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From the field

Civil Administration demolishes hut of al-Moher family on grounds that it was built without a permit, near Zububa Village, Jenin District, 16 May 2005

Hakmeh Al-Muher, age 68

Hakmeh Al-MuherI was born in Jaffa sixty-eight years ago. Following the 1948 war, my family moved from one town or village to another until we settled in 'Azzun, in Qalqiliya District. In the 1950s, I married my cousin, Mahmud Salim al-Moher. He was originally from Ti'anik and Rumaneh area. He served in the Jordanian army and was killed in the 1960s. I still don't know how he was killed. We had five children, and they were all under six years old when he died. I raised them and did my best to take care of them. I made a living from doing housework and from farming, and also from charity.

In 1998, my children and I bought a dunam of land [1/4 acre]. We worked hard in framing the land of other people to save the money to buy the parcel, so we would have land of our own. We built a hut on the land and I lived in it. The sheep and goats and pigeons that we raise also live in the hut, so it is in effect my house, a pen for the sheep and goats, and a storage space for their food. One of my grandchildren also lives with me in the hut. My four sons - Azwar, Arqam, Mu'taz, and Ma'mun - live in the area. We all graze the flock and work for other people.

Ruins of the home of Hakmeh Al-Muher. Photo: 'Atef Abu a-Rob, B'Tselem
Ruins of the home of Hakmeh Al-Muher. Photo: 'Atef Abu a-Rob, B'Tselem

When we built the hut, a force of soldiers together with an official from the building and planning office of the Civil Administration came to our place. They gave us an order to stop the construction. My children retained Attorney Zaki Kamal to handle the matter and obtain a building permit for us. We built the hut from concrete and sheets of tin. We paid Attorney Kamal about 40,000 NIS for his services. On 24 May 2004, we were given a new demolition order. The attorney continued to handle our matter in the courts.

On Sunday, 8 May 2005, an official from the planning and building office, somebody named Yigal, came and gave us a new warning to demolish the hut. He gave us the warning and left. My son checked into the matter with Attorney Kamal, who said he had appealed the order in the court in Haifa. He also said that he sent a copy of the appeal to the District Coordination Office in Beit El. When I heard that, I was relieved.

Two days ago [16 May], a large force made up of army, Border Police, and regular Police came to our place. With them were officials from the planning and building office [of the Civil Administration] and two bulldozers. The soldiers removed the furniture and some of the mattresses, and then picked me up and removed me from the hut. They demolished the hut and everything in it. They leveled it completely. Now the sheep and goats and I have no place to live. Some of the flock and pigeons died under the ruins. Afterwards, Arqam called Attorney Kamal, who told him that the Israeli court issued an order to freeze the demolition. I do not understand how they demolish a hut before the court makes a final decision. How can a judge give a decision not to demolish the hut and the decision does not reach the person who is going to demolish it? What is the value of the decision?

After the hut was demolished, we put up a tent that we received from the Red Cross. Now I live under the trees near my land, because the tent is small and low. It is useless. We made a pen for the sheep and goats out of netting and wire fencing. I cry all the time and don't know how I'll get along. I don't know how I will rebuild what was demolished. I sit here and look at where the hut once stood and see the pile of ruins. There is no shed for my flock and their food also remains outdoors.

Hakmeh Muhammad Salem Al-Muher, 68, widow and mother of five, lives near Zuboba Village, Jenin District. She gave the testimony to '‘Atef Abu a-Rob on 18 May 2005.