The main task of our team is to provide protection to the villagers of Yanoun, by supporting them in their everyday activities. However, when the villages in our surroundings experience any incidents, be it from settlers or the army, our task is to get there as soon as possible to report and to support the families.
The other day we recived one of the messages I probably dread the most. “Israeli army- demolition , close, in two villages”. This means in very simple terms,that the army is at this very moment destoying someones home.We call our driver/ interpreter Ghassan who has been working with the program for almost ten years. Still, after all these years, seeing the desperation, humiliation and the everyday strength of the people, he seems to be set back by the news of another demolition. “we were there just a few weeks ago”, he pretends to focus on the road when he speaks. The normally so opinionated Ghassan, sounds like it will be an additional burden to visit these families again, while their homes are being torn down, and not being able to offer anything but our presence. I try to remind him of our tasks of report writing, and being there for the people. He knows it all too well.
After about half an hour we exit the high- way and enter steep, rocky roads that slither their way alongside stunning valley slopes. On our arrival the army has left. In the middle of a green hill side, piles of personal belongings are spread out. A tractor has arrived. Two men are busy loading it with furniture, clothing, cutlery and other things they have managed to save. There are three families living in the area in tents. The way the Israeli authority deals with house demolitions is quite a complex procedure. From the israeli government’s point, this is declared a military sone and can not be used for housing. According to international law, population cannot be moved, or land not confiscated unless there is absolute military necessity. Its hard to see this criteria beeing applied here.
In many cases, families living in areas where the chances of getting a demolition order are high, people hesitate building any solid structures. I walk around starting to take pictures to document the incident. The army has been systematic this time. They came with their own workers who carried out the belongings from the tents, before taking the tents with them. Other times tents are destroyed without any chance for the families to take out their possessions.
Muhammed Abdel Nasasri, the head of one of the family, explains the army’s practice. “the first thing they asked was where our taboun was” ( traditional oven to make bread). That is the first thing they destroyed. To me it reveals a cunning intent. I continue over to the other family. Underneath a small coal oven, four small lambs are crouched together. The usually hyper active lambs are dead-quiet. The sun is scorching hot, and temperatures way too high for the animals. Normally they are placed underneath shelters, or in one of the many caves around this mountainous area. Nasasri tells us that the urgent thing now, is to get tents for the animals. “its more important for them then for us”.
Suddenly I hear a sound, almost like a baby crying. I look down and underneath a pile of earth a sheep’s head is sticking out. The body is covered with rocks and soil, and a cloud of flies is hoovering over the head. Next to it a small lamb is trying to get some response. The army had taken the sheep that was pregnant, and buried it alive. I’m angry and disgusted. The fact that they came with workers, took their time to take out things from the tents, and then took the time to commit this vicious act…Enough.
We write our report, make some calls to other organisations that can provide new tents, share a cup of tea ( which they have prepared for us, despite the chaotic situation),and move on to the next village.
This family saw the soldiers coming and managed to hide away a few thing, but still their tent and shelter for the animals were taken. Sabrin is almost two years old, she pays attention when the Red Crescent arrives with a new tent. We are all there, in the shade of the tree, the UN,Red Cresent, us. All of us continuing to bring “bandages” , after the damage is done. Sabrin seems content for now, until next time.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’s (OCHA) latest report, approximately 1,100 Palestinians, half of which were children, were displaced due to home demolitions by the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) in 2011, signaling an 80% rise from 2010 figures. An additional 4,200 people’s livelihoods were affected by the demolitions. These images are dangerously turning into clichés. However, clichés became clichés because they resonated with so many people’s experiences. In this case Sabrin deserves her own story. Her own experiences, which in this case she happens to share with a vast number of people of this area. She deserves to hear the sound of her lambs alive.