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Thousands of Palestinians Regularly Rendered Homeless

by Kristin Ess

Last night 30 invading Israeli soldiers tore through a house on the edge of a Bethlehem refugee camp. Arriving in 12 heavily armoured jeeps with blue lights flashing at midnight, they took measurements of the house, home to several units of the same extended family, and the house next door.

That house is small, someone’s grandmother’s home. She is sitting in a chair in her leafy garden in front of the house. She is staring to the side, not speaking, not crying. The larger house, which Israeli soldiers will blow up the grandmother’s house in order to get to, has a roof that many nights during curfew people meet on, making a barbeque in an old can. It is impossible to meet in cafes or restaurants, most are closed because of curfew and there isn’t much money to spend anyway.

In the night after the Israeli soldiers left, people from the camp came out from their houses to help the families carry out their salvageable belongings. A replica of Al Aqsa mosque, a half smashed television, blankets, suitcases, a little girl comes out of the door with a backpack holding hands with a friend. She must find a new place to sleep, as must everyone. Friends from around the camp were shaking hands, one walked up to me and shrugged. The one whose house it is said, “thank you,” and “if God wills it.” Today women are lined up in chairs across the narrow ally street from the house accepting handshakes and kisses on the cheek from neighbors who come to offer condolences. They are all homeless now.

The Israeli soldiers said they would be back to blow up the houses. Maybe now, maybe later. No one knows as is normal in this campaign of psychological warfare that the Israeli military government is waging against the Palestinian people. They did the same thing in Deheisha camp 4 months ago and the people are still waiting, outside of their house, because at any moment Israeli soldiers might arrive to destroy it.

Israeli soldiers dug up the main road out of Beit Sahour, creating a roadblock higher than two cars atop one another. An old woman there tells me that her flower garden used to be so beautiful, that the stone fence in front of the road was so beautiful. There are tanks in the hill behind and jeeps driving past a road now gone to mud. My friends here keep telling me that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.