You will find, below, a report by Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel on home demolitions in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. RHR in North America has followed up on this report with its own efforts to halt these demolitions.
Several of these North American letters follow. We encourage you to use these to write your own letters to the Jewish and general press, and to President Bush and the Secretary of State at these addresses:
President George W. Bush
White House Web Mail or email@example.com
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell: (202) 647-7098
1) An Op/Ed article by the Board of RHR/NA, sent to a number of Jewish papers:
Building the Home of Israel
By Rabbi Arthur Waskow
For nearly three years now, suicide bombings and other terrorist murder have occupied our American Jewish radar screens. Whatever our political
slants, geographic homes, or denominational affiliations, we have gone to
bed at night praying that when we wake the next morning, no more innocent
lives will have met these untimely, horrible, tragic and traumatic ends. Jewish tradition, in its profound wisdom, sets aside a three-week period of anticipatory communal grieving that culminates in Tish'a B'Av, the Ninth of Av. This saddest of fast days (August 6-7 this year) calls on the Jewish community to grieve — to name and recall the great collective losses of our ancient Temples (586 BCE and 70 CE), the fall of Beitar and Bar Kokhba (135 CE), the expulsion of Jews from England (1290 CE) and Spain (1492 CE.)
And then, from the low point of Tish'a B'Av, each year, we move into a seven-week period of comfort and restoration that, in turn, segues into the season of T'shuvah —Return, Renewal, Repentance, Response. As a group and as individuals, we are empowered and encouraged to examine our deeds, our words, our thoughts, and our hearts so that we can do better and build a better community, society, and world.
This year, the days leading up to Tish'a B'Av have filled us with grave
concern, not only because of continuing violence in and around Israel, but because of serious human rights violations tolerated if not furthered by the Sharon government. On Tish'a B'Av this year scores of Palestinian families in Jerusalem itself live daily with the threat that their homes could be demolished at any time not for security reasons but out of cynical political concerns These families have not engaged in violence — they have merely tried to provide very modest and limited living space for their families.
Precisely at a juncture when the body politic - Jewish and Arab - needs to know that the powers-that-be are attentive and are seeking ways to build hope and confidence, government bulldozers are bleeding the soul of the country, heaping injury upon insult upon injury. We know that our tradition traces the destruction of the Second Temple to sin'at hinam, to gratuitous hatred, among Jews — and in the cruel destruction of Palestinian homes we not only sense that kind of enmity but the unwitting planting of seeds of discord for generations to come. As we mourn the loss of our great spiritual centers in Jerusalem, we must not lose
but strengthen our moral compass. In our grief over past losses, we must
not pile on assaults and destruction but move into shoring up our democratic society and changing our world for the better, as the Jewish calendar models.
So as we move past Tisha B'Av into days of consolation and renewal, with hundreds of rabbinic colleagues of all denominations in Israel and North America, we call upon our leaders and our constituents to hold fast to justice, dignity, and human rights, and to build in Zion the home boldly
proclaimed in Israel's Declaration of Independence:
The state of Israel "will foster the development of the country for the
benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice, and
peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete
equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants regardless of religion, race or sex, it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture."
Rabbis for Human Rights/North America.
PO Box 1539
West Tisbury, MA 02575
2) my own statement/letter to a number of religious, progressive, general, and Jewish papers for which I have Email addresses.
3) A letter from Rabbi Brian Walt, exec of RHR/North America, to the Israeli Minister of the Interior:
Dear Minister Poraz, (firstname.lastname@example.org),
I am writing you this urgent letter, the day before Rosh Chodesh Av, to
appeal to you to cancel the house demolition orders for Palestinian homes in Jerusalem. As a long time Zionist, a rabbi and one who cares deeply about the State of Israel and its future, I believe that these home demolition violate the values of our Torah and of Zionism, will provoke hatred, increase the cycle of violence, and endanger the security of the State of Israel. For the sake of the security of the State of Israel, for the sake of the neshoma of our People, for the sake of the peace of Jerusalem, I appeal to you to cancel these demolition orders.
