Thursday, February 17, 2011

A House Surrounded on all Sides

After the Israeli Courts ruled against the demolition of Omar Hajaj’s home in Al Walajah, the Ministry of Defense ordered to surround his home with an electronic fence. If the plans are implemented, Omar and his family will be virtually entirely cut off from his village and surrounding land.
Omar Hajaj is a 45-year-old day laborer in Israel, living with his wife, three sons (ages one, five, and ten-years old) and his father’s wife in Al Walajah. Al Walajaha is a village of approximately 2000 inhabitants and lies just North of Bethlehem. Nowadays, this family is facing one of the most unique cases: the Israeli army wants to surround his home with an electronic fence, that if touched will send a signal to Israeli military authorities. The Israeli Ministry of Defense considers this house to be built on the wrong side of the road, which separates the Jerusalem District from the West Bank. Originally, the Ministry of Defense had ordered his house to be demolished, but the Israeli Court struck this down. In response, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has ordered the house to be surrounded with a fence and a special corridor with four gates leading Omar to the West Bank.
JPG - 532.2 kb
Omar and his son standing in front of their home.

What follows is his story.
My family was living in the old village of Al-Walaja until 1948, until Israel ordered us to leave, demolished our houses and relocated the village to the other side of the valley. But we always hoped we would come back to the original village. So my parents built this small house in 1948, and progressively extended it as the family grew.
In 2000, we received an order from the Israeli authorities to demolish the house arguing it was built without permit. We were in the court for 6 years, and during that time the bulldozers stayed straight in front of the house, waiting the official order to raze our life. The army harassed and pressured my family; the soldiers would enter our house on a daily basis, sometimes twice a day, threatening us, claiming that we did not have the right to live there because we are from the West Bank whereas our house is built in the Jerusalem district. They used to take our ID and to lead us to the other side of the street, which is considered in the West Bank.
In 2006, we finally got the fruits of our struggle when the Israeli court of Jerusalem ruled that the demolition was not justified. I was so happy; I remember I went to the soldiers with the document and I told them they could not enter my house anymore, it was now “officially” my land. The soldiers were baffled; they called their commandant who confirmed with them that I had won the case. After that, they didn’t harass us for a while.
JPG - 366.1 kb
The wall under construction, directly in front of Omar’s house.
But unfortunately, they never really left us.
In early 2010, they started building the wall in Al Walajah. In May, I received an official visit of representatives from the Minister of Interior, the vice Minister of Defense and an engineer to explain to me they received an order that my house has to be surrounded with an electric fence built 10 meters along each side of my house. We will have to pass through four gates. We will of course have to wait to enter and exit the house.
JPG - 313 kb
Omar and his son standing in front of their home.

Moreover, only my car will be allowed to enter my land i.e. to pass through the gates, and we could have guest for a very limited time but no one can sleep over except us. It means that anytime my children are back from school, anytime they want to play outside with their friends, anytime I forget to buy bread, anytime there is an emergency, we will have to pass through this “checkpoint”… I cannot even believe it and they even asked me to sign the paper allowing this! When my lawyer requested a map of the wall plan that will surround my house, the army refused to give it.
Three months ago, the Israeli High Court of Justice suspended construction of the wall. From now we work on opening personal cases. But many villagers are not motivated anymore. On 45 cases directly affected by the building of the Separation Wall, only 28 applied. I believe that we have to keep struggling. I was born here and my children were born here. I have spent my entire life here. I want for us all to be able to die on this land. I belong to this land. We are a nation that deserves a land. Even if I have to pass through 4 gates to exit my house, I will not leave.

No comments:

Post a Comment