Living in Rubble in Jerusalem – Nureddin Amro
April 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
Article 53 of 4th Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilians:
“Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”
Nureddin Amro is the founder and principal of Siraj al-Quds School for Integrated Education in Jerusalem, promoting inclusive education for young people with visual impairments. Nureddin is himself blind. At the end of March, he and his family were awoken by the Israeli army at 5.30am in the morning as they slept in their home in East Jerusalem. What happened next in his own words:
Living in Rubble in Jerusalem – Nureddin Amro
Steps away from Jerusalem’s Old City, where millions of people from all countries and faiths visit for spiritual and cultural renewal, I am living with my family in rubble.
In the early morning hours of March 31, while we were sleeping, hundreds of Israeli soldiers and police surrounded the house where I live with my wife and three children and the adjacent house where my brother lives with his wife and four children and our 79-year old mother. We had gone to bed looking forward to a picnic in Jaffa that we had planned, but were awoken by the frightening sound of vehicles and yelling. They banged on the doors shouting that we had to get out immediately as they had come to demolish our home.
Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes is not new. Some demolitions are collective punishment for acts carried out by individual family members, but most are “administrative,” which means that homes were built without permits. Palestinians and human rights organizations argue these administrative demolitions are not legitimate because Israel refuses to issue permits to Palestinians to build on their own land and because the “permit regime” is part and parcel of Israel’s policy of driving Palestinians away from areas the occupying power wants to control.
Unfortunately, I live on strategic land that Israel is trying to confiscate. I live on the access road to a new settlement. Israel supports Jewish settlement in Jerusalem to make sure the percentage of Palestinian residents does not rise and threaten their efforts to Judaize the city.
What is unusual in my case is that there was no demolition order against my house and there was no warning at all that it would be demolished. Perhaps that is why the soldiers committed the act with such brutality. Many of the soldiers were masked. They brought dogs and a helicopter and bulldozers. We begged the soldiers for time to go to court and obtain proof of our rights, but they refused. We tried to email international organizations for help, but the soldiers cut our electricity and phone lines. We tried to film using our cell phones, but they beat us. My brother was injured in the leg and a fence fell on my 12-year-old son.
I was born in Jerusalem. My parents were born in Jerusalem. Their parents were born in Jerusalem. Their parents were born in Jerusalem. It mattered not to the soldiers, many of them only recent arrivals in this land.
Our modest house was approximately 70 years old – older than the State of Israel. I have lived there for more than 40 years. It’s a semi-rural spot nestled between the commercial zone, the major hospitals, and the religious sites. My kids used to play and relax under the shade of the trees, now destroyed, and they enjoyed offering water and snacks to passersby, whether Palestinian or Jewish Israeli or foreign. The house is our only home.
By the time the soldiers left, they had demolished the wall that surrounds the house, the garden that we loved, the kitchen, and several other rooms. My brother, my mother and I are each left with one room. We have restored the electricity, but the sewage system is ruined. In the place where my children used to relax and play under the shade of old trees, there are piles and piles of rubble.
Many people have offered to help us clear the rubble, but after talking with other families who have experienced demolition, I am confused about what to do. Some were told to remove the rubble after the demolition or face high fines. Others who cleaned the rubble immediately after the demolition, however, realized they had helped the authorities to destroy the evidence enabling them to later deny having demolished the house. I don’t want to take any action that will undermine my legal position, and I don’t want to do anything to “invite” them to demolish the house still more in the near future.
It isn’t easy living in a house surrounded by rubble, especially for my brother and I who are both blind. Still, I find myself unable to throw away the crushed concrete, which is mixed with the fragments of my entire life. Each uprooted plant and broken piece of furniture is a part of our story. While it’s hard to walk over and around the rubble as we try to live, it’s just as hard to imagine tossing it into a dumpster.
Life for Palestinians in Jerusalem is complicated and tiring. Laws favor the authorities and Jewish citizens, especially settlers, and are interpreted unevenly and unpredictably. As the principal of a school for visually-impaired and sighted children, I have supported hundreds of families as they tried to stay on their ancestral land in the face of violence at all levels. Now my own family is among those awakened by nightmares. We live in fear that the soldiers will come back and that nobody will protect us.
Nureddin Amro is the founder and principal of Siraj al-Quds School for Integrated Education in Jerusalem. He was chosen as an Arab World Social Innovator by Synergos Institute for his work building an inclusive future for the visually handicapped through integrated education and is an Ashoka Fellow. He was recognized by the British Council in Jerusalem as a social leader working for positive change and social development for people with special needs. A campaign to alleviate the Amro Family’s losses is at: