I had the privilege of joining the Israeli Coalition Against House Demolitions in Anata to assist with the construction of a home for a family that was being displaced by the expansion of an IDF base nearby. Anata is actually located within East Jerusalem, but the wall now separates Anata from the rest of the city. I was struck by how close the site was to the wall. What does housing security mean in a context of occupation?
We were hosted by a lovely family whose own home had been destroyed repeatedly. In spite of the completion of the administrative processes and payment of fees, close to all Palestinian petitions for building permits are denied by the Israeli authorities. Many families are forced to build without a permit, which can then be used against them as “justification” if the IDF decides to destroy their house.
I got to assist the local electrician in running lines of electricity through the new home, so much of my day was spent saying things like “it [the wire] came out!” first in Hebrew, and then to the best of my ability, in Arabic. I had a very imaginative play session with one of our hosts (pictured below) involving multicolored clothes pins and small pieces of cardboard. The group of internationals who were participating in the two week long build (including building the new house from start to finish) were a welcoming and engaging bunch. Waking up to fresh picked figs was an unbelievable treat.
At the end of two months in which I had been doing mostly computer work for my fellowship, I welcomed an opportunity to connect and to use my hands.