Monday, October 20, 2008

Beit Arabia

Out into the countryside of the West Bank (long way round thanks to the wall), we come to Beit Arabia and a home that has been demolished four times and built/rebuilt five times.

Now a centre for peace, we hear from the owner who had wanted to build a home for his family. We hear how he tried again and again to make his way through the Kafka-esque process that is obtaining a building permit from the authorities of occupation. Technicality after technicality was found to reject his application, ending eventually on the laughable objection that the land in question has a slight slope.

This is commonplace it seems, from making it impossible to obtain building or renovation permits, to refusing hook up to utility services, practice after practice makes the everyday citizen an unwilling criminal. In turn this is all the justification required for policies of discrimination, intimidation, enforced collaboration and so on.

One such example is the regular practice of home demolition; around 20,000 per annum on a seemingly random basis. Wake up one-morning to find your house surrounded by army troops and bulldozers and the notification that you have 15 minutes to vacate.

Resist or complain and you'll likely be brutally assualted and or arrested.

Survive all this and you'll not only end up homeless, but fined and charged with the legal and financial obligation to clear the rubble. The words salt and wounds spring to mind.

Listening to our host's personal story, whilst we tuck in to the most amazing lunch prepared by his wife, it's impossible not to be impressed by his desire to do things 'right', the futility of the system, and the destruction of the family that occurs alongside that of bricks and mortar.

As he talks of the ongoing impact the home demolition has had on his children, I can see the parents among our group struggling to cope.

As he tells, with the sweat of emotion pouring down his face, how his young daughter faced years later with a helicopter gunship in the distance, refused his words of comfort and reassurance with the reply that Daddy couldn't protect her, she'd seen what the soldiers did, I know what will be going Stuart's head.

We leave to reboard the coach, none of us sure what to do with our emotions.

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