‘My home is my life’ – Wadi Hummus grandfather talks of IDF home demolitions

“It took me two years to build it and it took them two hours to destroy it,” he said.

July 23, 2019 19:44
4 minute read.
‘My home is my life’ – Wadi Hummus grandfather talks of IDF home demolitions

Ghaleb Abu Hadwan. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

In just two hours, IDF cranes destroyed the home that Ghaleb Abu Hadwan had spent two years building at the end of a small asphalt road next to the West Bank security barrier, in a place called Wadi Hummus just outside of Jerusalem.

The gray haired Palestinian plumber, who speaks both Arabic and Hebrew, returned on Tuesday morning to survey the rubble on the lot where his home had stood.

“It took me two years to build it, and it took them two hours to destroy it,” Hadwan said, sitting on a white plastic chair next to the rubble.

He was one of a number of home owners who returned to stare at the 12 buildings that the IDF demolished on Monday, in an operation that lasted from the pre-dawn hours until dark.

“My son woke me,” said Hadwan. “I looked out the window and saw many people. They [Israeli security forces] closed the area here. They first went to the large building there,” he said, pointing to a large apartment building with a collapsed roof that the IDF attempted to bring down with explosives.

“I made coffee,” he said, and drank it as soldiers kept pouring into his street.

“After 45 minutes they came to my house and told me to leave. I told them, ‘my home is my life. If you want to destroy it, destroy it on top of me. If you want me to leave, then lift me out of here.’” Four soldiers lifted him up and carried him out. In the process, Hadwan said, he fainted. Then he sat on the stoop of a neighboring building, took a number of deep breaths and drank water as he tried to get his bearings.

The IDF charged that his home and the other 11 structures, many of which were under construction, posed a security risk because they were within 400 meters of the barrier.

Wadi Hummus residents dismiss that charge as laughable, because the barrier’s wire fence in that area is broken in a number of places. The IDF created additional breaks so they could bring demolition equipment into the area, but then left without closing the gaps.

One such gap was just meters away from where Hadwan sat. The 64-year-old father and grandfather had hoped that the building would become his family’s homestead. He completed only two floors, but laid a large foundation so that apartments could be added on when his grandchildren became of marriageable age.

Instead, Hadwan found himself homeless and entangled one more time in the geo-politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prior to the 1948 War of Independence, Hadwan’s family lived in Jaffa, which is now part of Tel Aviv. His great-grandfather, Hadwan said, “was evicted from there.”

THE FAMILY settled in Hebron and then moved to Jerusalem’s Old City, where Hadwan was born. His family lived in what had been the Jewish Quarter before the Jordanians expelled the Old City’s Jewish residents, when it took over east Jerusalem after the war.

Hadwan and his family are among the 5.4 million Palestinians considered as refugees by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

After the 1967 war, the family moved to a small home in the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem.
“We grew,” Hadwan said. “We got married. My children grew up.” But the home was not big enough. A Jerusalem resident, he bought a lot in the Arab Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber, but was not able to obtain a building permit from the municipality.

Hadwan next bought a lot in the Wadi Hummus section of Sur Bahir, an east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood located mostly in Jerusalem. Wadi Hummus, however, is located in the West Bank, included in Areas A and B that are totally or partially under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.

Although Hadwan’s home is on the Israeli side of the security barrier, it is technically under the jurisdiction of the Bethlehem municipality, which issued a building permit.

Work began on Hadwan’s home in 2015, in full view of the IDF and the Border Police.

“No one in the army told me that building here is prohibited,” Hadwan said. “Only in the end when I finished the building did they say, ‘why did you build here? You are forbidden from building here.’”

He and the other residents, with the help of an attorney, turned to the High Court of Justice.

During the hearing, Hadwan said, they felt as if the judge was on their side, grilling the army about its actions. Then in an apparent about face, the court issued a ruling in June to allow for the demolition to proceed.

Home owners were given a month to destroy their own structures.

“But who would do such a thing?” Hadwan asked. “All the money I and my children had we invested in this home. Now who will live here? Dogs. The Israeli government cares more for the animals than its people. People speak today of co-existence and peace. But this situation – who would believe that we have peace here? [Israel] speaks of peace, but then comes and destroys my home.”

Not just the home, Hadwan said. “They destroyed my dreams and my grandchildren’s dreams.”

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