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JERUSALEM: Home demolition leaves mother, four children homeless

July 13, 2010 | 10:13 am

Jerusalem-house

Dalal Rajabi, a mother of four children, came home Tuesday to find that her modest two-room house that has sheltered her family for two years had been razed.

A team of Jerusalem municipal workers protected by a large police force came to the Rajabis' 200-square-foot home in Beit Hanina, an East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood, broke down the main door, took the furniture out and proceeded to demolish it. Dalal Rajabi was not home at the time. She had left the house to take her son to see a doctor when the workers and a bulldozer arrived.

“My heart broke when I saw what happened to my home,” said Rajabi, carrying her 3-month-old baby and her three other children, 10, 8, and 5 years old, looking in bewilderment at what was once their house.

“I was in shock. I did not know what to do or say. I just stood there looking at my house and furniture dumped in the street and cried,” she said.

By the late afternoon on a blazing summer day, the Rajabis were still waiting for the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide them with a tent to protect them from the sun and the cold desert nights.

The Rajabis' home was not the only one the municipality had demolished Tuesday. A total of five structures were demolished in various East Jerusalem neighborhoods – three in Issawiyeh and one in Jabal al-Mukaber, in addition to the Rajabis' in Beit Hanina. Unlike the Rajabis' house, the others were still under construction.

The demolitions were the first in East Jerusalem of homes built without a license in two months. The resumption of demolitions came days after President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House, where Netanyahu promised to take confidence-building measures to kick-start direct Palestinian-Israeli talks.

Some Israeli right-wing politicians have vowed to keep East Jerusalem part of Israel forever, while Palestinians want it as the capital of their future state.

The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem had decided to build 32 new homes for Jews in an East Jerusalem settlement, a step that has provoked strong Palestinian condemnation.

This is not the first time the Rajabis have lost their home. Two years ago, municipality workers demolished the home they had built on the same property, saying they did not have a building license.

Rajabi admits that she did not apply for a permit then, but after the first demolition, she hired a lawyer to get her a permit to rebuild her home. For two years the lawyer had not succeeded in getting the permit, but meanwhile an NGO which fights Israel’s demolition policy of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem had rebuilt her house.

“We only built a brick home and did not even put a concrete roof on it,” said Rajabi. “We were satisfied with only a tin roof because we know that the municipality would not demolish a house if it does not have concrete roof,” she said.

But that assumption proved wrong because last week municipality and Israeli interior ministry staff had come to the house, photographed it and left without saying a word. Rajabi knew then what to expect and asked her lawyer to make sure that her house would not get the ax, but to no avail.

-- Maher Abukhater in Jerusalem

Photo: Palestinian girls stand next to belongings salvaged from the house of their relatives, after it was demolished in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina Tuesday. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi / Associated Press
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