The Oven vs. the District Civil Administration, Ministry of Defense, State of Israel
This is not a joke. It is one of the ugly faces of the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land and lives. We saw the offending oven with our own eyes in the village of Um al Kher a few days ago. It`s a beautiful taboon ~ the traditional Bedouin mud oven. We also met a local artist, Eid Sulieman Hadaleen, who relates the story.
Fortunately for our team, our arrival in the village coincides with the baking, and in typical Palestinian style, we are given the first hot, freshly baked round of bread directly from the taboon. While sharing bread together, we listen to Eid talk about the various issues facing his village, including that of the oven. “But what is the problem with the oven?” we ask. In our experience, a woman bakes fantastic bread, feeds her family, and shares it with visitors. It seems like a good thing!
Eid tells us that “particularly at this time of year…the eastern winds blow the smoke from the oven toward the newest extension of the Karmel settlement,” which happens to be oven’s closest neighbor. Eid continues, “The smoke annoys the settlers.” And thus the court case against the oven, calling for its demolition. We shake our heads in disbelief. A ruling is expected this month.
Because Um al Kher is in Area C (see The A, B, Cs of Occupation), which is under full Israeli control, Eid and his community face a host of problems: restricted access to water and farm land, no public services, little freedom of movement, a constant military presence, routine harassment from settlers, severe building limitations, and demolition orders. The 300 registered refugees who live in the community are part of the Hadaleen Bedouin tribe that Israel expelled from their original home in the Negev desert during the 1948 war. In 1981 Israeli occupation authorities established the settlement of Karmel on lands belonging to the community of Um al Kher and the Palestinian town of Yatta. Currently, a barbwire fence separates the Palestinian village and this illegal Israeli settlement of approximately 400 people.
The entire village of Um al Kher is under threat of demolition, and the bulldozers have visited the village numerous times since 2007. The most recent house to be demolished by the Israeli army was in January of this year ~ 8 people were left homeless. Five months ago the Israeli authorities demolished an outhouse that had been erected and donated by an international humanitarian organization to aid a handicapped villager. And now the settlers want their government to demolish the village oven!
We enjoy the taboon bread and listen to Eid’s story in stunned silence. We ask him to call if the army or the settlers come to the village. We thank him for the bread and photograph the offending oven ~ The bottom line ~ The state acceded to the settlers’ demands and issued an order against the oven from the “Civil Administration for the Judea and Samaria region, Supreme Planning Council, subcommittee for supervision” ~ a standard order representing a hierarchy of authorities the state has made responsible for “maintaining law and order” in the occupied territory ~ It’s hard to see how an oven is a threat to law and order ~ Are we missing something? ~ In the context of military occupation, one quickly learns that nothing makes any sense!