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Hours remain to save Palestinian Homes

Rabbis for Human Rights - Hours remain to save Palestinian Homes

Dear friends


The Ministry of the Interior has scheduled at least 6 demolitions in the village of Jabel Mukaber for this Wednesday, Rosh Khodesh Av. I wonder whether these demolitions will help Palestinians identify with the mourning of the Jewish people over the demolition of the two Temples which once stood in Jerusalem, thereby contributing to the "Trust building measures stipulated in the "Road Map."

RHR, ICAHD, BIMKOM and others are exploring every possible avenue to stop these demolitions. You can help by writing to the officials listed below. SHOULD WE FAIL, WE ALSO NEED TO KNOW WHO IS WILLING TO SLEEP IN THESE HOMES STARTING TUESDAY NIGHT OR ARRIVE IN THE MORNINGS.

. We have been receiving reports for two weeks now of large numbers of home demolition orders being handed out in various East Jerusalem neighborhoods - Sur Baher, Jabel Mukaber, Shuafat and Beit Hanina. For various reasons it has taken us a while to put the list together, but the picture is becoming clearer. At least 45 demolition orders have been either handed out or delivered orally. Some families have succeeded in receiving stays, but not all have been so lucky. In addition to the six demolitions scheduled for Wednesday (One family was also told that their home would be demolished on Tuesday.), other homes have 30 day administrative demolition orders going into effect on August 1. Enclosed are the profiles of some of these families. Pictures and additional profiles can be sent upon request.

In Sur Baher and Jabel Mukaber, the orders seem to be concentrated in neighborhoods which will be cut off from the rest of their respective communities by one planned bypass road or another, and perhaps the Separation Wall. Nowhere is the cruel irony more evident than in Jabel Mukaber, where many of the homes were fines were handed out 10 or more years ago, but demolition orders were suspended to give the families time to obtain building permits. This was impossible as the land was not zoned for building, but three years later the families were fined for being in contemp of court for having failed to obtain the permits. After successive fines, the homes are now slated for demolition.

The master plan for Jabel Mukaber - Arab A-Suakhreh 2683 a - was created in the 80's and approved in 1996. It never took into account the natural demographic needs of the residents. In the neighboring Jewish neighborhood of Armon HaNatziv built on land expropriated from Jabel Mukaber their plan allows them to build much higher and exploit a higher percentage of each dunam for building than in Jabel Mukaber. Sixty-Five percent of the land remaining to Jabel Mukaber is zoned as "Open View Land" and it is forbidden to build on this land. Many residents must choose between leaving Jerusalem or building "illegally." "Bimkom," an Israeli NGO of architects and city planners, is working on a new master plan, but must raise the funds for almost all of the expenses. I participated on Sunday in a meeting of human rights organizations with Mayor Lupolianski's senior advisor Aharon Agassi who claimed that the Municipality has no responsibility for funding master plans for Jews or Palestinians and was not forthcoming in terms of willingness to help Palestinian families survive the permit process usually taken care of by contractors for large subsidized projects in Jewish neighborhoods. We need to check the sources of funding for master plans in Jewish neighborhoods, but this seems disingenuous.

Please write polite but unequivocal letters, with copies to RHR, to the Israeli officials listed below (I have also listed the officials to write about the single parents which I neglected to include last week.) Interior Minister Poraz has built his reputation on promoting clean and honest government and proper procedure. The Kafkaesque and catch - 22 situation in which Palestinians find themselves in is none o the above. We know that some of you may not wish to write to local officials, but it could really make a difference if the White House would be flooded with faxes, emails and phone calls in the coming hours leading up to Tuesdays meeting between Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush.

The policy of home demolitions is neither fair nor based on the principles of good planning. Rather a Kafkaesque snarl of rules, regulations and resident nor-friendly zoning insures that Palestinians must build "illegally." In the Jewish tradition this is called "Eifa V'Eifa," double standards. With your help, the month of Av need not be a month of massive destruction of Palestinian homes and of the trust necessary to cultivate the fragile beginnings of a reborn peace process.

