Yesterday, two friends and I went down to Al-Araqib to support the residents, whose homes had just been destroyed for the 101st time on Wednesday. Some make-shift homes were already set up. We spent most of the time listening to speeches in a language we could barely understand, and then we were invited into the home of some of the women. It’s a tent– not dissimilar to the one people sleep in on Birthright trips– with a bed or two, some mattresses and a mini-fridge.
Ismeh, one of the women there, asked how we can help. She asked if we can we raise money for the residents? She isn’t from Al-Araqib, but from a nearby village, and demolitions are common in the area. She explained that each demolition costs thousands of shekels for the resident, as the government charges them for the demolition, and that each time, they need to buy some new items each time their tents are demolished, which sometimes happens as often as twice a month.
Aliah, a resident of Al-Araqib, asked if we can be there during demolitions or send others. She herself was arrested earlier this week from standing in front of a JNF bulldozer that was clearing land. She explained that:
“We women have an active role during demolitions. The police treat us differently, better. When we stand in front of bulldozers, they are less harsh with us, so we go instead of the men.”
Over the past two weeks, demolitions have been picking up inside the 1948 borders of Israel, particularly in Al Araqib and Umm Al-Hiran, both unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev. While Al-Araqib has been destroyed now 101 times, the JNF bulldozers returned for the first time in four years on July 17th. The JNF began working even though they are in the midst of a legal battle in the courts, who has yet to give a final word as to who owns the land.
This morning, bulldozers arrived to Umm Al-Hiran, another unrecognized village slated for demolition. The bulldozers worked near the houses, and six people, including at least one child, were arrested.
One can read this and argue that this is state land and not private property, as the Israeli government has said since the 1950s. We can convince ourselves that racism against the Arab minority is not at the heart of this issue. And while there have been Jews kicked out of their homes, most famously from Givat Amal, it is certainly not common. For Palestinians, however, within the green line and in the West bank, demolitions are a known tool and practice used to force Palestinians out of their homes and into larger cities. As I write this, there are new threats of demolition of Umm Al-Kheir in the West Bank and a court case tomorrow on the fate of Susiya, both in Area C.
My friend pointed out to me yesterday that the JNF actually destroyed trees in Al-Araqib in order to plant a forest. How fruitless that feels.
What is the fate of Umm Al-Hiran? Once destroyed, the government will build a new, Jewish town there in the name of Hiran.
How will we as Jews feel years from now standing in Hiran in the ruins of other peoples’ houses? I, for one, don’t want to find out.
Campaigns to support both villages are in the process of being set-up. Jewish-Israeli and diaspora activists have also been present throughout the past few weeks, and some have been arrested as well. If you can go and support, it will be met with thanks. And for those of us who can’t physically be there, (at least, not every day) learning and spreading this information is important and will help gain traction for when campaigns reach the public in the upcoming days or weeks.
Some helpful links that give some basic background:
http://972mag.com/home-demolitions-are-organized-state-violence/121017/ (<–Demolitions in the West Bank)