Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Fractured Way of Living

A few weeks ago the Red Cross (ICRC) in Bethlehem asked us to visit two families who are living just outside of the wall on the Jerusalem side. What makes these families unique is that they exist between two jurisdictions in a very strange way. The families in these homes are physicially living in what the Israeli's now define as Jerusalem, but they are not allowed to possess Jerusalem ID. This means that they are unable to go to Jerusalem. When they leave their property they can only move towards Bethlehem for fear of arrest. No ID is required to enter Bethlehem, but when it comes time to go home they do not have a permit to enter Jerusalem. They cannot own vehicles because they do not have the proper ID to purchase an Israeli license plate, and cars with Palestinian license plates are not permitted on the Israeli side of the wall. Thus, this way of living is fractured in a way that is almost impossible to comprehend.

We first visited the family of Husein Zawahra who lives almost surrounded by the settlement of Har Homa with his uncle and extended family. The family cannot own a vehicle because they do not possess ID that would permit they to purchase an Israeli license plate for their vehicle. The only place they can go is into Bethlehem. As the children must attend school in Bethlehem, their mother takes them to school every Sunday morning (the first day of the week) and then they remain in Bethlehem living with her sister until Thursday when they can return home. They cannot travel to and from their home as it requires public transportation and it is expensive, and quite time consuming. Husein goes to work on the weekends when the children and his wife are home as a tile layer in Bethlehem. Working only two days a week has dramatically reduced their family's income. They must always have someone at home due to the settlers who live so close that we could almost read the label in the underwear that was being hung on the line on the balcony directly accross from their property. Ironically, the family runs a car wash business for the citizens of Har Homa settlement, a city of 50,000 people complete with schools, temples, shopping centers, theaters, and all services to be expected in a town that size. The settlement is also rapidly expanding.

The view of Har Homa from the Zawahra Property

Following our visit to Har Homa we visited Salama abu Tarbush in their family home just outside of the Bethlehem checkpoint. As with the Zawahra family, their ID is Palestinian. When they go into Bethlehem for work or school, they exit back into the Jerusalem side. As they do not have the proper ID, they are often detained while the soldiers look up their information, or they are sent back to Bethlehem. As an 11 year old child, the Tarbush's daughter was frequently denied access to go home from school. She would have to return to Bethlehem to stay with an aunt and try to get home the next day. This photo was taken from within the checkpoint and shows not only a flock of sheep grazing alongside the road, their house is in the background.

We also visited with George Khalilha in Beit Jala which is a predominately Christian village just next to Bethlehem. George and his family live in a very old home in Beit Jala and own another home that is located at the agricultural property owned by the family and from which George earns his living. He has fruit trees--apricot, apple, peach, pear of many varieties. The home on the property was over 60 years old, but they had the audacity to re-tile the patio area and build a toilet in an outside building as there was not adequate plumbing. Due to his "renovations" the house was demolished by the Israeli army two weeks ago. You can see George explaining to Esteban about the rocks that once held up this old stone home--rocks that were cut in half by the heavy equipment brought by the military for the demolition. Ironically, the only structure remaining is the new toilet and surrounding building. George talked about his feelings of being discriminated against as he is a Christian living in a predominately Moslem world and being governed by Israelis.

Life gets fractured in the Occupied Territories. We notice daily how difficult it is to navigate through the land due to the rocks, steep drops, and mud. It is tough to get from one place to another. It is also difficult for the Palestinian to get from one day to another with all of the roadblocks that are placed before them. (Not to mention that their roads are so far inferior to the wonderfully paved Israeli roads upon which they cannot ride.) Israel is a country that prides itself as the only democracy in the Middle East. Personally I prefer the democracy we have in the US, not that it's perfect, but the blatant discrimination that occurs daily could not happen in the US.

No comments:

Post a Comment