B'Vrakha, Arik

President George W. Bush COMMENTS: 202-456-1111 SWITCHBOARD: 202-456-1414 FAX: 202-456-2461

: White House Web Mail or

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell: (202) 647-7098

Israeli Officials : Regarding home demolitions please write to PM Sharon, Interior Ministry Poraz and Mayor Lupolianski Please write to all government ministers regarding the striking single parents.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: Office of the Prime Minister, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Rehov Kaplan 3 Jerusalem 91919; Fax: 972-2-566-4838; Tel: 972-2-670-5511;

Finance Minister Binyanmin Netanyahu: 1 Kaplan St. Jerusalem,;; Fax:972-2-563-5769; Tel: 972-2-531-7200

Minister in the Treasury Meir Shetreet Tel 972 2 531-7727, Fax: 972-2-5317697,

Mayor Uri Luplianski: Kikar Safra 1, Jerusalem, Israel; Phone: 972-2-629-7717; Fax: 972--629-6014;

Interior Minister Avrahm Poraz Ministry of the Interior; Kiryat Ben Gurion, Kaplan 2, Jerusalem, Israel;;; Fax: 972-2-566-6376 Tel: 972-2-670-1402

Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Natan Sharansky Tel. 972-2-6799774, Fax 972-2-6799775

Justice Minister Yosef (Tommy) Lapid Tel. 972-2-6466527, Fax. 972 2 6285438,

28 July 2003

Ahmad's home: 02 6732 735 (Arabic only) Ahmad's neighbor's mobile 052 324 693 (Arabic and some Hebrew) Imad from Jabal Mukaber 052 501 238 (Arabic, Hebrew, English) Office of lawyer, Najeeb Zaid 02 622 1515 Mobile of lawyer's assistant, Abdella 066 277 756 and\or 066 377 756 Sawaherah neighborhood in Jabal Mukaber

Israeli Interior Ministry officials today told Afaf Sheqerat that tomorrow her home in the Jabal Mukaber village of East Jerusalem would be demolished because it was constructed without a permit. Her husband, Ahmad Hassen Sheqerat, the owner of the house, was at work when an Interior Ministry inspector told Afaf in Arabic that she and her family must evacuate their home before the demolition tomorrow. Ministry officials visited the home three times today. Ahmad hopes the building permit he obtained from the Jerusalem Municipality on 09-08-01 will help prevent the demolition.

Eight people live in the house today: Ahmad, Afaf, their five children (Nahed, 7.5; Fadi, 12; Wael, 14; Jamelah, 14; Waselah, 18), and Ahmad's brother Ibrahim, 39, who is mentally disabled and has just one hand. As we talk, the kids scurry in and out, bringing coffee, tea, and ashtrays, and then clearing the emptied glasses. The mood in the house is frantic, and when Ahmad comes home from his lawyer's office around 10pm, he looks exhausted and stunned.

Ahmad built his house in 1987, on land he inherited from his father. No one knows for how many generations the land has been in his family. Until 1996 Israeli officials gave the family's home no trouble. In that year, the Jerusalem Municipality took Ahmad to court for illegal construction of his home. The court fined him NIS 15,000, and demanded that he either obtain a building permit within three years or demolish his home. Ahmad paid the fine in NIS 400 monthly installments, and hired planner Isham Abu Dheen and engineer Nadir Mashnee to help secure a permit. These services cost Ahmad $2,500. After paying an additional NIS 70,000 in licensing fees, the Jerusalem Municipality gave the house a permit on 09-08-01. >From that date until this month, Israeli officials left the house alone. Ten days ago, the Interior Ministry brought a demolition order to the house, printed in Hebrew and Arabic. Officials returned today and told the family to evacuate.

Ahmad works in road construction in Jewish neighborhoods (Sharafat? Near Bet Safafa). "I feel so much confusion," he said. "In areas where I build, they have the government behind them to give them licenses, and we have no authorities to help us, no one to help us. There is nothing we can do."

Waselah, his oldest daughter, just finished high school. The family has no money to send her to university, so she'll stay at home. The younger children are still in school. "When I told my sons that our house would be demolished, they began to cry. I told them that we would live in a tent. They asked, 'How will we play with toys, how will we read, how will we watch television, how will we go to the bathroom?' I have a permit, I paid all the fees, I have five kids in school; if they demolish, where should my kids live? How should we plan our lives? How will this affect my children? What will they say about peace, about Israelis?"

28 July 2003 Abdul Hamid speaks Arabic, Hebrew, and English Mobile phone: 057 723 642 Engineer: Saleh Attallah (works with Shmuel Dudsun)

Abdul Hamid Alleh Ajej learned that the Israeli Ministry of the Interior will demolish his home on Wednesday, 30 July 2003, along with five other homes in the Jabal Mukaber village of East Jerusalem. Abdul Hamid lives with his wife, Sameh, and seven children. His oldest child, his daughter, Fidah, is sixteen.

