When the weather's fine, members of the Abu Hilal family like to sit under the 80-year-old charob tree near their home in Dar al-Hanun, near Arara. They have been living there since before Israel was born. However, according to the state, they don't even exist. Not only does the state refuse to recognize the village as such, it is even acting to make it disappear.
The residents are bearing a grudge over a recent court order obtained by the Interior Ministry, forcing them to bulldoze the road they built in their "pirate village." The contested road is a 100-yard stretch that the people of Dar al-Hanun paved six years ago with activists from Ta'ayush, an organization promoting Arab-Jewish partnership. In its ruling to have it removed, the Haifa District Court cited the fact that paving asphalt roads over public grounds was against the law.
"If the state tears up this 100-yard road, I guarantee they'll wind up getting a 500-yard one instead," Mustafa abu Hilal warns. In addition, the state intends to implement another court order and demolish two of the 10 homes of Dar al-Hanun. This, despite the fact the Abu Hilals can prove they own the land on which all 10 of the homes were constructed.
Yesterday, 200 people converged on this sleepy town to protest the state's plans. The demonstrators were carrying signs reading "Let us live in Dar al-Hanun," and "Stop destroying our mutual coexistence." The demonstration attracted local residents as well as Jewish left-wing protesters. "We have no intention of escalating the struggle, but we won't go anywhere," Abu Hilal told Haaretz.
The story of Dar al-Hanun is the story of many Arab-Israeli towns in Wadi Ara. The town's name means "house of flowers" in Arabic. Its first home was built in 1925 by Hussein abu Hilal, who as a young man came here from Egypt. He was Mustafa's grandfather. He bought a couple of dunam (approximately 0.25 acres) from the Ottoman authorities, who ruled Palestine at the time.
Hussein abu Hilal at first built a hut on the grounds. Then he built another house from stone, this time for his son. Despite the Dar al-Hanuns' long history before the State of Israel, the state never saw fit to recognize it as a village.
Head of the Menashe Local council, Ilan Sade, is willing to transfer the village to his neighboring council of Arara, to be recognized as one of its neighborhoods. The motion was seconded by former interior minister Ophir Paz-Pines, but his successor, Roni Bar On, opposes it. And so, as far as the state is concerned, the village of Dar al-Hanun is "open scenery," not a residential area.
Meanwhile, the state is trying to lure the inhabitants of Dar al-Hanun to leave and move into other Arab towns, so that the surrounding area can be used for future expansion plans. So far, two of Dar al-Hanun's families chose to leave, as well as 15 of its young inhabitants, who set up homes elsewhere.
The Interior Ministry responded by saying that Dar al-Hanun was an "unrecognized" place of residence, comprising illegal structures, which were constructed in the middle of wild scenic lands. "Illegal structures cannot constitute justification for forming new settlements," the ministry said.
Professor Kobi Peter, an activist in Ta'ayush, doubts the state will be able to adhere to this stance for much longer. "Obviously, they will have to reach some sort of settlement which will allow the residents to live on their land," he said.
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