“Since the area is used by the military and a large part of the industry there serves the defense establishment, the area must be closed to Bedouin settlement and evacuated.”
— Uri Ariel, writing in the 1970’s
Forty years ago Uri Ariel, now agriculture minister, was already planning the eviction of Bedouin living east of Jerusalem. This emerges from a document signed by him titled, “A proposal to plan the Ma’aleh Adumim region and establish the community settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim B.”
The document outlines a plan to turn some 100,000 to 120,000 dunams (25,000 to 30,000 acres) of Palestinian land into an area of Jewish settlement and develop it as a “Jewish corridor,” as he put it, from the coast to the Jordan River. In fact, a large part of the plan has been executed, except for the eviction of all the area’s Bedouin.
Opponents of the demolition also argue that it is part of an effort to enable the expansion of the nearby settlement of Kfar Adumim, and to create a region of contiguous Israeli control from Jerusalem almost to the Dead Sea, a move critics say will bisect the West Bank, and make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
The High Court of Justice agreed on Thursday to hold a hearing on a petition filed by residents of Khan al-Ahmar against the state’s decision to demolish the Bedouin village near the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.
The top legal body ordered that a hearing on the matter be held by August 15, meaning the demotion of the hamlet — originally green-lighted by the court in May — will be further delayed until after the session takes place and a decision is handed down. . . .
With the eviction appearing just days away, attorneys representing Khan al-Ahmar submitted an urgent petition last Wednesday that claimed the Civil Administration — the Defense Ministry body in charge of construction permits in the West Bank — never offered any plans to legalize the village, and refused to review a plan submitted by the villagers. . . .
Most residents are members of the Jahalin tribe, which the Israeli military expelled from the Negev desert of southern Israel at the start of the 1950’s. The Jahalin Bedouins were relocated to the area of Kfar Adumim in the West Bank in 1952, only to be moved again to their current location when an Israeli settlement was built there.
Growing up herding sheep and goats in the hills east of Jerusalem, Eid Jahalin never expected to find himself one day lobbying in the halls of the U.S. Congress.
But that is how the 51-year-old spent last week, as the small cluster of shacks he calls his home village comes under threat of demolition by Israeli bulldozers.
The Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, inhabited by 173 people, may seem unassuming, with homes made of wood and tarpaulin and surrounded by animal pens. But its strategic location puts it at the heart of the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
If Israel were to demolish the village and other surrounding Bedouin communities and build here as planned, Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank would be split in two, with a portion of it isolated from any future capital in East Jerusalem.
“It is frozen evidence of the issue of the destroyed villages. That’s why it annoys the Israeli land authority, because they don’t want it turned into a sort of non-official monument for the destroyed villages.”
— architect Shmuel Groag
Near the stone ruins of the home where he says he lived as a boy, Yacoub Odeh laments that his native village on Jerusalem’s hillside may soon be transformed forever.
“I want to come back to my home, to my house, to my village, to my land,” the 77-year-old said.
Lifta, an abandoned former Palestinian village in a bucolic spot at the entrance to Jerusalem, is at the centre of a preservation fight over an Israeli plan to build villas there.
It is a rare example of a village that still exists after its Palestinian inhabitants fled in the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel, though its history extends much farther back in time.