17 March 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
On March 15th at 16:00 we got a call about three house demolitions in the village of Al Jiftlik, near the Jordan Valley. We threw ourselves into the first public transportation vehicle to take us to the village. It was dusk when we came to the outskirts of the village where we met our contact person.
He quickly fixed up a car, and we got straight to the first house which was adjacent to the highway. Here we found two families standing before the ruins of their homes. They are seven people in all, including three children, one of whom is sick. It is the second demolition for one of the families, the first for the other.
We talked to Bashir Mbarak Basharat Yousef Ibrahim, a local, who described to us what happened. He explained that just two hours before, about one hundred Israeli soldiers with bulldozers had restricted access to the area around the house. He had tried to take pictures with his camera phone, but a soldier took the phone away from him and deleted the images. Five months ago locals were told not to build anymore on the house. No family members had been allowed to go in and fetch any belongings before the demolition.
That night they were accommodated by helpful neighbors, but in the future they do not know what to do.
We jumped back into the car and moved onto the next family consisting of ten family members. Sulaiman Omar Daragmeh told us what happened to them. He says that they had had a demolition order issued on the house. Around 15:00 the same Israeli soldiers came from Bashir Mbaraks house. Three family members were given 15 minutes to enter the house and retrieve personal belongings. No furniture or larger objects were possible to get out of the house.
The soldiers also destroyed the olive trees around the house. He constantly repeated the soldiers’ violence, and in his shrill voice is heard despair. He says that they are farmers and have no other income.
Because they live far out in a field, there are no neighbors to help, so this family had to sleep without a roof over their heads. But they will not give up, they stated, and they intend to stay and will try to get help from the local district administration.
We moved on to the third and final family consisting of seven people.
Ayman Mahmoud says that the Israeli soldiers came at 16:00 to demolish their house. They had received a demolition order a month and a half ago. Two family members were given 15 minutes to retrieve personal valuables before the bulldozer destroyed their homes. This family owns many sheep, who were frightened by the soldiers, violence, and bulldozers. Fifteen had run away of which two were killed by the bulldozer. They managed to capture five of the escaped sheep again.
After their home was destroyed they also received a bill for the demolition. They did not know how much they must pay. This family also lives just outside of the village so no neighbors could help them for the night. The family will sleep under the open sky, or possibly under a broken plastic sheet formerly used as an animal shelter.
The soldiers left them with the words “If you build here again, we will demolish the house over your head.”
When we left the family, we heard children crying and were overwhelmed by powerlessness. The situation is totally unreal.
Al Jiftlik is a village with about 5000 inhabitants, situated in the Jordan Valley. This area is one of the most fertile agricultural areas in Palestine. Many households subsist on farming. The village is located in Area C, which means that Israel has the right to administer and manage the area to suit their purposes. The consequences are that families who live in Area C are not licensed for their homes or workplaces, and that Israeli soldiers may come at any time with a bulldozer and demolish houses. They also receive daily disruptions in electricity and water supply, like a recent three day cut to water supplies.
It rained, hailed, and stormed a lot tonight. Two of these three families were sleeping under the stars. What we can do for these families is to show that they are not forgotten. The only thing they asked for was to tell their stories and disseminate information about inhumane Israeli policies.
Kim is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).