Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Jerusalem: Family‘s home demolished, now living in cave

By Tim Vlostek - September 09, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Jerusalem] [Jerusalem municipality] [Silwan] [demolition]

Photo by Vivian Calle.


Khalid Zir, a 39-year old laborer living in Silwan, was forced to move his family into a cave in late August 2013 after Israeli municipal bulldozers destroyed the small shack that had been home to his family for seven years. The cave that lies beneath the small hill where his home once stood, which was once used as a stable for the family’s farm animals, is now home to Khalid, his wife and five children, the youngest of which is just 4 months old. 

This is the third time Khalid has had his house destroyed in Silwan and has few other options for his family. “I have nowhere else to go, I can’t rent because I’m not working right now,” he says. He went on to lament that the taxes that the people of Silwan pay to the Jerusalem municipality, “are going to the bulldozer that destroyed our house, the tear gas they shoot at us, and the settlers.” He continued, “Israelis are all the time talking about the peace, but they won’t let us live…you can imagine the kind of peace they have in mind.”

The desperation that led Khalid to move his family into a cave and their peculiarity of their living situation has attracted much media attention to what is usually considered an old story. The fact that another Palestinian home was destroyed in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem of around 55,000 inhabitants, is nothing new.  According to B’Tselem, in the last ten years, 448 Arab-owned homes in East Jerusalem have been demolished, leaving 1,752 people homeless. So far, in 2013, 30 homes have been knocked down, leaving 80 homeless. In Silwan, 85% of the homes in the area, almost all of them built without official Israeli permits after 1967 due to the difficulty in securing them and their high costs, have demolition orders. The Palestinians here are losing their homes to encroaching Jewish settlements, land seizures by the Israeli national park, and excavations of the expanding “City of David” archeological site.

The Jerusalem Municipality has denied carrying out housing demolitions in a recent statement made to the Associated Press (AP), saying they had only “removed uninhabitable tin structures located in public property that is designated to become a national park. Thus, the area cannot be used for private residential purposes.”  

News stories about Khalid and his family have been published all over the world, bringing attention back to the ongoing problem of housing demolitions in East Jerusalem. On a recent Monday night, a group of friends and neighbors sat with Khalid, talking and drinking coffee in the mouth of the cave. The entrance is covered by a wooden façade that has a door and window and provides the family with some privacy. Inside, there are chairs, couches, a television, rugs and bedding, a gas stove and refrigerator.

Everyone was waiting for a news story to air on Al-Jazeera about Khalid’s situation. When the segment aired, the volume of the TV was turned up and everyone sat in silence watching the piece. After the discussions continued. One of the men present, Mahmood Qaraeen, a local activist, brings up the 2020 plan, an unofficial Israeli program to make the Palestinian population in Jerusalem a minority by the year 2020. “Every Israeli government agency takes their part and their goal is to get an 85% Jewish-Israeli population. It’s their dream and they work hard.”

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