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Today in Jerusalem

3 November 2009 | de l’autre côté du mur

When talking about Palestine and Palestinian’s rights it is difficult to decide where to start. So I will just tell you day about my day of today.

9:39am: I am drinking my second cup of tea, trying to do my arabic homework, (last minute as usual) when I got a text message “DWG alert : demolition ongoing of a structure in Abu Dur in East Jerusalem. For further info call xxx”. I ring the number, try to get info about this address and figure out if it is still time to get there or if everything is already over.

I jump into a taxi, and start grumbling against Jerusalem’s traffic. When we reach Abu Dur, a truck blocks the street. I get out the taxi, decided to find the place walking. But I realize I am in a very Jewish and “bourgeois” neighbourhood. Obviously nobody is going to demolish anything here. Did I misunderstood the indication? Did the taxi driver make a bad joke? I get down the hill looking for buldozers. Finally the neighbourhood’s look changes. Smaller houses, pourer, narrow streets. Much more arabic looking. And suddenly 4 soldiers heavily equipped. They stare at me. I don’t look very local. “Where are you going?” “I’m visiting” “Visiting whom? “nobody, just looking for a nice place to take photos” “Passport?”

10:25am: After checking my passport they let me go through. I hate them but at least I know I am on the right way now. And a few hundreds meters further I reach the crime scene. The house, I mean the rubble.


A woman crying, another shouting her anger. Buldozers and police left a few minutes ago. Men from the family and neighbours are already active trying to clean the place. They received an order from the municipal representative to clear out all the rubble that used to be their home within a week, otherwise they would receive a fine.


The few belongings the family managed to save are piled on the street. A children bike, books, a cupboard, toys, kitchen items. That’s it. 2 houses, 16 persons just lost their all house, home, history, dignity, hope.

The father of the family fainted twice during the demolition, and was hospitalized.

Atmosphere is oppressive. A few people taking pictures, a few journalists. I meet people from Icahd, the ngo I volunteer with. Closed faces. What can we do or say? I don’t know and feel ashamed and sad.

11am: Time to go. I’m already late for my arabic class though I promised myself I would not miss any.

During an hour and half I try to focus on grammar. I don’t feel comfortable to speak about much with other students. This is life in Israel. Deal with ignorance at the best, and hate at the worst in your daily life.But I am the lucky one, I can go from one side to the other.

13h50: I am at Icahd’ office in West Jerusalem. I am determined to focus on the advocacy document I am supposed to work on.

14h: phone call: new house demolition in Beit Hanina. We try to get more information before jumping into a taxi again, an arab one preferably cause others usually refuse to go to this part of Jerusalem.

14h30 : still in the taxi, tens of phone calls to try to locate the house.


15h : we found it. Again to late. Buldozers left half an hour ago. 22 persons homeless. A family with 10 children, plus grand-children. This house was built seven years ago. They have already payed 42000 shekels ( more than 8000 euros) as fines to ‘regularize’ their situation. Yesterday, the court ruled it was illegal. This morning the family received demolition order. this afternoon the buldozers.

Some families live years under demolition order. Not them. You never know when and where they are going to demolish one of the thousands of houses declared illegal. And one day, you see the buldozers coming, you have ten minutes to pack and then it’s over. A woman from the family fainted when she saw the buldozers. The army called an ambulance. The ambulance treated her. Then the army gave the family the bill for the ambulance… They will then receive the bill for the demolition cost. Arrogance, cynism have no limit here.


A few months ago, the municipality told the family that if they would destroy by themselves the small annex they have, they would not touch the main house. The owner did it. He took off the roof and walls of the adjacent small building. Now he has absolutely nothing.

Is it necessary to add that it is raining and cold winter has just started.


I am there with an israeli activist from Icahd. Communication is therefore in hebrew. I can just take a few pictures. The only one smiling here is the little girl, maybe 4 years old. She asks me “Leish?” showing the destroyed house. This, I understand : “Why?”. I cannot answer anything, in whatever language.

After a few months of pause, the municipality of Jerusalem has clearly reinstated its illegal and racist policy of house demolitions in East Jerusalem. 11 within the last 3 weeks. These houses are ruled illegal by a municipality which does not grant any construction permits to Arabs but who promotes illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

My day is not over but it’s enough for now, Masalama.