Diakonia - People change the world

When the bulldozers came

A case study from the IHL Resource Centre report "Planning to Fail", The Planning Regime in Area C of the West Bank: An International Law Perspective. September 2013


Beit Hanina family subjected to repeated house demolitions by Israeli military.

From the hill nearby the tent where he now lives, 67-year-old father of 12, Mohamed Ka’abneh can see what used to be his original family house on land now that is beyond his reach, as it is located on the other side of the Wall, in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit hanina.

“When the bulldozers came, they not only destroyed my house, but Mohamed Ka’abneh and his wife next to their demolished house in Beit hanina el Balad also my life. The house in which my nine daughters and three sons used to live has now turned into an empty tent where my wife and I spend long silent evenings,” says mohamed, who now resides in a makeshift tent in Beit hanina el Balad. “All I wish today is to be allowed to live in this tent on my land with my wife.”

Mohamed’s story is one of an exhausting ‘war of nerves’—12 years of continuous struggle and ongoing court cases to obtain a building permit to secure a roof for his wife and family. Three times his houses were demolished and each time, his family was left homeless.

Beit hanina el Balad, a Palestinian village in the Jerusalem governorate, is located in Area C of the West Bank. surrounded by the Wall on four sides and also by the Israeli settlements of ramot and ramat shlomo, the town is isolated from its nerve centre, Beit hanina, which is located on the Jerusalem side of the Wall.

Mohamed’s main income was generated by breeding and selling goats. He sold half of his flock to buy more land and built—for the third time—two houses for himself and his son. In November 2011, the Israeli army demolished both houses without prior warning. “One morning, the bulldozers arrived and soldiers banned us from evacuating our furniture and belongings,” tells the old man.

The family received humanitarian assistance from international organisations in the form of residential caravans providing temporary shelter. In July 2012, three internationally- donated residential caravans—including Mohamed’s—were confiscated by the Israeli forces, on the grounds that they lacked Israeli-issued building permits.

mohamed and his family now live in a tent that provides little protection in the cold winter.