A Wedding Demolished

UM AL-KHAIR | 06.04.2016

Our long history of demolitions has taught us one thing: Violence is around every corner, the Israeli occupation does not rest. Even though this is our reality, we still dream to live normal lives, to spend time with our friends, to go on trips, to get married and have kids.

I and my friends woke up early on a trip to the north of Palestine, a trip we had planned for a long time. We don’t make much money, so we had to save for a long time, to sacrifice for a long time to have this money for a trip. We talked about all the places we would go and see, the adventures we would have. My cousin, who wanted to be a photographer, was really excited because for him, it was a chance to see new things and places and for him to live out his dream for one day to be a photographer and to capture a life he had never lived. He bought a camera just for this trip. The four of us, each one, had their own special vision for this special trip.

As we gathered at the entrance to the village waiting for our transportation for the day, we heard that terrifying noise that we had heard so many times before. Within seconds, around the corner came rolling in columns of Israeli military jeeps and military-grade bulldozers along with the Israeli Civil Administration. All of us were overcome with fear, knowing what had laid ahead for us that day. In those moments, we don’t just experience the fear of what might happen, but we live all the other home demolitions we have experienced over the years. On these days, we don’t just live through one home demolition, we live through them all.

In these moments, there is always moment when our souls break free of the trauma and reach out to the God for help and protection. We stopped for a moment as if to say please do not do this God. We thought at first that they would pass through the village and our Lord would save us this day.

They passed our entrance into the village and we had thought that the God spared us that day. But that isn’t what happened. They went to close some roads east of the village and then they entered our community. They close these roads to ensure that activists from the area aren’t able to reach the community and document the home demolitions. Because for the Israeli military, it isn’t just about demolishing the homes, it is about controlling the narrative of the home demolitions. They don’t want the world to see old men being beaten by the Israeli military, frantic mothers holding their crying and scared children. The need to be able to destroy our homes and have the world community see it as a moral decision.

The moment we saw them about to close off the passageways to our community, each of us ran to our loved ones, not because we could protect them – because we can’t in these situations – but we can be there for them emotionally.

We were lucky that day that my cousin Ahmad had his camera and that he would be able to photograph and video record that day so that we could share our story with the world and perhaps shed a little bit of light of what actually happens in the darkness of Israel’s military occupation.

In these days, the camera allows us to capture more than just the Israeli bulldozers smashing our homes, but give these demolitions meaning and share the impact. One of the young men who was with me was recently married, had spent his life savings to build his small home. People sometimes forget that these homes have people in them and life in them. We capture these stories because we know many people can relate to being newly married and what that time is like in a new relationship when the future is wide open, and all the possibilities of great life are shared in those moments. For us, it is hard to watch this happen through the lens of the camera and watch with focus as we see our close friend’s life be demolished. Often times we want to just leave and let the pain go, but we know we have to stand in the trauma in the hopes that the story we share will change the minds of those who support the Israeli occupation. When you hold the camera, all the things run through your mind. You can hear in your head the plea to God not to demolish this house, to spare your friend.

While all of these thoughts and emotions carrying on for what seems like forever when the demolition is happening, in reality, it is only a few minutes of work that goes into dismantling our lives. With each demolition, it seems as if the Israeli military becomes better at executing the destruction of our village. Even though five homes were destroyed and 36 people were displaced, it all happened so quickly.

The sense of time in these situations is what makes everything so surreal for us like it is almost a dream or a nightmare that we can’t escape, that we must relive again and again.

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