The little piece of land that the Khawaled family lives in is located east to Yagor-Somech road on one side, and just down from the “Israel Trail” on the other. Many travelers knew the family’s hospitality when they literally passed through their back yard traveling that trail on a Saturday morning.
The Bedouin tribe of Khawaled, which Ali’s family belongs to, has lived there since 1945. Only in 1992, then-Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri recognized it as a permanent village and it was slowly connected to electricity and sewage infrastructure. Later the district of Zvulun granted it permission to expand up to 240 dunams–a very small amount of land for the growing village–that had already reached 400 people. This regional plan does not leave a single inch of land left for development in the next 20 years.
Ali’s house, as well as his sister’s and his son’s houses, were left out of the first district plan, despite the fact that they are located only a few hundred meters from the current village’s border. Although they pay property tax, they don’t have sewage infrastructure, and in 2007 they received demolition warrants. They told the court that their houses have been standing before 1945. The court ruled against the demolition, but put a restriction on any further development on the their land.
However, that same verdict included a small paragraph which said that if the house were to be included in public territory, then there would be a renewed discussion. And not surprisingly, during 2009, the Israel Land Administration presented a plan to turn the area into a national park. After the family’s appeal, the court ruled in favor of demolition within two years, without any compensation to the family.
In the last two weeks the family has received daily visits by different police officers who have announced orally that the family has a week to leave the area and move to the recognized lands of the village of Khawaled. This, despite the fact the national park plans, presented by the Israel Land Administration itself, only pass by their land, and more importantly, the lands are privately owned by the Khawaled family.
So what’s going on? It seems that the Israeli administration has decided to give the northern Bedouin community a hard time too, after abusing the Bedouins in the South for decades. In 2011, houses in the Bedouin village of Zbidat were demolished. During the winter they were rebuilt. One May morning in 2012, all the young men of the village were called in to the police for investigation. When they came back, they found that their houses were demolished in their absence.
On September 4, 2012, the authorities came to demolish a house in the village of Bir El-Maksur. Almost all the young Bedouins of Bir El-Maksur serve the IDF. On the house about to be demolished was an Israeli flag–soon to be brought down in the riot that broke out. Today, there is a Palestinian flag on the top of the new house that was rebuilt. Was this the purpose of this operation? What’s the big plan of the Israeli goverment? Is there one?
Today, October 28, there was another discussion in a Haifa court in the case of the Khawaled family. The family asked the court to delay the demolition warrants. The judge answered that there is no basis for holding back, and asked the district representative why the warrants were not carried out already.
After a long discussion–throughout which the family was supported by activists from Tarabut Movement–the judge decided to give a three-week delay. This might enable the family to achieve the warrant’s dismissal, to which the main key lies in the hands of the head of Zvulun Council. If he asks the Minister of Interior for an expansion of Khawaled village borders, he can stop the demolition. It is quite clear that in 20 years time the village will expand and reach the family’s land. Why destroy the life of a family who just asks to hold on to what is rightfully theirs?
Text by Uri Shani.