Project Description

Holy Land Trust’s response to Home Demolitions

Over the last ten years, Israel has demolished over 6,000 Palestinian homes and structures, negatively impacting over 100,000 men, women, and children.

For over a decade, Holy Land Trust has challenged this policy in material ways. We have invested tangibly into the most marginalized and at-risk communities, rebuilding these homes.

Our first home rebuilding was in 2007 in partnership with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD).

We rebuilt the home of the Munther Salem family in Al Walaja just outside of Bethlehem. The Israeli military destroyed their home and livelihood in January of 2005. They returned a second time in December 2006 on the pretext it was too close to the Apartheid Wall that was being erected during those years.

When Holy Land Trust arrived, the family was dwelling in unliveable conditions. Their beds and a small amount of furniture were lined up inside a 3m by 2m tent with no running water, toilets, or electricity. The family of five – two parents and three children – had lived like this for six months.

After rebuilding their home, witnessing the healing that started to take place when strangers from around the world gave of themselves in real ways, we knew that our home rebuilding program was going to be a cornerstone piece of our solidarity work and peacemaking.

Our 2013 Home Rebuilding was particularly powerful example of this healing process.

Israel’s methodical implementation of settler-colonial policies almost broke the family of Abed al-Qaisi from Battier. The Israeli military had set a curfew for the West Bank and anyone who roamed the streets would most likely be shot. Their 5-year-old boy had a temperature of over 104 degrees. His helpless mother, without transportation, had decided to carry her son to a hospital in Bethlehem. She was met by soldiers at an outpost, where they threatened to shoot her if she did not return to her home. Upon her refusal, the soldiers shot around her to frighten her into returning home. She carried her son all the way back. His temperature continued to rise and desperation began to set in for the mother. She decided to carry him to another hospital in Hebron, which is much further than the one in Bethlehem. Again, she was met by soldiers who refused to listen to her pleas for help. She was forced to return home with her ailing son. His fever became dangerously high. Due to the lack of medication, transportation, and access to a hospital; the boy suffered brain damage. He is now 16 and is disabled. Their poverty and Israeli lack of compassion for Palestinians led to a life-altering experience for this once healthy boy. He now requires special medical treatment and attention that this poverty-stricken family cannot afford on their own. With their roof literally collapsing and no fixed income, they were are asking for support from anyone who will listen. But the pain didn’t stop there.

The Israelis had demolished their home in Batter when Abed was at work. Returning home, seeing his home being demolished. “You lose hope. You stop thinking. The world turns black. You lost your home,” said Abed of the experience of helplessly watching is labor, his protection of his family be crushed under Israeli bulldozers in 2009.

With this story of violence in hand, Holy Land Trust responded with Amos Trust to rebuild the home in 2013. We understood the family needed healing from the traumatic experience. Our participants understood as well.

In April 2013 I was privileged to be part of a group from Amos Trust helping a community to rebuild a home demolished by the Israeli authorities in contravention of international law. The home is on the outskirts of Battir – a village famous for its beautiful agricultural terraces and the unique Roman-era irrigation system that waters them. The terraces and irrigation system have been proposed as a potential World Heritage Site, but are under threat from the Israeli separation wall which is planned to be built along the valley and around the nearby Israeli settlements. The village is also being surrounded by Israeli settlements, with more expansion recently planned and approved,” said Neil I. from the U.K.. “The family has owned the land for many generations. After four years of building, they moved into their new home. One month later, without any prior notice or court order, a squad of Israeli soldiers accompanied a CAT bulldozer to tear down the newly built home. What took the family four years to build, and an entire lifetime to save for, was destroyed in less than two hours.”

Neil, like many, many others continue to come back to rebuild homes for the indigenous communities that have been resisting nonviolently to stay on their lands. 

The home rebuilding not only representing a turning point in the family’s life, but also in the region, by sending an international call of solidarity, to resist in meaningful, tangible ways.

In supporting this work, I am spending the next several weeks abroad rising consciousness to the impact of home demolitions in Palestine. As a Palestinian Christian, I am carrying not only a message of Jesus’s love, but his directive of action to stand on the side of the oppressed.

As we move forward into 2020, we are asking you to stand in solidarity with us and make a financial contribution to rebuild another Palestinian home and resist violence and oppression. We are also asking you to join us on the ground in 2020 to help in the rebuilding process.

 
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.

Resist home demolitions

Your financial investment gives back to a Palestinian that has been impacted in the most traumatic of ways: having their home demolished. The cost of building, returning a family family from displacement and beginning the healing process of restoring their home is roughly $25,000.

556.76

Monthly Donation

$

One-Time donation

$

Payments are processed securely through Stripe. Your donation in the United States is tax-deductible through our fiscal sponsors, Nonviolence International.

Join us in the home rebuilding

Since 1967, more than 50,000 Palestinian homes and buildings in the West Bank have been demolished by the Israeli civil authorities, under the pretext of security needs, punitive measures, a lack of proper building permits and other reasons, in a practice that extends back nearly 20 years..   Home demolitions, considered one of the most controversial and harmful Israeli policies towards the Palestinians residing in the Palestinian Territories, has had immeasurably harmful impact on practically every Palestinian community, creating poverty, hopelessness and despair.  For over a decade, Holy Land Trust has been rebuilding the destroyed homes of Palestinians residing in west Bethlehem communities and villages through bringing in volunteers who both financially support as well as physically participate in the actual reconstruction efforts.  Be part of our next team restoring hope and dignity to the people of Bethlehem!

Amos Trust Home Rebuilding participants setting up a house in al-Walaj

This program is put together by our partners, Amos Trust. It consists of home rebuilding, listening and sharing experiences of those individuals, families and communities impacted by home demolitions, meeting with civil society leaders working to challenge and educate the global community about these practices, as well as day trips and visits to places of religious, cultural and historical interest within Bethlehem area.   Most activities will occur from the mid-morning to early evening, with program participants residing in guesthouses and/or pilgrim hotels in Bethlehem district.

Tour Details 
The tour will be based in Bethlehem district, with day tours to Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank.  This tour involves light manual construction work and extensive walking.  Prior construction/home rebuilding experience is not needed; program participants will not be engaged in the use of consruction machinery. A full range of mobility, including extended periods of bending, extending and stretching arms, legs, and the back, and a willingness to climb ladders is essential.  Program participants who wish to book tours to the Galilee or Jordan as private excursions before or after the program may do so at additional cost.  A limited amount of free time will also be incorporated into the program for rest, leisure activities and getting to know Bethlehem and Jerusalem on your own!
Email encounter@holylandtrust.org for more information!

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Meet the staff

 
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.
Lara Mitri
BLF Director
Lara Mitri is the Bethlehem Live Festival Director, ensuring that the festival creates an inclusive space that promotes a message of social justice on a global scale.
Said Zarzar
Creative Manager
Said Zarzar is the Creative Manager of Holy Land Trust, organizing the event planning for Bet Lahem Live, as well as the lead coordinator for the Travel & Encounter Department.
Sami Awad
Sami Awad
Founder | Programs Developer
Sami Awad, the founder and former executive director of Holy Land Trust, has spent a lifetime working the infield of community development and leadership training.

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