Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It Doesn't Make Sense: Illegal in Their Own Village

From the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israeli: JE Berg, an accompanier in Bethlehem, filed this report which can be found at the EAPPI International website.

"It doesn't make sense to us either"
By: J E Berg, EAPPI Bethlehem

Mohammed Daoud is 22 and ready to start his adult life. He lives with his brother and 5 sisters in the family home, and like most young men, he wants to move out and spread his wings.

Mohammed is from An Nu'man, a village of 200 on the southern edge of Jerusalem. It is a close community, but it exists in a limbo that affects every aspect of life. After Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, it unilaterally annexed the village to the Jerusalem municipality, along with a large area of the central West Bank. But even though An Nu'man came within the municipal boundaries, Israel refused to give its inhabitants Jerusalem residency cards. Instead it defined them as West Bankers, thus denying their right to live in their own houses. This logic extends to the realm of language: Israeli law refers to the residents as "present absentees."

Like many Palestinians both in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Mohammed has almost no chance of obtaining a permit from the Israeli authorities to build a house in his own village. Since 1967, the occupying authorities have not given a single building permit to any resident of An Nu'man.

Without a house, Mohammad will not be able to bring a wife to his own home. The Palestinian Arab tradition is that young men start to build a house after finishing school. As soon as they start to earn money, they start to build, and can think about marriage. Mohammad wants to follow this tradition and settle here, in the village of his forefathers.

"I don't want to leave my place to be replaced by an Israeli," he says, but "I do not dare to build a house without permission."

His brother, who did build a house without an impossible-to-obtain permit, saw his home flattened by the Israeli authorities.

"When I see the demolished house of my brother, I know I will not attempt to follow my dreams."

Locals claim that An Nu'man has the highest number of educated people in any village of the West Bank. Mohammad has a degree in Geography from a Palestinian university in Jerusalem. While he was studying he met girls, but says he wants to marry someone from his village.

"I think it will only make problems for you if you marry a woman from other places," he says. "Perhaps the ideas of their family are different from the customs of your own family."

But his choice of wife is more than a matter of tradition. If a local boy wants to marry a girl from another village in the West Bank, he has to move out from An Numan. Only registered villagers can enter through the checkpoint here. Any girlfriend or new wife will not get permission to come here. And although he wants to marry, like most Palestinians Mohammed is attached to his village.

"My dream is to continue my studies, get a job and settle in my own house and start a family," he says.

"I love my village. It is good place to grow up. The 200 villagers all know each other. But the situation in my village is terrible now. We are included in Jerusalem, but we do not hold a Jerusalem ID. This makes us illegal in our own village. I know it is hard for others to understand. It doesn't make sense to us either."nier in Bethlehem, filed this report which can be found at the EAPPI international website.

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For more about EAPPI, including how to participate, see the US website: www.eappi-us.org .

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