Defending our home with CPT

The Campaign for Secure Dwellings matched faith communities with families like mine in the West Bank to put pressure on Israeli and US authorities to stop home demolitions
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a crowd of people aligned with the Campaign for Secure Dwellings is gathered as Israeli soldiers approach during a home demolition in Hebron

I grew up in the city of al Khalil/Hebron in Palestine, under a strict apartheid regime of the Israeli occupation forces. The occupation’s reach affects every aspect of our lives, but my home in particular has always been on the front lines of the resistance in al Khalil/Hebron. In 1995 we started building our family home when officers from the Israeli Civil Administration issued a warning to my father, threatening to demolish our home and urging a halt to construction. However, since we had no alternative place to go, we were committed to completing the construction.

The situation escalated years later with the construction of a bypass road for settlers near our house, resulting in almost daily attacks and attempted occupation of our home. The Israeli police arrested my father, Omar, and my elder brother for defending our property. Even my mother faced potential arrest when she intervened against a settler attempting forced entry. The nightly attacks left us feeling frustrated, unsafe, and sleep-deprived due to fear of the settlers.

It was during this time when Community Peacemaker Teams offered us a lifeline when they visited our family for the first time as part of the Campaign for Secure Dwellings, providing a sense of security with their accompaniment. This campaign grew out of CPT accompaniment alongside the Zalloum family on 29 February 1996 when the Israeli military came to demolish their home. Several CPT members were arrested when they refused to leave the rooftop. 

The demolition of the Zalloum family home that housed 22 people kickstarted a coalition of Palestinian, Israeli, and international organizations working together to advocate for Palestinian families facing home demolitions. In the spring of 1997, the CPT Palestine team led a 700-hour Lenten Fast for the 700 homes targeted by the Israeli occupation forces. On 9 December 1997, on the 10th anniversary of the first Intifada, the Campaign for Secure Dwellings officially launched. The campaign’s goals were to call people of faith to actions that will lead to an end to the demolition of Palestinian homes, establish partnerships between North American churches and peace groups and Palestinian families who have lost their homes or who are facing the demolition of their homes, and put a human face on the victims of home demolitions when advocating to political representatives. 

Since our home was under threat, CPT members began staying with us at our home regularly, offering protection from the increasing number of settlers encroaching. The teams facilitated communication with human rights organizations and the press, drawing attention to our plight. In response, settlers pushed even harder, erecting tents and lighting fires near our house, while the Israeli army and police provided protection for them. Settlers would throw stones at our house, and I recall CPT team member Arthur Gish bravely confronting the settlers, declaring, “This is my house, get away from here.”

The CPT team’s presence instilled a degree of safety and reassurance. They became our advocates, attracting support from human rights organizations that defended, stood with us, and documented the events. Despite attempts by settlers to disrupt our lives, the team’s constant visits turned into lasting friendships as CPT continued their support and presence in the area.  

Over time, the threats of demolition and settler dynamics changed, where bringing such widespread attention to family homes became more detrimental than helpful and families asked CPT to join them in highlighting and advocating around the school demolitions instead. CPT priorities also shifted toward the ever-changing settler and military violence in the city and shortly thereafter, the second Intifada began. The Campaign for Secure Dwellings was then officially closed.  

Today, I proudly consider myself part of this CPT family as a member of the team, and despite seven demolition notices, our house still stands, but the constant threat looms, anticipating any moment when Israeli authorities may attempt to demolish our home.

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