There have been 18 houses demolished in this small community alone displacing 15 families, and the rubble from the demolished houses can be seen littered amongst the remaining structures. The Jordan Valley Solidarity project has been working in this community for a few months now and has already managed to refurbish several of the homes and rebuild one house that was demolished to house a young family. JVS intend to rebuild every house that has been demolished by the Israeli occupation. The campaign has also managed to install a road up the hill to the houses from the main road meaning that the vehicles will not become stuck in the mud during the winter rains. The asphalt used to build the road was waste from the relaying of settlement roads and was procured at a very low cost. 20 trucks of asphalt have been purchased and will be used to build other roads in other threatened communities.
The village has limited access to water and electricity. There is a water station here but it is shared amongst all the homes and the pressure is very weak so that only one tap can be used at once. If one house starts to draw water then all the other houses must wait until they are finished before gaining access to water. The water station is controlled by the Israeli water company Mekarot and each family must pay 150-200 shekels (roughly $40) per month to have access. This is a much steeper rate than in any other part of the West Bank and represents four days wages for the average worker. The community has had access to electricity for one month now but the electricity is weak and often cuts off. Before the installation of electricity wires they were forced to run generators and pay for the expensive diesel.
The village has had all its agricultural land stolen by the settlements and the army meaning that for many people the only option left for them is to work for poverty wages as labourers in the illegal settlements. The settlements pay the labourers are mere 50 shekels ($8) for their eight hour day and there is no guarantee of work from one day to the next.
The Israeli Occupation Force have declared the area a closed military zone and claim it is a firing range in an attempt to force the families out of their homes. However, at the bottom of the hill by their houses is a gas station that pre-dates the occupation and the families have been living here since before the 1948 Nakba. Hardly an empty piece of land to be used as a firing range! The soldiers sometimes come to the village to harass the occupants. Three weeks ago soldiers came to the village and demanded to see people’s identity cards. The 38 people who were forced to show their ID were told to report to Huwwara checkpoint the next day where they were held for five hours and questioned about their families and the residents of the village. It is this determination of the occupation authorities to destroy Al-Moussafah which has led Jordan Valley Solidarity to work so closely with this community.
Below are a few of the stories of some of the residents of Al-Moussafah:
Hamda Ali Rahail
Hamdai Ali Rahail is 45 years old and lives alone with her nine year old son in a house at the bottom of the hill recently renovated by the Jordan Valley Solidarity Project. She was married to her husband in 2000 but her husband does not have a Palestinian I.D and lives in Jordan. After their marriage he stayed for only four months before returning to Jordan. She does not know where he is and whenever her son asks about him she simply tells him that his father is dead.
In 2007, the Israelis bulldozed her brother’s house. In 2004 and again in 2006 she received demolition orders for the home she resides in but until now she has not had any of her own homes demolished.
For 17 years she has made a living working as a labourer on the nearby Mishwah settlement in Al-Jiftlik. Every day she wakes up at 4.30am to prepare food for her son before driving herself and other settlement workers to the settlement for the 5am start. For her daily work she receives only 70 shekels and as she has no contract she has no guarantee of work from day to day.
Ahmad Mohamed Falah Abu Ebelah and his wife, Daliah Mehzuak Abdallah:
Ahmad is 25 years old. Before the occupation, he owned 50 dunums of land in the area. All of his land was stolen by the Israelis, who now farm dates on it. Ahmad has been working at the Mishwah settlement as he can find no other work and has no land of his own to farm.
He told us of his struggle to build a marital home a few years ago. He managed to build 1 room from mud bricks and a kitchen from plastic sheeting. This small and humble home was demolished 2 years ago a few days before he was due to be married, meaning the marriage was postponed. He and his wife have since had to move into his family home, sharing it with 7 other people. Daliah told us that she felt very bad because they were taking up 1 room of his family home. She said she was upset and angry by the destruction of what was to be their marital home, that they ‘demolished her dream’.
Their family home belonged to them far before 1948, but Ahmad’s cousins fled to Jordan, leaving it to them.
A year ago, soldiers came to their home and took photographs of the family. This is generally understood to be a precursor to a demolition. We asked Ahmad what his family would do if their home if demolished. He replied that if they were going to leave, they would’ve left already, that they have nowhere to go.
Daliah told us that her family are originally from 1948 Israel, but before coming to the Jordan Valley she lived in Tukerim refugee camp. She said that in Tukerim the children would throw stones at the soldiers’ cars, but here they cannot because they would be shot.
JVS offered Ahmad paid work rebuilding his home and those of his community. His new house was finished a few weeks ago and is bigger than the one before.
Awad Abu Ebelah:
Awad is Ahmad’s brother and also lives in the family house. Like Ahmad, Awad had built a marital home next to Ahmad’s which was demolished 2 years ago. He took the demolition order to court but the house was demolished on the day he went there. This house had cost him 35,000 shekels to build. He worked for the PA at the time but was only offered 1,400 shekels from them to start a new home. He refused.
His wife now lives in Jordan with his son and daughter, who he must support financially. He has been trying to save money but cannot afford to. He has worked in Israel twice but both times his employers would refuse to pay him until the end of his contract, and then call the police and send him back to the West Bank without any pay. He cannot get a visa for Jordan and so, like many others, he has no choice but to work full-time at the Miswah settlement.
We asked him why he thinks the Israelis want this area so much. He replied that it is the perfect weather for farming, that the soil is good and thus having this area would make Israel economically strong. He pointed out that all the settlements farm the land. He also thinks the border with Jericho is important as it is so close.
JVS offered Awad paid work and have helped him to rebuild his home.
Abir Abit Akin
Abir Abit Akin moved back to the Jordan Valley a year after her marriage in 2000 and spent a year living in a tent before moving into a house renovated by JVS. She was born and raised in the Jordan Valley but moved firstly to Jericho and then to Tukerim refugee camp after her home was demolished by the Israelis. It was at the camp where she married her husband.
When asked to compare life in the refugee camp to life in the Jordan Valley she says that the infrastructure of the camp is better than in the Jordan Valley but that there is no work in the camp and abject poverty is rife. She notes, however, that collective punishment against Palestinians is widespread in the Jordan Valley in a way not seen in the camp.
She has one child who attends the tent school in Al-Jiftlik. The area around the school has now been reclassified by the occupation authorities from area C to area B. Her child walks more than two km to school every day as they cannot afford the monthly bus fare of 60 NIS.
Abu Esam is the nickname given to one of the extended families living in Al-Moussafah. Based in a two separate mud brick houses, one of which has been renovated by JVS, the family consists of a total of 19 people. We met with the head of the family and his two sons Amard and Omar.
In 2004 the IDF demolished the family homes of Amard and Omar which forced them to move back into the family home which in 2005 was given a demolition order. However, the demolition order has stalled as the family go through the court process of seeking permission from the Israeli legal system to keep the building. Amard told us that whenever the occupation authorities demolish a house they always do it in the coldest part of winter or the hottest part of the summer to ensure maximum inconvenience to the family involved.
The family use the same water station and electricity wires as everybody else in the community meaning that they can only access water when the pump is not being used by anybody else as the pressure is too weak.
Before the occupation, the family had 160 dunums of land they used to grow crops. These were seized in 1968 to give to the emerging settlements. Now both Amard and Omar are forced to work on the nearby settlement. Amard has worked there since he was 13 and says that there are many child labourers, especially during the religious holidays.
By Amanda and Leon
Amanda and Leon