Thursday, July 20, 2006

Russian Roulette

As we finished breakfast on Monday and prepared to walk to the Hamdan family’s house for a second day of re-building, Jeff broke the news. Already that morning the border police had showed up at the site. Lots of them. They detained the Palestinian workers, took their I.D. cards and instructed them to travel by foot to the detainment center an hour away.

They were in trouble because although adjacent properties are officially “Area C” in the West Bank, the house we are rebuilding is just inches inside the municipality of Jerusalem. Since most Palestinians with West Bank I.D. cards are not allowed to work in Jerusalem (and often are not allowed in Jerusalem at all), these local tradesmen were technically breaking the law. We learned later in the day that the workers had been picked up again by the police, dropped at a checkpoint and told to stay away. We won’t see them again but at least they didn’t face detention, interrogation, charges and fines.

What this means is that rebuilding the Hamdan’s house is proving increasingly difficult, even impossible. The extra attention it has drawn is (we think) largely because of the government’s decision to begin building a segment of the Wall less than a hundred meters away from the site. Discouraged at this set back, we set out anyway and worked on the house all day, in defiance of the authorities.

By day’s end, however, ICAHD made the tough decision to switch to a plan B. We would postpone this project until after Wall construction had moved on and begin work on a second house, in a different part of town. Its owner is Abu Ahmad Al Hadad, aged 53. He, 2 wives, 17 children, 2 grandchildren, a daughter-in-law and his mother were all made homeless when their house was demolished on June 16, 2004. When he got the call that the bulldozers had arrived he raced to the site but his house was already a pile of rubble. One of 12,000 piles of rubble across this land.

We’ve worked on Abu Ahmad's house for two days now. Remarkably, despite the late start, we are almost on schedule. Time will tell if this one will remain standing or be demolished once again. One never knows whether or when one's house will come to some bureaucrat's attention. It's a gamble. A guessing game. No it's not. It's a game of Russian Roulette.

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