No Room For Love
UM AL-KHAIR | 08.09.2011
By Awdah Hathaleen
In our village, we don’t have the luxury of water, even though the illegal settlement of Carmel next door enjoys as much water as they like. We aren’t even allowed to fix our wells, which are just holes in the ground to collect rainwater. We don’t have proper electricity, even though the electrical lines pass right over top of our homes and connect to the Israeli settlers. We aren’t allowed to even build proper homes to keep the weather out. Everything we do in Um al-Khair, we have to work hard for while we look over the fence and see how another community is given everything at our expense.
All of these things, the lack of water which prevents us from growing our gardens and watering our animals, to the lack of electricity to charge our phones and keep our refrigerators on, to not being able to sleep during the rainy and cold months, we have to develop an attitude of life which resists the thought of giving into the suffering. Even for small things, we have to work together if we want to succeed. When we accomplish these small things we rejoice, like the planting of a new olive tree or the birth of a new goat. So for the big things, like weddings and babies, these are things that have a real indescribable meaning for us.
A wedding is something a person has to work their whole young adult life for, and that is just for the normal Palestinian. But for us in Um al-Khair, we all have to work together to help a person get married, because they need a house, a job, and the things for their new family. When my youngest sister was going to get married, it was something our community had been planning for a very long time.
In Um al-Khair, thit is one of the hardest things to describe and tell the world about. You can document a house being destroyed, the walls crumbling, and the roof falling in. But you cannot record someone’s heart being torn apart, or the fear that becomes entrenched in their souls; how this trauma breaks apart relationships and how the fear of another demolition can impact the way a person raises their child. These are all things that cannot be caught by a camera.
Having my youngest sister’s wedding be ruined by a demolition, is something we will never forget. To celebrate a wedding of your youngest sister, is one of the most special things when you are a brother. As we were preparing for a big party, I heard a loud scream and everyone ran into the entrance of the village. It was the scream that I had heard so many times before, so I took off running. I knew it was going to be the Israeli military again. But for what reason they were going to be here this time, I didn’t know. But as I ran, the caravan of Israeli military vehicles ushered in the military bulldozer and everybody knew what was going to come next.
We’ve had several marriages destroyed by the Israeli military. It is as if they know when we are going to have a celebration, when we are most vulnerable; when it will hurt the most. That’s when they decide to come demolish our homes. This is why they always come just before winter and demolish our homes. Knowing that the party was coming that day, they closed the roads leading to the village and prevented anyone from leaving the village as well.
The Israeli soldiers muscled through our village and the bulldozers carved out our little rock paths on their way to demolish the home of my oldest brother. He is a father of nine children. When it’s your older brother, the person you spent your life looking up to, and you watch him being crushed- watch his ability to take care of his children, your nieces and nephews, taken away from him, you feel like there is nothing you can do. I remember everything, all the details of feeling anger, of feeling powerless, of feeling sadness, of forgetting about my sister and feeling shameful that I wasn’t able to comfort her as well. With the demolition of a home comes the demolition of everything you want to be in life.
In the five minutes, it took the Israeli bulldozer to ram its blade into our makeshift tin houses, we were all hurt in ways that we may never recover from. All those years of saving and working together for my brother’s house were gone. All the memories we shared in that house were gone. And now, a whole family would have to start their lives all over again. Lives that took a whole community 21 years to prepare for, would now have to be rebuilt within a couple of months.
After the demolition of my brother’s house, I thought the Israelis would leave the village and let us be, let us live for this day. They didn’t leave.
They went to my mother’s tent. While she tried to stand in their way, while she was crying and pleading, one of the Israeli soldiers pushed her to the ground and injured her. You know what it is like to see someone routinely take the livelihood of your most loved ones time and time again? I remember her trying to pretend like she wasn’t hurt because of my brother’s house and my sister’s wedding because the community didn’t need any more problems. But we all knew she was suffering and at the same time, she was trying to put the suffering of her kids before her own.
After they demolished the home of my mother, they went to my aunt’s house and demolished the tiny outdoor toilets funded by the European Union. To destroy someone’s bathroom that is the size of a small closet, which barely has enough room to squat down in, sends a dehumanizing message: They are happy for us to live like animals and go to the bathroom in the open and on the ground. Do you know how demoralizing it is to have your bathrooms demolished and not have the resources to repair them?
In the backdrop of all of this was my sister, who was trying to hold onto the dreams of a better tomorrow, the dreams which her wedding was to provide for her. It was supposed to be the beginning of a new life, of bringing children into the world. A wedding is supposed to be a day of hope, of new life – not a day of fear, shame, and violence.