Curfew was lifted from 9AM to 6PM today, after the terrifying night of house demolitions. In fact, right after I had sent out my last email, another blast vibrated the air, bringing the total number of demolitions to three. The last one was in Aida refugee camp, near the city of Bethlehem.
Life almost seemed to come to a full swing at Ibdaa today. The summer camp for girls has started just a couple of days ago, and the center was vibrant with over 90 girls (ages 11-16) participating in the programs. Inad Theater, a performance group for children based in the nearby village of Beit Jala, came to play a musical. The girls excitedly sang, laughed, and danced, completely absorbed in the performance. Their sparkly smiles were moving, after seeing the horror that they constantly live through.
My adopted family’s eldest daughter just passed the high school graduation exam yesterday, and they have been busy for the past 2 days receiving congratulating relatives and neighbors. The exam - 'tawjihi' in Arabic - is extremely difficult (only 50-60% students pass every year) and sharing joy and agony of the results is a communal event in the tightly-knit Palestinian society. My family is relieved and happy, but has already started to worry about financing their daughter's college education, an unaffordable cost for already-struggling family in these times of extreme hardships. "But we want her to be educated and become independent," says the mother of the family. "Education is the most important thing for us - because we, the Palestinians, have no land, no country, nothing to ourselves."
The home of Ayat Akhras is slated for the demolition, for she carried out a suicide operation in the spring in Jerusalem. The 17-year-old top student would have been among those celebrating a successful result of tawjihi, had she lived. Typical of a refugee camp structure, their house is a multiple-household building and a home to 22 people, including families of Ayat's married siblings. In a particularly dense neighborhood in Dheisheh, the Akhras home shares walls with several other houses. "There are 54 people to become homeless," said the father of a family in one of the adjoining buildings. During our brief visit this evening, even as they prepare for the loss of their home, the family extended hospitality by offering first a cold drink, then sweet mint tea, brought to us by a daughter who also passed tawjihi. They pack to salvage minimum necessities and most important things. "I have worked on this home for 30 years," says the father. "We will all be in the streets, for we have nowhere to go. The entire neighborhood is going to be destroyed."
It's a sickening, helpless feeling to anticipate this to happen - and to see these families packing and leaving their home for the last time, knowing how people here build their homes bit by bit with years of hard work.
August 9, 2002, 3:50AM
An APC just passed the main road in front of Dheisheh, towards the direction of the Akhras home. It has been 3 nights of terrible anxiety - yet we do not know if tonight will be the demolition, or if that's the worst to come, or how much longer the Israeli occupation will continue devastate the life of a people who have no other choice but to fight back to live.
A huge, enormous blast. We are not sure which house has just been demolished.