I know that there are 6 demolition orders in Jabel Mukaber that are slated to take place tomorrow on Rosh Chodesh Av. How tragic will it be for us a Jews to be unnecessarily destroying the homes of other people at the very beginning of Av, the month when we painfully remember and mourn the destruction of our own Batey Mikdash! Mishenichnas av mamitim b'simcha, there is already so much sadness in our hearts for the years of Jewish suffering, let's not take any actions that will merely increase the sadne of others. I know that these families may have built on to their house illegally and are technically in violation of the law, but as you know, it is almost impossible for a Palestinian families to get permission to add on to their homes.
Moreover much of the land adjacent to Palestinian areas is designated as green zone so as to prevent expansion of Arab villages. Right alongside these houses are many new homes built for Jews. The policies that allow Jews to build and limit the building of Palestinians violates the State of Israel's commitment in the Declaration of Independence to create a a state "that is based freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex..."
I believe that our future and our security in Israel is dependent on our ability to create good relationships with the other people who live on the same land. If these demolitions take place tomorrow and others later this month, I shudder when I think of what will happen in the hearts and mind of the children, women and men whose home has been destroyed by the bulldozers of the Jewish state.
This action will undoubtedly infuriate them and create more bitterness and hatred. As such it decreases the possibility of peace and puts us all on a road map to more violence and destruction. Please, for the sake of the Zionist vision and for the security of the State of Israel, stop these demolitions.
Thanks for reading my letter and may all of Israel find comfort in this
month of grief and mourning.
Rabbi Brian Walt
Rabbi Brian Walt
Rabbis for Human Rights North America
4) Here is the report on the facts from Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, with my prefatory note:
I am forwarding this urgent message from Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, about the impending flood of home demolitions that will ruin families about whom there is not even the barest allegation of terror activities. Please act on the steps that Rabbi Arik Ascherman is suggesting.
Also, just so you understand the deep commitment of RHR to Torah-rooted economic rights as well as civil rights, and to rights for Israelis as well as rights for Palestinians: At the same time, RHR in Israel is working closely with the growing all-day-all-night vigil of Israeli women — now 160 single mothers at the Israeli Treasury offices, now more than a week long — to protest the new govt budget that will wreck child-support payments and make life unlivable for them. Thanks &
Dear Friends and Supporters,
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
The Ministry of the Interior scheduled at least 6 demolitions in the village of Jabel Mukaber for this past Wednesday, Rosh Khodesh Av. Massive pressure from abroad that we helped stimulate were able to get them postponed — but not abanmdoned.
We have been receiving reports for two weeks now of large numbers of home demolition orders being handed out in various East Jerusalem neighborhoods - Sur Baher, Jabel Mukaber, Shuafat and Beit Hanina. For various reasons it has taken us a while to put the list together, but the picture is becoming clearer. At least 45 demolition orders have been either handed out or delivered orally. Some families have succeeded in receiving stays, but not all have been so lucky.
In addition to the six demolitions scheduled for Wednesday, other homes have 30 day administrative demolition orders going into effect on August 1. Enclosed are the profiles of some of these families. Pictures and additional profiles can be sent upon request.
In Sur Baher and Jabel Mukaber, the orders seem to be concentrated in neighborhoods which will be cut off from the rest of their respective communities by one planned bypass road or another, and perhaps the Separation Wall. Nowhere is the cruel irony more evident than in Jabel Mukaber, where many of the homes were fines were handed out 10 or more year ago, but demolition orders were suspended to give the families time to obtain building permits. This was impossible as the land was not zoned for building, but three years later the families were fined for being in contemp of court for having failed to obtain the permits. After successive fines, the homes are now slated for demolition.
