This time in southwest Hebron, Khirbet al-Rahwa was the target of the unmerciful, brutal and ruthless caterpillar bulldozers driven mercilessly by Israeli soldiers, the attack came all of a sudden with no prior demolition orders.
Monday the 13th– of February 2012 ” It was before noon when the Israeli soldiers came with bulldozers, jeeps and a large number of military force. They started demolishing the animal shelters where we keep the newborn sheep, we begged them to stop; they refused. We ended up begging them to at least give us some time to take the newborn sheep to a safe place, and again they refused. The men of our community were away, and when they saw the soldiers and heard about what is happening they rushed back, but the soldiers did not let them any where near us, they kept them away from the shelters and the tents that they are knocking down. At the other tents that they didn’t demolish were staying all the woman and the young kids, crying and screaming for help and asking the soldiers to stop. ”
“ I don’t know where to put my kids and my wife to sleep now, they demolished our only place, our HOME. Our only source of income, the sheep is now outside without shelter, the newborn sheep are dying now, and we lost around 70 sheep since they demolished the shelters. My grandfather, my father, my self and my kids were born here. Nothing is left for us now, even the water cistern they destroyed it”.
On Thursday I had the chance to accompany a number of people from a Polish NGO, which helped a while ago in building the water cistern that was demolished on that day. Coming from the comfortable area of Bethlehem- If I may say- of course overlooking the Separation Wall and the various checkpoints and illegal settlements- I was shocked, irritated and deeply moved from what I saw. I have witnessed very harsh realities, I have seen people dying in front of my house, my own house was a target for a number of missiles, but yet, I have never seen Tents and animal shelters being knocked down. What was even more tormenting is witnessing the pain in the eyes of those old men while pointing out their lose, calling the tent their home with almost a tear dropping yet with outstanding resilience, insisting that they are staying on their land no matter what pressure the Israeli government is putting on them to leave. The Bedouin community called out for emergency help from the international and local community, some help they already received from the local governor, specially food and blankets, but those don’t even count, since they don’t have a roof to stay under, specially during the heavy rain storm Palestine is facing now since few weeks. “ We will stay here, we are not moving anywhere else, we have nowhere else to move to, this is our home”, one lady kept repeating to me.
With all that, there was still a little space for sunshine, kids playing around the rubble, Arabic tea boiled on coals, the killing smell of Bedouin special kind of cigarettes, more rain, mud, young shepherds running to find shelter from the heavy rain, a chicken keeping her chicks warm, more tea, “tent/home” made bread, good conversations, trust, friendship and hope in the international community present that day, to be the voice for the voiceless and a helping hand in rebuilding what was destroyed. “ Write about everything you heard from us today, and show every picture you took, we want the whole world too see the reality, we want nothing but to continue living peacefully in our land”, these where the last words said to us before leaving back to Bethlehem.
This is just one of the stories. Many other violations of human rights caused by Israeli soldiers and settlers accurse everyday in cities, villages, towns and refugee camps in Palestine. Many stories appear in forms of typical daily news; other stories don’t even make news. But those are human beings being stripped off their humanity every single day; those are people who have to battle to survive, families that have to stay under the rain when we sleep in our comfortable houses, yet they have much hope that their voice will be heard and that their reality will soon be changed.
Khirbet al Rahwa is a small village inhibited by a couple of hundred farmers and Bedouins whose only source of income is from raising sheep and some farming. A community that lived peaceful even with all the harassments from neighboring illegal settlements rooted in the Palestinian Occupied Territory, until the unjustified demolition, which is a continuation of the violation of the international humanitarian law.
Fore more Human rights violations in the OPT, check out the website of the “Palestinian Center for Human Rights”