Adonis Diaries

Part 2: Israeli constant Aggression on village of Umm al-Kheir “Mother of Goodness”, a Palestinian Bedouin Community

Posted on: June 30, 2018

Israeli constant Aggression on village of Umm al-Kheir “Mother of Goodness”, a Palestinian Bedouin Community

November 24th, 2017

Eid Suleiman Hathaleen’s job is to locate unexploded mines in the rugged hills in the southern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. His life at home is, however, much more stressful.

Eid, thirty-four, lives in Umm al-Kheir, a small Palestinian hamlet south of Hebron.

For years, Umm al-Kheir has been under attack by both the Israeli army and Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Carmel. Recently, the situation has worsened considerably.

A House Demolition, 2014

(Just a house demolition? Since 1967, 50,000 homes and Palestinian structures were demolished. Israel is perpetrating incremental genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinias)

“2016 was the worst year in the history of Umm al-Kheir,” Eid says. “They came to demolish our homes 4 times that year alone.”

According to OCHA, Israeli occupation authorities have come to the village for demolitions on twenty separate occasions since 2007. The data shows that since 2011, thirty-two structures have been destroyed.

Some of the demolitions would be ridiculous, if they were not so tragic.

In October 2014, the village’s traditional oven was demolished after a protracted battle that began when an Israeli couple complained that the smoke emanating from the structure was a health hazard to them and their children.

“The settlers laughed when it was demolished,” says Tariq. “The people of Umm al-Kheir offered to turn off the oven, if we could have access to electricity. But that was rejected. We told them that if we had a permit for an oven, we would build a proper one. Again they said no.”

The bread prepared in the oven was a staple of the villagers’ diet. Now, they are forced to buy their bread elsewhere, an expense the impoverished community can ill afford.

Tariq in front of the oven, the settlement Carmel can be seen in the background
Credit: Cody O’Rourke

Tariq’s own family has not been spared from the demolitions. In June 2013, soldiers confiscated a makeshift toilet built for his disabled brother Muhammad, who had previously been urinating and defecating in a river bed.

Tariq’s mother’s house has also been demolished on two occasions; she now lives in a caravan donated by the European Union.

The small metal shack offers only minimal protection from the elements. “These things are like umbrellas,” Tariq says. “It blocks the sun and the rain, but it’s freezing in the winter and hot in the summer.”

Tariq’s brother, Bilal, built his own home in the village. When he came home from work one day in 2014, it was gone. Only the concrete floor remained, as well as the markings that indicated where the walls had stood. It looked like a floorplan.

The remains of Tariq’s house
Credit: Richard Hardigan

Eid has recounted the stories of the demolitions many times, and lists the statistics without much visible emotion.

Only when he talks about his children do his eyes well up. “My daughters suffer so much from the demolitions. I suffer because they suffer,” he says. “Everybody is so afraid. Women. Children. The cloud has covered everybody.”

Eid deals with this persistent violence in an unique way – by making small sculptures. Since he was twelve-years-old, he has used scraps of metal and plastic to build miniature models of jeeps, bulldozers, and helicopters.

He has even exhibited his work internationally. “While in real life, these vehicles represent the oppressive Israeli occupation,” Eid writes on his website, “in my work, I render them back into a constructive element that can be appreciated again for their positive use.”

The Future

There is little doubt the bulldozers are going to arrive at some point again, in the near future.

A map produced by the Israeli human rights organization Bimkom indicates that almost every building in Umm al-Kheir has a pending demolition order.

Map of Umm al-Kheir, showing the pending demolition orders
Credit: Cody O’Rourke

Soldiers arrived recently with the intent, the villagers believe, of selecting homes for demolition.

On October 18, Tariq watched as a truck carrying two bulldozers passed Umm al-Kheir. The Israelis were on their way to the nearby village of Khirbat Halawa, where they demolished two buildings. Even then, the villagers of Umm al-Kheir were still afraid.

“We expected them to come to Umm al-Kheir on their way back,” says Tariq.

To raise awareness about their situation, Tariq and Eid have begun inviting foreign activists to stay in the village overnight. “We know that will not stop the army,” says Tariq, “but hopefully the world will find out what is going on here.”

Even internationals are not safe from the violence of Camel’s settlers, however. In September, they attacked an activist who was protesting their stone-throwing activities, breaking his hand.

Though Umm al-Kheir’s fate is tied up with the settler-colonialism created by the Israeli occupation, and institutionalized by the Oslo Accords, Eid’s focus is on his village. “We don’t care about the Oslo Accords,” he says. “We only care about the daily life. Just leave my land alone.”

[1] Ben Ehrenreich, The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine, (New York: Penguin, 2016).

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