Abdul Hamid's house was built in 1990-1991, when his first wife, Gauther, learned that she had cancer. The family was living with Abdul's father at the time. "She wanted to leave something for the kids," Abdul Hamid said. "We didn't seek a permit then. No one bothered during the first intifada, and anyway she had no time to deal with the papers; she was very sick." Gauther died not long after the family moved into the new house.

"In 1994 the Ministry of the Interior came to my home, wanting to bring me to court. The Orient House hired a lawyer for me, Hosni Abu Hassein. The procedure took from '94 till '97, when the court gave its decision: I had to pay a 20,000 shekel fine, 1,000 shekels every month, and they said I had 12 months to plan the area and get a permit. But this was a joke; impossible. When I finally finished paying the fine twenty months later, I thought it was over after that, I thought everything was finished. But they told me, 'No, you have to get a permit.' We Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, we don't really know the law, the procedure. And when we go to lawyers and engineers, they often don't care about any human case; the important thing for them is the money, and they often don't really do a good job."

"In 2000, people from the Interior Ministry who were working in my area told me that I should really get a permit, or else they would demolish my house. Abdul Hamid hired the engineer, Saleh Attalah, to help with the bureaucracy involved in planning the area and seeking a building permit. Abdul Hamid estimates that he has paid Attalah approximately NIS 17,000-20,000. "We rely on them," Abdul says, "but really, to be honest, I don't understand what they're doing." Abdul Hamid began submitting documents to the Ministry of Interior in May of 2001. He has thus far been unable to get his area planned, a prerequisite for getting a building permit from the Jerusalem Municipality.

Two weeks ago, Abdul Hamid received a verbal order to evacuate, and today he learned that his home will be demolished this coming Wednesday. "My children ask lots of questions," Abdul Hamid said, "but I have answers for very few of them. I know this will leave a stamp on their lives. The Ministry of Interior doesn't understand that if they do this, it will ruin my children's lives."

23 July 2003 Mohammad speaks Hebrew and Arabic 052 570 465 or 058 503 329 lawyer: Saleh, from the office of Jawad Boules

Mohammad Daoud Abu Kaff and his wife Aida live in Sur Baher with their six children and eleven other relatives. The family rents the house from Mohammad's uncle, who has been living in Jordan since 1967. Because Mohammad's cousins plan to come from Jordan to live in the house, Mohammad in 2001 sought a building permit for land he inherited elsewhere in Sur Baher, to build a house for his family. He and his lawyer approached the Jerusalem municipality with papers documenting the residents' efforts to plan their neighborhood. The municipality told them that their efforts were futile, because the area is not zoned for building. Though Mohammad's family holds little hope of securing a permit for their house, they hope their bureaucratic hassle will help families with similar struggles in the future.

Mohammad felt he had no choice but to build his own home illegally. Even before their cousins from Jordan laid their claim, Mohammad's family never felt quite at home in the crowded house. They built a partition into the children's room to separate boys' and girls' sleeping areas; the house was not built for nineteen. "The children saw their new home as their freedom," Aida said. "This is not their own home, they can't play freely here."

"We put all our savings into the house. For months we did not eat vegetables, fruits, or meat to save money for the house." Aida said she and her husband did much of the construction themselves to avoid paying workers.

Soon after they finished building, in June 2002, the house received a demolition order. With their lawyer's help, the family managed to delay the demolition, temporarily. On 1 April, 2003, they received a final decision: their house will be demolished between the first and the thirtieth of August, 2003.

"As the day approaches, we feel that we are waiting for everything to end. Even the lawyers give us no hope. The children know, and they are always crying. We used to take them to the new house to show them their dream. The kids gave up their pocket money to contribute to the house and the legal fees. Now they want their money back." The family no longer takes the kids to see the new house, hoping to lessen the apparently inevitable trauma of its demolition.

Meanwhile, the parents are in no position to make promises about reimbursing pocket money. Mohammad earns NIS 3,000 per month, working at a supermarket in Ramot. He pays NIS 7,000 per month in building-related debts and legal fees.

Hoping to avoid Mohammad's hassle, his brother bought land in a planned area properly zoned for building. Nevertheless, the authorities have managed to halt his construction for the past four years. He has apparently been using the wrong bricks, and has also improperly positioned one of the walls. Mohammad's brother has repeatedly paid to comply with these requirements.

Olive oil is available from the RHR office 25 NIS per liter, 350 NIS per jerrycan

Rabbis For Human Rights Tel. 972 2 563-7731 Fax. 972 2 566-2815 Mobile 972 50607034 Website:

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