Accompany me on my travels as I experience, learn, serve, process, gripe, and grow.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

From Cavemen to Nomads

Recently our team visited a rural area in the South Hebron Hills called Susiya. Up until the 1980s, Susiya was a small village whose residents owned large tracks of the surrounding land. In 1982, an Israeli settlement took over the village and expelled the residents, including the family of the man we were visiting, Nasser.

While Nasser's family no longer has access to their former home, the Israeli Supreme Court has upheld their right to dwell on their farm land (the family has documents dating back to the Ottoman Empire which recognizing their ownership over this property). While it is unjust that Nasser has been pushed from his own home, one would also think that he could resume some sort of normal life on the remainder of his land. The catch is, Nasser is not allowed to build a single thing on his own property. The Israeli government has declared this land a "Security Buffer Zone" to protect the illegal Settlement at Susiya. So, no Palestinian is allowed to build anything at all in this area.

For a few years, Nasser was able to shelter his family in an ancient cave which existed on his property. They dug the cave out a bit more, and fashioned a door for it, and persisted on eking out their living herding goats, harvesting their olives, and planting small vegetable gardens. However, Nasser's presence on his land proved to be an irritation to the nearby Israeli Settlers who reside in his old home. So, the Israeli army issued a demolition order on Nasser's cave home. They came with bulldozers and back-hoes, demolishing Nasser's improvised dwelling. The remnants can be seen above.

Homeless, Nasser and his family received tents from the International Red Cross so that they would have some form of shelter in which to live. The Israeli army has again issued demolition orders, this time upon the tents! Thankfully, no one has bothered to follow through on this set of orders. Yet, Nasser and his family live in constant insecurity, unable to make any improvements to their land or their shelter.

Throughout the hillsides of the West Bank, countless heartbreaks like this one continue daily. Another nearby family has a demolition order on the latrine that an international aid agency helped them construct; again on their own property and near the tents that they are forced to live in. I have heard of other rural Palestinians who have had their wells demolished. All of this happens for "security reasons." I assure you, the Palestinian families do not feel more secure, and one starts to wonder why the alleged security needs of illegal Israeli settlers supersedes the local farmers' rights to security, to property, and to basic human dignity in these occupied territories.

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