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Diary: East Jerusalem evictions

Rami Hannoun | Al Jazeera

Rami Hannoun keeps watch overnight in case the Israeli authorities come to evict the families

Rami Hannoun keeps watch overnight in case the Israeli authorities come to evict the families

22 April 2009

The Hannouns are one of three families who have had been ordered by an Israeli court to leave their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.

The families, refugees who lost their original houses when they were occupied in 1948, say they were allowed to build new houses on land allocated by the United Nations under Jordanian administration.

A Jewish organisation, the Committee for Sephardic Jews which operated during the British mandate in Palestine, claims ownership of the land it says it lost during riots before 1948.

The Israeli foreign ministry, the prime minister’s office and the Jerusalem municipality all declined to comment on the case, saying the dispute was a “private matter” between citizens argued out in court.

East Jerusalem is, under international law, an occupied territory and Israel has no authority to change its composition.

The Hannouns are keeping watch for the Israeli police in shifts, with 21-year-old Rami, the eldest son of Maher and Nadia Hannoun, taking the night shift.

Rami has lived in the house all his life, along with his two sisters, 17-year-old Jana and 12-year-old Diala.

He will post regular video and text diaries on this page as both families anxiously await eviction.

Wednesday, April 22: ‘Today a group of priests visited our home’

Today I woke up late and I found the house full of our neighbours and my mother told me that a group of Palestinian students visited us who were coming from the [protest] tent in Silwan.

My father, just like always, explained our situation. Then after that a group of priests came by and visited us and we also told them our story.

During the day, some of the neighbours made a speech to all the groups.

Then one of my sisters took the camera with one of the international protesters and went to try and speak to one of the settlers who was going to pray at the cave where all the Jewish people come and pray because they think there is a rabbi is buried there.

My sister tried to take some pictures of him but the settler refused.

Today, I also had training to go to, but I couldn’t go because the house was full and I couldn’t leave my parents while the house was full of people.

Then I did an interview with my mom and she told me the whole story about our house.

After that my mom made us some food for the first time in two weeks because today she finally had some time to make us something to eat.

Tuesday, April 21: ‘My sisters left the house as my father is afraid for them’

“The Israelis are kicking us out of these houses because they say they own this land – that they have owned it since a long time ago.

Actually, they have a fake paper that says they own it since a long time ago, but we also have papers that go back to the Ottomans period which say that we own this land – that a Palestinian man owns this land and that this land was given to us actually by the Jordanian government and the UN built us these houses.

We are actually waiting every moment for them to come and evict us. My sisters had to leave the house because my father is afraid of them, and our house is completely transformed into another house.

It is not the house that we used to live in. It is not the house we grew up in.

We have lots of internationals [anti-eviction protesters] living with us. We are not living as a family any more, but they are supporting us.

Some nights I stay awake with some internationals, we play cards and smoke hubbly bubbly or something. This makes the time go faster so you cannot feel the time.

My father has not been to work in 40 days because he is afraid the police will come any second, and because he also has to receive lots of internationals and explain to them our story.

My sisters can hardly sleep. They sleep at my grandmother’s because we are afraid for them because of the police and soldiers.

They are too young right now and they cannot handle what is going on. And actually, in front of us they are showing us they are strong, but deep inside they are not strong, they cry to their friends.

Today there was an article in the newspaper. It says that the United Nations are asking Israel to stop evicting Palestinians from their houses in Sheikh Jarrah.

It made me just a little bit optimistic because I hope we will not be evicted from our house.”

Sunday, April 19: ‘I stayed up all night with Israelis who support us’

“It’s my 34th day [on nightwatch]. I woke up and I found the house full of people.

There were a group of Palestinian girls who studied at a college who had heard about our story and came to see us, to understand what is the real situation.

My father explained our case to them. After that, our lawyer came and he was searching for a solution for our case.

International campaigners, including anti-eviction Israelis, are camped out at the house
Then I went to my grandmother’s house. She made lunch for me because my mother wasn’t able to make food because the house was full of people and she didn’t want to leave them.

After that, we had a meeting with some of the international [anti-eviction protesters] who are supporting us. We sat together talking and then I stayed the whole night with them and the Israelis who have come to support us.

The whole situation I am passing through is making me stronger and stronger and it won’t make me give up even if I am getting a little bit tired.

I will always defend my house that I grew up in and lived in for all my childhood.