Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Demolition

There’s a thump another thump and the sound of falling debris. There’s a lot of grey dust or is it smoke? I strain my eyes from the back window and still cannot make out what it is, but it is close to home. I hear the sound of earth movers and hasten down to the entrance of my building, peering gingerly out. Then I stand shocked, a small block of “rakevet” buildings is being willfully destroyed without any prior notice…to the neighbours! A man and woman stand nearby. It appears that for around sixty years, his parents owned one of the tiny corner houses on the ground floor, the one I admired as I passed daily, because the garden was so carefully nurtured. There was even a little bench for sitting..

Of course, it’s “pinui binui” — evacuation and rebuilding. It’s happening all around our neighbourhood. Of course, the tenants knew to expect this, but for all that, it was someone’s home.

My thoughts turn to Gaza. The image of  destroyed buildings hits me in the eye. Even the London Blitz, which I experienced as a child, comes to mind, as does the evacuation of Gush Katif.

However, these former tenants (my neighbours) will be gainfully rewarded and in two years, or maybe less, they will enter brand spanking new state of the art apartments. During that time, their rent in temporary accommodations will be guaranteed.

Not so the people in GAZA, who have been promised that their homes will be reconstructed and that those who can do it themselves will be supplied with building materials. It’s a year since Tsuk Eitan, but the images tell us something else. One could clearly call it lack of accountability on behalf of those who govern them. Or more proof of intention to further demoralise their citizens and increase the hatred which exists.

Only a few thousand people were evacuated from Gush Katif ten years ago. The scenes were horrific: people destroying the homes they had so lovingly built. Yet some are still waiting to be permanently settled. Is there a motive behind the fact that they have not been?

Few things can be more traumatic than seeing one’s home destroyed.

Even for those who build without permits — they are breaking the law. But if they have lived somewhere for many years, surely there are squatters rights?

We in Israel are becoming inured to what is going on around. We are more and more accepting. As long as one is personally well off, one refuses to become involved in issues that are also “blown up” by the media. Worse than that, we feel that the individual can do nothing against the powers that be.

So I am going to Sussiya on Friday to see what is happening to the people who live there and find out why they are being forced out of their homes.

We Jews most of whom have come from other lands are used to leaving our homes behind. We have never been “tsamud.” In Europe, unless you were landed gentry, there was not a tradition of hanging on to one’s home and land. In many places, Jews were not even allowed to own land. It’s different in our region, where land is being disputed daily. Is it ever going to change?

I have been spending time in Jerusalem in the flimsy tent which Women Wage Peace have made their temporary “home,” municipal permission notwithstanding. We are kind of becoming attached to the place next to the Prime Minister’s house, where there’s always action. People from north and south and overseas. People from every walk of life stop by to chat with us.

Yesterday, I became engaged in conversation with three bright-eyed teenage girls wearing tee shirts which said “We will return to “Har Habayit” (Temple Mount).

I asked them what they felt about the current impasse in negotiations to find a peaceful agreement to end conflict.

Their reply was, “There’s no need. All of Yehuda and Shomron is ours. It’s our land decreed by God. They must go — remember what Joshua said.”

Anything I tried to say after that was to no avail. After all, who knew more about the Bible?

I wonder how many more homes will be destroyed and lives lost by this attitude and whether that’s what the one God who unites us all said to the people of the three faiths?

I spent Friday in Sussiya, at least next to the archaeological dig that has a bright yellow sign so it can be found. The place I was, in a Bedouin settlement, has no name no sign in any language. Neither do any other Arab-inhabited places south of Hebron. It’s as though they do not exist.

Nine buses went down from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and one from Jericho. It was a sweltering hot day and I admit that I was reluctant to join the silent protest of so many well meaning and caring people. My conscience would not let me rest and I so wanted to meet the beautiful kids who had made a video asking us to come and stand with them. Demolition day hangs over them like the sword of Damocles.

This Bedouin settlement,Sussiya was first destroyed in 1986 to allow for the archaeological dig to take place after remains of a synagogue were found there. The people moved to live on their own fields and it was legally proven that they indeed owned the land. They have tried to get recognition ever since so that they could live with dignity. They have no services even though they are in Area C, completely controlled by Israel.

However, I understand that in 2001, their homes were again destroyed after a Jewish settler was killed, although there was no proof that a member of their family was guilty. Planning drafts were submitted to the civil administration, but no permission was received.

On August 3rd, the BAGATZ — high court — is to hear the case, but the judge responsible who could put out a restraining order has refused and demolitions are imminent as far as the people there know.

So will anyone shed a tear if these people are displaced again? Will people shrug and say “they are only Bedouin; they are used to moving around”?

Is this another issue too big for us ordinary citizens of Israel to deal with?

The dust will settle. What about the people?

About the Author
Zelda Harris first came to Israel 1949, aged 18. After living through the hardships of the nascent state, she returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.
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