“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes
“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.”
Can you imagine being told that your home and business will be demolished in a few days because a group have claimed the land belongs to someone else? Can you imagine that one day after you lose the court hearing on the case, military bulldozers turn up and demolish your home and business leaving you living in tents?
That is exactly what happened to the Christian Palestinian Qaissia family this morning (Monday, 26th August) at their home and restaurant on the outskirts of Bethlehem. An Israeli organisation had claimed that the land the house and restaurant were on land belonging to an organisation called the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) and an Israeli court agreed yesterday that they could be demolished. The family took the chance last night to remove as much of their belongings from their home and restaurant as they feared that the bulldozers would come in the morning, they put their belongings out on the ground near the restaurant and put up tents that they could shelter from the sun and sleep in if the worst happened. Just after 6:30am this morning a large number of Israeli soldiers arrived, accompanied by bulldozers and they demolished the house and restaurant. Sadly, this is not the first-time structures have been demolished on the Qaissia family’s land, on two previous occasions smaller structures were demolished.
The restaurant was one of the few places where Palestinians West Bank who cannot leave were able to go and relax surrounded by trees and greenery. It is a place that I often met Palestinian friends, enjoying the hospitality of the family and the beauty of the surroundings into the evening.
Demolishing Palestinian homes and other structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is a common practice of the Israeli authorities, I see it almost weekly near where I live. Homes and structures in East Jerusalem are often demolished due to the buildings not having the required Israeli building permit. This permit is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain and therefore they are driven to build without it. In the West Bank, this problem of permits applies in Area C which is under Israeli control, however this case is somewhat different. The organisation responsible for demanding the demolition has an agenda, they want the land in order to build or extend an Israeli settlement (these settlements are illegal under international law as they are beyond the ‘green line’ which marks the borders of Israel). Unfortunately, Israel is due to hold an election in September, which is driving the number of demolitions higher at the moment as Benjamin Netanyahu tries to win the votes of right-wing Israeli voters who believe that the West Bank should be part of Israel.
So when you close the door of your home, or draw the curtains to keep the heat in. Think of these Palestinian families who have nowhere to go or live under threat of demolition.
Grant them peace, most precious gift of all
Keep the worried world far away and small
When they return, may quiet fill their souls,
Dearest Lord, keep them safe within its walls.
May the stone be cool beneath their feet.
The canyon breezes circle soft and sweet
When darkness falls, the stars and opal moon
Find them wrapped in each other, ever warm.
From ‘Prayer for Home’ by Fernando Ortega
Piece originally published in Inverurie West Parish Church ‘Encounter’ Magazine