It was a harrowing scene after police pulled out of the unrecognized Beduin village of Umm al-Hiran on Wednesday, leaving behind one resident who died in disputed circumstances along with a dead policeman and 10 demolished homes.
Women sobbed among the ruins of concrete and twisted metal, and family members were trying to salvage what was left of their possessions, pulling carpets, bags and pots from the rubble.
“Where will you sleep?” a boy sitting on rubble was asked. “We won’t sleep,” he said.
Nearby, Hamad Abu al-Kiyan was in grief over the loss of his brother Yacoub, whom residents say was killed by police without reason and whom police say carried out a deadly car attack against an officer.
Police insisted on going ahead with the demolition of Yacoub’s house after his death, adding to everyone’s grief and, in the view of Umm al-Hiran residents, illustrating just how cruel the police and government that sent them really are.
With the rubble of Yacoub’s house visible nearby, Hamad said there is no way his brother, a father of eight, carried out an attack.
“He was a unique man, an educator and a teacher,” Hamad said, while handing tissues to his 100-year-old father Musa who was sobbing and saying in a subdued voice, “There is no god but God.”
“He knows everything that happened,” Hamad said of his father.
“He has trouble hearing but his brain is sharp.”
Despite all the grief, Hamad Abu al-Kiyan apparently did not lose sight of the larger picture of what was happening in the village.
For, in the same field of vision, in the distance beyond the rubble of Yacoub’s demolished home, a crane clearly could be seen doing earthwork in preparation for the transformation of Umm al-Hiran – when it is completely demolished – into the Jewish town of Hiran, which for reasons best known to the government, has to be built where a Beduin village already exists.
“The government wants to take the Beduin and replace them with Jews. Anyone can see what is going on,” he said.
On Sunday, Musa had recalled in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that, in 1956, the Beduin were forced off their land and relocated to what became Umm al-Hiran.
Musa recalled the name of the army officer, Haim Tsuri, who had told the Beduin they would be able to stay in Umm al-Hiran. “They said, ‘Just stay here. All the area is yours.’” But the Beduin were never given title to the land, and the village remained unrecognized and without hookup to water and electricity, its only access road hazardous from potholes.
A 2015 Supreme Court ruling found that the land belonged to the state, paving the way for implementation of plans to demolish the village to make way for Hiran and setting in motion the second displacement of these Beduin.
Government officials declared their intention to move the entire village to the nearby township of Hura by persuasion or through demolitions. But residents said they did not want to move to Hura because infrastructure isn’t in place there and Hura residents have made clear they don’t want them.
They also said they lacked written assurances that conditions would be adequate.
The two sides failed to reach agreement. Residents had hoped to keep negotiating but the demolition operation was launched.
Aga Abu al-Kiyan, a cousin of Yacoub, who also lost her house, was sitting amid the rubble, crying.
She lost her husband to cancer seven years ago and said it was Yacoub who helped her family.
“They evicted us with excessive force, hitting and using tear gas,” she said. Ayman Odeh [the Joint List leader] was next to me. They struck him and fired at him. He didn’t do anything to them. He was just trying to help us.”
“The police forced us to stand near the mosque,” she said. “I went up on my brother’s house and saw how they were destroying my home. They destroyed my soul and heart.”
Amal Abu al-Kiyan, Yacoub’s wife who lived apart from him, also lost the house where she and six children lived. “I have no idea what I’ll do now,” said Amal, who has a doctorate from Ben-Gurion University.
“I never imagined this would happen. They didn’t give enough chance for negotiation.”
“We need to be treated as human beings. I have Jewish friends who have offered their houses to me.
We need those above them, those in the Knesset to also treat us as human beings,” she said.
The contrast with the state’s handling of negotiations with the illegal settlement outpost of Amona, where settlers were accommodated and given generous compensation packages, was not lost on Arabs who came from nearby and watched the bulldozers at work.
“I feel alienation and non-belonging,” said Muhammad as-Sufi, a businessman from Segev Shalom.
“There are laws for Jews and laws for Arabs. In Amona, they give them a million shekels, and here they demolish and kill. We are not even second-class citizens.”