The master plan for Jabel Mukaber - Arab A-Suakhreh 2683 a - was created in the 80's and approved in 1996. It never took into account the natural demographic needs of the residents. In the neighboring Jewish neighborhood of Armon HaNatziv built on land expropriated from Jabel Mukaber their plan allows them to build much higher and exploit a higher percentage of each dunam for building than in Jabel Mukaber. Sixty-Five percent of the land remaining to Jabel Mukaber is zoned as "Open View Land" and it is forbidden to build on this land.
Many residents must choose between leaving Jerusalem or building "illegally." "Bimkom," an Israeli NGO of architects and city planners, is working on a new master plan, but must raise the funds for almost all of the expenses.
I participated on Sunday in a meeting of human rights organizations with Mayor Lupolianski's senior advisor Aharon Agassi who claimed that the Municipality has no responsibility for funding master plans for Jews or Palestinians.
He was not forthcoming in terms of willingness to help Palestinian families survive the permit process usually taken care of by contractors for large subsidized projects in Jewish neighborhoods. We need to check the sources of funding for master plans in Jewish neighborhoods, but this seems disingenuous.
Please write polite but unequivocal letters, with copies to RHR, to the Israeli officials listed below. Interior Minister Poraz has built his reputation on promoting clean and honest government and proper procedure.
The Kafkaesque and Catch-22 situation in which Palestinians find themselves in is none of the above.
The policy of home demolitions is neither fair nor based on the principle
of good planning. Rather a Kafkaesque snarl of rules, regulations and resident nor-friendly zoning insures that Palestinians must build "illegally." In the Jewish tradition this is called "Eifa V'Eifa," double standards. With your help, the month of Av need not be a month of massive destruction of Palestinian homes and of the trust necessary to cultivate the fragile beginnings of a reborn peace process.
Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman
Regarding home demolitions please write to PM Sharon,
Interior Ministry Poraz and Mayor Lupolianski Please write to all
government ministers regarding the striking single parents.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon:
Office of the Prime Minister,
Rehov Kaplan 3 Jerusalem 91919;
Finance Minister Binyanmin Netanyahu:
1 Kaplan St. Jerusalem,
Minister in the Treasury Meir Shetreet
Tel 972 2 531-7727,
Mayor Uri Luplianski:
Kikar Safra 1,
Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Natan Sharansky
Justice Minister Yosef (Tommy) Lapid
Fax. 972 26285438,
28 July 2003
Ahmad's home: 02 6732 735 (Arabic only)
Ahmad's neighbor's mobile 052 324 693 (Arabic and decent Hebrew)
Imad from Jabal Mukaber 052 501 238 (Arabic, Hebrew, English)
Office of lawyer, Najeeb Zaid 02 622 1515
Mobile of lawyer's assistant, Abdella 066 277 756
Andor 066 377 756
Sawaherah neighborhood in Jabal Mukaber
Israeli Interior Ministry officials today told Afaf Sheqerat that tomorrow her home in the Jabal Mukaber village of East Jerusalem would be demolished because it was constructed without a permit. Her husband, Ahmad Hassen Sheqerat, the owner of the house, was at work when an Interior Ministry inspector told Afaf in Arabic that she and her family must evacuate their home before the demolition tomorrow. Ministry officials visited the home three times today. Ahmad hopes the building permit he obtained from the Jerusalem Municipality on 09-08-01 will help prevent the demolition.
Eight people live in the house today: Ahmad, Afaf, their five children (Nahed, 7.5; Fadi, 12; Wael, 14; Jamelah, 14; Waselah, 18), and Ahmad' brother Ibrahim, 39, who is mentally disabled and has just one hand. As we talk, the kids scurry in and out, bringing coffee, tea, and ashtrays, and then clearing the emptied glasses. The mood in the house is frantic, and when Ahmad comes home from his lawyer's office around 10pm, he look exhausted and stunned.
