Bethlehem area - a house condemned to be immediately destroyed

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Anat Tueg (reporting and photographing), Natanya Ginsburg (English) and Kamal, our driver
אזור בית לחם - הבית הישן וקיר הבית החדש

Report of shift to Bethlehem checkpoint and to a house which condemned to be immediately destroyed in East Gush Etzion

Checkpoint 300 - Bethlehem

The traffic jam we saw on our way was on the road leading from the checkpoint to Jerusalem. On the way out of the checkpoint there was a great crowd of workers who were waiting for buses to Jerusalem, and people were already sitting on the fences waiting for job offers that would come along. We were again told that there is not enough work. A house painter from Bethlehem told us that this is the 14th day which he has come into Israel and not found work. The permit is wasted and the money is lost.

At the checkpoint itself there was a much smaller security force than we saw in previous shifts (they are now stationed in every corner of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion). It was actually for the better, because we always had the feeling that with an excess of soldiers walking around on the Israeli side, more problems arise for the Palestinians. Many women crossed today, but the humanitarian crossing is not active. The women today did not complain, but there is a problem with the humanitarian checkpoints at all checkpoints - in general, they are not activated - not for the elderly, not for the sick, and not for women.

A trip to the Dadua family house which is in immediate danger of demolition.

Highway 60 - the other tunnel closest to Jerusalem is already active. The traffic jam to Jerusalem starts after that.

We received a call from Manfouz Dadua, who got our phone number from the Musa family from Al Khader. We corresponded through  the wonderful  Google Translate. Two years ago, we visited Musa’s family several times, and helped them spread that they were under threat for the fourth time of the   demolition of a house they built on their land. The house was not destroyed, but of course not precisely because of us. An association from England of well-known theater people helped the protest the demolition and sent volunteers at the right moment to finish building the house.

The Dadua family is being handled by the lawyers of the St. Yves organization. Her financial situation is much worse than the family in Al Khader. The house is next to the road leading to the northern entrance to Efrat, and is the poorest in the row of houses with several floors. There are two rooms and a small kitchenette. In one room live the 7 children - from the age of 5 to the age of 16, and in the other room a father with cancer who spends most of the time in treatment (he was in treatment when we visited) and his  brave wife asked us to come.

It's just heartbreaking to see all the mattresses covering the floor in the living room, which is used for sleeping by all the children, the poverty that prevails in the house, the cute smiles of everyone and the terrible fear that they will be left without a place to live. Outside there are several walls of the extension, which would allow them to live more comfortably. But the permit request was rejected outright according to a new order from 2021 "Military Construction Approval Order" according to which the military commander of the region has to approve the request  as an initial condition of submission to the Civil Administrationinfo-icon. The military commander rejected the order in June 2022 (probably because of intentions to clear the access area to |Efrat as much as possible) and thus the permit did not even reach the administration.

We sat in the yard with everyone and heard that the children have not been studying for 20 days because of the school strike in El Khader. The teachers have  not received their  salary from the Palestinian Authority. We heard that the 8-year-old doesn't go to school as he is needed to help to wash cars in the outside yard and to help with making a living.

The five-year-old needs a doctor's examination because of a deformity in his right arm, but there is no money for a doctor. We didn't ask if there was a lack of food, but it's clear that there is a lack of everything . We also asked about the family – if they can help. Nafuz is from Dura El Khalil and her parents died. Muhammad is from Al Khader. It is not clear if anyone from from the community and the Palestinian welfare institutions support them.

We decided to help as much as we could, especially in spreading the story of this  the difficult situation. Natanya is trying to get a doctor for the littlest one though the Doctors Without Borders, I spoke with the lawyer and he explained that it is better not to continue construction, because a violation of the demolition order can cause in these difficult days a demolition which would include the old house as well. After a year has passed, it will be possible to file an appeal again. He promised to explain to us and follow up on what is happening. They are trying to get the support of the Holy Land Trust organization, which is linked to the English donors. We will visit again before Ramadan with food and other necessary things we will buy.

We didn't promise that we could do anything of course, but we saw the hope in their eyes that someone would do something for them. It is obligatory to try.

Back through the busy junction - Mazmuriya checkpoint-the South American road - Jebel Mukaber. We drove back to Jerusalem through a busy intersection. This is the only narrow road, the continuation of the road from Wadi Nar, which leads Palestinians from the north of the West Bank to the connection after Gush Etzion to road 60 leading to Hebron. Work is underway to establish a new industrial zone called "Mizrakh (East) Gush Etzion". In every corner, soldiers are on guard. One faces the road with a rifle drawn, the other with a rifle drawn to the other side.

A queue at the Mazmuriya checkpoint – which is only for Israeli cars.

We entered Jebel Mukaber via the American road at the south (an apartheid road which is for Israelis only). Except for the destroyed bus station that has disappeared, there are no traces of the burning bins and stones that blocked the roads during the strike about three weeks ago. But the protest of the Palestinian neighbourhoods has  provoked the reaction of the world, and the demolition of the houses has  stopped for the time being. Until after Ramadan...