House Rebuilding 2017

For many Palestinian communities, the family is the center of life. It represents a communal system where each individual member helps to contribute to financial and material ways to make the whole family function. It isn’t uncommon for brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts all give monetarily for weddings and building new homes. It is also common practice to build buildings that can house the entire family, both out of practice and out of necessity. So in many cases, when the Israeli military demolishes a house, it isn’t just impacted the nuclear family, the entirety of the extended family as well. This was the case when the Israeli military demolished the home of Mahmoud Maher Abu Khyara.  

Just 20 years old, Mahmoud was set to be engaged. He was living with his three sisters and one brother next to his immediate family’s home. His father, who is a taxi driver, spent years and years helping to save money for the addition to the home, which was housing seven people altogether. Together, with the help of his father and extended family, they built a modest 120 square meter home, costing roughly 30,000 dollars to build. This demolition not only left seven people homeless, but it also set the prospects of Mahmoud getting married to a dark future.  

“For years, the situation in al-Walaji has been worsening. The whole area is facing pressure completely, unlike that of the ’80s and ’90s. We are supposed to be implementing “Peace Accords” with Israel. But what is happening? – They demolish our homes. They take our land,” said Maher, the father of the family. “Together, we have very little means a family, so the demolition of this how represented everything that we saved together over many years. How does the Israeli government say they want peace when they throw seven people out into the cold during the wintertime?” 

What Maher points out is that Israeli settlement expansion and home demolitions have actually skyrocketed after the signing of the Oslo Accords. There are now an estimated 800,000 illegal settlers living across Palestinian land in the West Bank. As now, they represent nearly 25% of the total population of the West Bank. Take this with house demolitions increasing every year, and a clear picture of settler-colonialism emerges – much like in the models of the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Australia. Israel has methodically implemented a program of erasure of the indigenous people to make way for non-native settlers to garner economic resources previously owned by the local population.  

As a model of resistance to settler-colonialism, Holy Land Trust partnered with Amos Trust to rebuild the family home of Khyara, not only giving the family space but also set Mahmoud back on the path to getting married.  

“When people look at the Middle East, they like to paint a picture of Islamic extremists taking over everything, that we can’t live in community with each other – that everybody is at war with the West,” said Mahmoud. “But what this rebuilding camp shows is just how powerful of a message we can send when we have Palestinian Muslims and Christians working together with the international community to heal and restore the faith of not only a family but an entire community. What Holy Land Trust does is really unlike that of any organization.”

 
Elias Deis
Executive Director
Holy Land Trust’s E.D., Elias Deis has worked for over a decade at Holy Land Trust. He was formally the Travel & Encounter Program Director and serves on the Beit Sahour City Council.

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