It was in November that we attended a wake. We walked silently through the rubble of stones and twisted rebar. We paid our respects to the families. We watched as the children and youth collected the steel “rubber” (coated) bullets, empty shells of sound bombs and tear gas canisters, arranging them in patterns on a pink blanket. We sat in a circle with the people of Haris Village in the northern West Bank as tea was served to those gathered. Everyone spoke in whispers. Two houses had died and with them the hopes and dreams of two families. A father told us how he had nearly finished the “add-on” ~ a gift to his son who was to be married in two months. The shock, horror and grief were palpable ~ It was enough to break your heart.
The bulldozers had come the day before. Within a couple of hours the deed was done and the bulldozers had pulled out of town, leaving devastation and destruction in their wake. Not just devastation of homes, but of lives and hearts. They left, but not before there had been a clash with villagers who were non-violently protesting this inhumane act. Some were taken to hospital. A few suffered broken bones. All suffered broken hearts.
When a home is demolished, often families are given only minutes to rescue a mere few belongings from the jaws of the bulldozer. Sometimes there is no warning given. All of their possessions are buried in the rubble. We were told that the beginning of winter is often a time of increased demolitions as Israel needs to spend its “demolition budget” by year end. Thus amid the cold and rain, the dark and damp of winter, hundreds of men, women and children are left homeless. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) provides tents, blankets and basic necessities, but how does one tend to broken hearts?
Since 1967, over 27,000 Palestinian structures have been demolished by the State of Israel, many more than once. Also last November, Beit Arabiya in Anata, just northeast of Jerusalem, was demolished for the sixth time in 15 years ~ two of these occurring at the beginning and end of 2012. This home has become a symbol ~ an icon. It has been dedicated as a Centre for Peace. As an act of resistance, it has been repeatedly rebuilt by The Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, an organization that works tirelessly to stop this immoral, insane practice.
In 2012, there were 599 Palestinian structures demolished in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, displacing 886 people, 474 of whom were children (UNRWA). They were offered nothing ~ no alternative housing ~ no compensation (as if one could be compensated for the wanton destruction of one’s home) ~ often only given a bill for all costs associated with the demolition of their own home. It’s all part of Israel’s plan. They want the land without the people. The government rejects 94% of Palestinian applications for building permits, and then they knock their houses down for daring to resist. It’s a crime.
Last week I read the February 11 and February 18 blog posts of my Canadian colleague, Jan, who is currently serving with EAPPI in East Jerusalem. As she shared the pain and heartbreak of the two home demolitions recently attended by her team, I was taken back to that November day in Haris village 3 months ago ~ The sun was shining but the universe wept and so did we, as our team of EAs sat with those Palestinian families in the wake of those bulldozers that had destroyed their homes and their hopes ~ I wonder … How can a human being ram a bulldozer into the home of another human being? ~ Unless of course they have come to see the other as less than human …
Things have a way of happening. Yesterday I thought I had finished this blog, but then last night I had the privilege of hearing Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, as part of Israeli Apartheid Week at the University of Alberta. They spoke to a packed house of over 200 people from all walks of life, all religions, all ages and stages. Their daughter Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on 16 March 2003, while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition. On this 10th anniversary of her death, as we listened to Rachel’s story and honoured her legacy, we heard her amazing parents speak passionately about the need for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and lives ~ about their hopes for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.
As we dispersed into the wintery night, I thought ~ “Never again” must not be reserved for Jews alone or any one group of people. Jews, yes, but never again should encompass every human being ~ Never again should a family be forced from their home and from their land ~ Never again should a bulldozer crush to death someone who is standing against brutality and for peace ~ Never again should uprooted trees, devastated homes, shattered dreams, broken bodies and broken hearts be left in the wake of a bulldozer.
I cannot “unsee” what I have seen. I can only choose to be silent or to speak ~ to be apathetic or to act ~ May we each find our voice ~ May we resolve to speak and act against injustice! ~ In so doing we honour Rachel’s legacy ~ How can we do less?