Home Demolitions 

The Jabarin Family of Issawiyeh

A Palestinian home after demolition (Not related to the case)

A Palestinian home after demolition (Not related to the case)

Khaled Mussa Jabarin and his wife Hiam live with their six children in the village / neighborhood of Issawiyeh, which adjoins the Hebrew University. The village of Issawiyeh was founded some 400 years ago a couple miles north of the Jerusalem's Old City.

In 1967 it covered an area of 2,600 acres which was used for housing, agriculture and grazing. After the 1967 war, when Jordanian East Jerusalem was annexed to Israeli West Jerusalem, fully 94% of its land (2437 acres) was expropriated for the construction of Israeli neighborhoods (the expansive French Hill area of apartment blocks) in particular, portions of the Hebrew University, West Bank settlement, an army base and major roads.

Much of that land still remains vacant for further use, but the inhabitants of Issawiyeh have no access to it, even for grazing.

Instead, they were left with a mere 166 acres, most of that concentrated tightly around the village's already existing homes and other buildings, making any further growth and expansion difficult.

The Master Plan of Issawiyeh, approved by the Jerusalem municipality in 1993 with no input from the local residents, removes another 43% of that land (72 acres) for roads, public buildings and "open space," leaving only 94 acres -- or less than 4% of its original land -- for housing. Half of that is already built upon, and of the other half (47 acres) includes a wide swathe through Issawiyeh's center along which building is severely restricted because of its proximity to the army base.

In addition, some 40 homes have been demolished in Issawiyeh since 1988, and another 43 demolition orders are awaiting execution.

The people most directly affected are among the poorest of the village, those who build their houses on their own property, but whose lands fall outside the tight ring of the "approved" village core.

While it is thus true that their houses are "illegal," a combination of a Master Plan that does not allow natural village growth and the difficulties of acquiring building permits from the municipality makes it virtually impossible for Issawiyeh residents to build homes for their families, one of the most fundamental of human rights.

Issawiyeh's residents pay their full share of arnona, the municipal property tax, plus other fees for electrical and other services.

Still its 6000 inhabitants receive far fewer services than do their Jewish neighbors living on the village's expropriated lands.

No road or side street has been built since 1967, forcing residents to drive and climb over rocks and enormous potholes to get to their houses, and there are no sidewalks.

The village had no sewage system until, in 1996, the villagers constructed their own using materials supplied by the municipality.

Issawiyeh has no public parks, no playgrounds for children and only a rudimentary dirt soccer field. The two local schools are so overcrowded that classes are held in rented apartments.

There is no program of pre-kindergarten education that is universal in the Jewish part of Jerusalem, and Issawiyeh's schools have no libraries, labs or gyms. There are no plans for new school construction.

Khaled was born in Hebron in 1963 but his family moved to Issawiyeh soon after the 1967 war to seek employment. He grew up in Issawiyeh but attended school only irregularly, spending most of his time working to support his family.

That pattern of eking out of bare living has not changed: since Khaled is not officially a Jerusalem resident, even after these thirty years -- meaning he does not have a Jerusalem residency permit and identity card -- he lives there "illegally."

Not only does that make it impossible for him to obtain steady work, but he has to sneak out of his home every day to work, remain viligant so that he not get caught during the day, and then sneak back home in the evening.

Sometimes Khaled must stay away from home days or even weeks at a time, either because of strict closures of the city by the Israeli authorities or to go where the work is.

The Jabarin family subsists on about $400 per month.

Hiam is thus left at home taking care of their six children, ranging in age from 12 to one. The family's limited income and Khaled's prolonged absences make things very difficult.

Khaled and Hiam had rented an apartment in Issawiyeh but the rent, $350 per month with a year's deposit, made it impossible for them to continue living that way.

They sold the gold jewelry they had received at their wedding and, with their parents' help, bought a small plot of land at the periphery of the village.

When they applied for a building permit, however, they were informed that their land lay outside the approved village boundaries and were refused.

They chose to build anyway, and have lived in their small half-finished home since 1997. "I knew I was taking a big risk," says Khaled, "but what could I do? We have to live somewhere, and this is our only option."

Soon after they moved in the Jabarins received a demolition order from the city, and court proceedings have been initiated against them.

Already more than a several dozen houses have been destroyed in Issawiyeh.

The Jabarins fear they are high up on the list.