Week 41 – Sleeping on the Streets

After the shock of the eviction, reality struck – we were homeless.  The Israeli authorities don’t consider the Palestinians when they throw uson the streets, the settlers don’t consider the refugees whilst they sleep in our bedrooms.
As for our sleep, the street across the road was the only option.  With an olive tree for shade in the day, we set down thin mattresses to pass the long nights.  We watch as the settlers walk in and out, laughing with each other and high-fiving the police officers who keep 24 hour watch over us “dirty Arabs”.  How they can live with themselves, I will never know.
I had a day off to visit my imprisoned friends from Bi’lin in the Ofer military compound, where they held a “court hearing”.  Foreigners usually can’t get in, but Lamia Khatib (Mohammed’s wife) explained to the guards that I’m a member of the family, and I passed through.
Once inside, I felt like I was in the heart of Apartheid.  We sat out all day in a Shawshank Redemption-esque yard, feeling jailed ourselves, with the unbearable heat beating down on our heads.  As I sat on the concrete floor, staring at the youthful soldiers patrolling the cage we sat in, I couldn’t help but to contemplate the Occupation.  How can we rise up, when this is what we’re struggling against.  Within 48 hours, all my Palestinian friends were either sleeping on the streets or sitting in jail.  When will the injustice stop?
At that moment, I could see it all around me.  Right down to the Palestinians working for peanuts to repair the building behind us – cheap Arab labour is hugely exploited in “Israel”, whilst the workers are treated as third-class citizens in their own land.
We were finally called for the hearing at around 3.30pm, despite the fact it was due to start at 9.30am.  In the court, the system of Apartheid was even more clear.  But despite the guards demanding the shackled teenagers not to communicate with visitors, Mustafa couldn’t help but to shout out “HALAAAA JOOOODY!” when he saw my face.  It was difficult seeing my family in brown uniforms, knowing they wouldn’t be freed in this joke of a trial.
The evidence presented against the defendents is known as “secret evidence”, meaning only the prosecution and the judge can see it, and hence no defence can be put forward.  What a joke.  And the whole process is conducted in Hebrew – not the biggest help for Arabic-speaking Palestinians!
By the end of the day, there was no conclusion.  No-one was released.
Back in Sheikh Jarrah, I saw that Sherri-Ann, a daughter of the Hannoun family, still had a beaming smile across her face:
“They want Arabs to be stupid, so that when we shout no-one will hear us,” she told me, “but I will continue to study and achieve good marks.  I will never give up.”
A 20 year-old Psychology student, Sherri-Ann had an exam to take just a few days later.  Maher, who I’ve begun to refer to as Commandante, also remained defiant:
“For the last 37 years we were fighting to keep our homes, and now begins the fight to get them back.”
Despite his inspirational words, and the international community’s verbal condemnation of the eviction, without action it is difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel for the Hannouns.  As Yousef, a cousin of the family, put it to me in one of our many late night conversations:
“We are thinking of dreams, but really this is the end for us.”

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