At Any Time
UM AL-KHAIR | 11.05.2014
Our lives in Um al-Khair are simple and normal in many respects. Our mothers wake up their children and get them ready for school, making them eggs, bread and zatar for breakfast while preparing their clothes for the day. The men wake up at all hours of the morning depending on their work, make their pot of tea and prepare for the workday head. The shepherds head out very early in the morning with their flocks to spend the day in nature, grazing their herds and spending time with the animals and their God. The university students pack up their bags and homework and prepare for the long trek to school. There is a sense of routine in our village.
But there is also that long history of the Israeli military entering our village and demolishing our homes. There is that history that makes some parts of the day filled with worry, anxiety, and wonder. Since most of the times the Israelis demolished our village in the morning and mid-day, it is this time of the day when we spend time looking over the roads and answer our phones with a sense of panic. Of course, this is a generalization, but we feel like once the time passes 1 p.m., the Israelis probably won’t come and demolish our homes.
So November 5, 2014, it came to us a bit of surprise when the Israelis arrived in their cheeps and the semi trucks rolled up our dirt road with the bulldozers loaded on the tractor trailers. That morning, the village woke up as usual: the men went to work, the students went to school, some went to their universities, the shepherds went grazing with their sheep. For us, it was going to be a day without violence and we began to thank our God for the day of peace that we thought awaited us.
But at 2 p.m. the Israeli Civil Administration, along with the Israeli military to gather outside of the village of Um al-Khair. But the strange thing was that they did not have bulldozers to demolish. So for us, although we were all scared, the lack of bulldozers in that gathering meant that our homes were probably going to be spared that day.
But at around 3:30 pm, on the way back from school, one of the students saw the scene and that the bulldozers had arrived and met up with the Israeli Civil Administration and military. They immediately called the residents in the village – crushing our hopes that today we would be spared yet another home demolition.
When they came, they came to reinforce previous home demolitions. They confiscated two tents provided by Palestinian Red Cross to families who had suffered a home demolition previously. For the Israelis, it isn’t about building homes and not having building permits. It is about making people homeless. What country in the world demolishes a person’s home, then takes away their small tent which was donated by an international aid agency?
After they took these small tents, making this family homeless again, they went to the community oven in the village. Our community oven is an outside oven that families use together because each home cannot afford to make their own oven. So this oven feeds the whole community. They demolished the oven with their bare hands and some tools to make sure we couldn’t put it back together.
All the while, the few men that were there that day were pushed around by the Israelis and the women were treated harshly as well, as they were to sit by and watch the means to feed their children turned into a heap of broken rocks and spread across the hillside. The village felt very alone that day because most of the people were away. I remember us feeling alone because those who were usually there to give us the strength to handle the situation, to provide the wisdom and leadership were not there. I remember that feeling.
When these demolitions happen, there are layers of life that we learn that isn’t simply about the Israeli state violence and the way Israel’s military occupation works. In these days we are reminded about the power of nonviolence, of what it means to be in solidarity, how important it is to comfort those around you, how essential it is not to dwell in the pain and resentment of what has happened and to find the will to move on and build the life.
On this day, 12 people were left homeless. And when these things, which they have happened so many times before, you change as a person in many ways. Sometimes for the good and sometimes for the worse. And sometimes both. But for me, these traumatic events have taught me how to hold the pain and suffering in the way that allows me to move forward, to make the next move, to think about how we can rebuild with what resources remain and stand in solidarity with my community in these dark times. While the Israelis crush our homes and our spirits and they can see us rebuilding our homes, what they don’t see is us rebuilding our spirits.