed, some of them masked, who give the family only a short time to evacuate whatever and whoever they can, before the machines start to tear down their home. The destruction is not solely leveled at the new extension, only recently added on, but on the entire home. By the time day breaks and the machines lumber away, it is over. Nothing is left standing. What furniture they managed to move in the terror and the darkness stands exposed, scattered randomly where it fell when rushed from the house. The rest lies in amongst the rubble of the home. “This was an illegal house.” they are told again and again by the bland faced soldiers.
The property is still subject to tax, and if the family does not pay, they will be expelled from East Jerusalem. They must continue to pay the rates that are due on the rubble of their former life. There is a final rub here, a last official stamp that marks them as the second class citizens they have become. The city will not cover the cost of the machinery hire. The demolition vehicles that performed this operation are legally attached to the home owner who transgressed the city permit laws. They must pay for the hire of the machinery that destroyed their home. If they do not, they will be forced to leave.
This is just one story, from one day, from one family in East Jerusalem. There are many, many more.
Boycott Apartheid Israel. Free Palestine.