Ahmad built his house in 1987, on land he inherited from his father. No one knows for how many generations the land has been in his family. Until 1996 Israeli officials gave the family's home no trouble. In that year, the Jerusalem Municipality took Ahmad to court for illegal construction of his home. The court fined him NIS 15,000, and demanded that he either obtain a building permit within three years or demolish his home. Ahmad paid the fine in NIS 400 monthly installments, and hired planner Isham Abu Dheen and engineer Nadir Mashnee to help secure a permit. These services cost Ahmad $2,500. After paying an additional NIS 70,000 in licensing fees, the Jerusalem Municipality gave the house a permit on 09-08-01. From that date until this month, Israeli officials left the house alone. Ten days ago, the Interior Ministry brought a demolition order to the house, printed in Hebrew and Arabic. Officials returned today and told the family to evacuate.
Ahmad works in road construction in Jewish neighborhoods. "I feel so much
confusion," he said. "In areas where I build, they have the government behind them to give them licenses, and we have no authorities to help us, no one to help us. There is nothing we can do."
Waselah, his oldest daughter, just finished high school. The family has no money to send her to university, so she'll stay at home. The younger children are still in school. "When I told my sons that our house would be demolished, they began to cry. I told them that we would live in a tent. They asked, 'How will we play with toys, how will we read, how will we watch television, how will we go to the bathroom?' I have a permit, I paid all the fees, I have five kids in school; if they demolish, where should my kid live? How should we plan our lives? How will this affect my children?
What will they say about peace, about Israelis?"
28 July 2003
Abdul Hamid speaks Arabic, Hebrew, and English
Mobile phone: 057 723 642
Engineer: Saleh Attallah (works with Shmuel Dudsun)
Abdul Hamid Alleh Ajej learned that the Israeli Ministry of the Interior
will demolish his home on Wednesday, 30 July 2003, along with five other
homes in the Jabal Mukaber village of East Jerusalem. Abdul Hamid live
with his wife, Sameh, and seven children. His oldest child, his daughter,
Fidah, is sixteen.
Abdul Hamid's house was built in 1990-1991, when his first wife, Gauther,
learned that she had cancer. The family was living with Abdul's father at
the time. "She wanted to leave something for the kids," Abdul Hamid said.
"We didn't seek a permit then. No one bothered during the first intifada,
and anyway she had no time to deal with the papers; she was very sick."
Gauther died not long after the family moved into the new house.
"In 1994 the Ministry of the Interior came to my home, wanting to bring me to court. The Orient House hired a lawyer for me, Hosni Abu Hassein. The procedure took from '94 till '97, when the court gave its decision: I had to pay a 20,000 shekel fine, 1,000 shekels every month, and they said I had 12 months to plan the area and get a permit. But this was a joke; impossible. When I finally finished paying the fine twenty months later, I thought it was over after that, I thought everything was finished. But they told me, 'No, you have to get a permit.' We Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, we don't really know the law, the procedure. And when we go to lawyers and engineers, they often don't care about any human case; the important thing for them is the money, and they often don't really do a good job."
"In 2000, people from the Interior Ministry who were working in my area told me that I should really get a permit, or else they would demolish my house." Abdul Hamid hired the engineer, Saleh Attalah, to help with the bureaucracy involved in planning the area and seeking a building permit. Abdul Hamid estimates that he has paid Attalah approximately NIS 17,000-20,000. "We rely on them," Abdul says, "but really, to be honest, I don't understand what they're doing." Abdul Hamid began submitting documents to the Ministry of Interior in May of 2001. He has thus far been unable to get his area planned, a prerequisite for getting a building permit from the Jerusalem Municipality.
Two weeks ago, Abdul Hamid received a verbal order to evacuate, and today he learned that his home will be demolished this coming Wednesday. "My children ask lots of questions," Abdul Hamid said, "but I have answers for very few of them. I know this will leave a stamp on their lives. The Ministry of Interior doesn't understand that if they do this, it will ruin my children's lives."
Olive oil is available from the RHR office 25 NIS per liter, 350 NIS per jerrycan