Bat Shalom: Lena Doesn't Live Here Anymore

July 13, 1998
Hebron/Jerusalem: Lena Doesn't Live Here Anymore
by Gila Svirsky

[Note: Gila Svirsky is a member of Bat Shalom, an Israeli feminist peace
organization. Bat Shalom is one of the member organizations of the Israeli
Committee Against Home Demolitions, with whom CPT has worked closely as a part
of its Campaign for Secure Dwellings.

The following reflection has been edited for length. People wishing to have
the full text, including a list of e-mail addresses and fax numbers of
Israeli, American and Canadian authorities to contact, may request it by
writing to]


Yesterday was a day I won't ever forget. Neither will Salim and Arabiyeh
Shawamreh or their six children.

We had planned a joint Israeli-Palestinian protest against home demolitions.
The idea was to set up a tent on the site of a demolition, a tent that would
serve several purposes: protest, solidarity, documentation, and compassionate
listening to the family members. We planned to move this tent from site to
site, wherever the Israeli army used its bulldozers. Yesterday's inauguration
of the tent was planned for opposite the so-called "civil administration"
headquarters -- the nerve center of Israel's control of the occupied
territories -- those who actually do the dirty work of demolishing people's
homes and other acts of oppression.

Our bus from Jerusalem held activists from several peace
movements -- Bat Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights, Gush Shalom, and Peace Now.
We are all partners in a coalition called the Israeli Committee Against Home
Demolitions, and our demonstration was to be held jointly with the Palestinian
Land Defense General Committee.
Suddenly a call came across a mobile phone and Meir [Margalit] took the mike
x "We have just had word that a demolition is taking place at this very
moment not far from here." It's a rare occurrence to catch a demolition in
progress, no less with a group of peace activists; most demolitions take place
with virtually no warning, and hence no time to protest. With no further
discussion, we turned toward Anata on the edge of Jerusalem

... [W]e finally located the area and the bus parked as close as possible. We
still had to walk 10 minutes down narrow, zig-zagging dirt roads between
crowded homes until we came to the outskirts of Anata. There we practically
ran toward the edge of the hill and looked below -- a beautiful home set into
the pastoral valley with one of its walls now crumpled into rubble by a
roaring bulldozer; a family and neighbors sobbing nearby; and a unit of
Israeli soldiers preventing anyone else from approaching the scene.

xWe surged down the hill in our small group until the soldiers blocked our
progress with their guns and bodies. There were scuffles trying to get past
them, but more soldiers joined the barricade. M.K. Naomi Chazan who was with
us demanded to see the order proclaiming this a "closed military zone", as the
soldiers claimed, and after several long minutes the officer complied. Who
knows if the order was genuine or invented at the last minute. But the guns
were real.

So there we stood on the side of the hill and watched with an unbearable sense
of helplessness as the "civil" administration's bulldozer took the house apart
wall by wall. He drove through the front garden with a profusion of flowers
and a lemon tree and slammed the front door as if he were God Almighty.

Backing away, he slammed again until the entire front was shattered and
dangling from metal rods. Then he came from every side, slamming and crashing
his shovel against the walls. Finally he lifted off the roof, barely
suspended, and sent it crashing below. When that was done, he went around the
back of the house and crashed through all the fruit trees, including a small
olive stand. He saw a water tank on a platform and knocked that over, the
tank tumbling down and a cascade of water drenching the trees now uprooted and
broken. He saw two more tanks nearby and knocked those over as well. I have
never seen anyone in the Middle East deliberately waste so much water. Then
he noticed a shack in the corner of the yard and he churned over to that, his
cleated treads grinding and squealing over the rubble he had to climb over.
The shack was an easy swipe for his shovel, and we were surprised to see two
doves fly out, one white and one black, frightened out of their wits. They
flapped their wings briefly and landed not far from their former home.

... From our Israeli group, many engaged the soldiers in challenges: "How
can you sleep at night?"; "Is this what is meant by defending Israel?"; "Don't
you understand the immorality of this action?", and the like. Every single
soldier, from the high commander to the lowest GI responded the same way:
"This is legal; we're only following orders." One woman tried to yell at the
bulldozer driver everytime there was a lull in the din. But nothing we could
think to say stopped the roar of devastation.