On 19th May Palestinians, Israelis and international activists participated in the launch of the campaign promoted by the community of Al Mufaqarah and supported by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) by building the first of fifteen houses destined to the community.
The campaign aims to stress the permanent character of the community presence in the area and opposes Israeli state policies. Al-Mufaqarah is located in area C and its inhabitants, who live in caves and shanks, cannot build any structure without Israeli authorization. These authorizations are systematically denied and most of the buildings of the village have pending demolition orders, despite the existence of official documents proving the inhabitants property of the land.
Work started the previous Friday afternoon when the local community prepared the ground to start building. Over 80 volunteers came out since Saturday morning to support the community and participating in the work. Working side by side, members from al-Mufaqarah and surroundings communities, Israelis and international activists contributed to build a two room house with a total floor surface of about 35m².
The Israeli army and the DCO (District Coordination Office) visited the village around 1.30 pm asking about the gravel near the mosque and blaming al Mufaqarah inhabitants that building without permission it’s illegal. During the afternoon they monitored the area from the surrounding hills, taking pictures of the new structure.
Once the walls of the house have been completed, all the people gathered near the mosque where a public meeting took place with the speeches of representatives of the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee and of the PSCC.
Mahmoud Hamandeh, a member of the Local Community, reported the story of the area since early ’80s, when the first settlements were established: “Since then the occupation became even harsher for us and during the following decades settlers attacks became systematic” told Hamandeh. “In spring 2007 they poisoned a spring, causing the death of many cattle, but when the Israeli authority for the Protection of the Natural Resources that visited the area focused its concern only on wild animals, because Israel knows that flocks are vital for us”.
In 1999 the community were uprooted from the area and transferred north of road 317: “We appealed to the Supreme Court, and after six months we were authorized to come back” said Hamandeh, “but Israeli attempts to remove us never stopped”. Last November, Israeli army demolished the mosque, a structure containing the generator, a cattle shed and Hamandeh’s house: “While my 21 years old daughter Sawsan was collecting our belongings, the soldiers sprayed her eyes with pepper” he told the audience, “then they arrested her and ‘Amal, her 16 years old cousin who just tried to rescue Sawsan after she fainted. For 3 days, we had no news about them. ‘Amal was released after 5 days, Sawsan after 8 days on 5.000 shekels bail”.
This episode has not undermined people’s will to keep living in their land: “Every time they will demolished, we will build –concluded Hamandeh-, but we need your support: come to al Mufaqarah and support us in our attempt to move from the underground to the surface of our land”.
The event ended with a show of Dabka, the traditional Palestinian dance.