Demolishing Arabs' Homes and Thinking of You

Haaretz has obtained an email written by a combatant who accompanied the Civil Administration during a law enforcement operation in which dozens of illegally constructed dwellings were demolished. Any resemblance between reality and my wild imagination is not accidental.

A demolished mosque in the south Hebron hills.
Alex Levac

My darling, an email is a miserable substitute for seeing you. We have a lot going on in our sector — lots of action. In the last two weeks we’ve been assigned to accompany two bulldozers and some supervisors from the Civil Administration who set out to demolish 100 dwellings built illegally by Arabs in the Jordan Valley and east of the Allon Road on the eastern slopes of the West Bank. What efficiency! it was all done in just four or five days, can you imagine?

I finally felt I was doing something for my country and people. We traveled to all kinds of remote corners that I never even knew existed, amid scenery which I’ll take you to one day, with springs and caves and rocks in all kinds of shapes, there since creation. There were wide wadis and narrow ones, low hills and high ones, round and pointed ones, covered in yellow mustard flowers. One could become a poet there, I swear. I didn’t see any anemones or poppies, though. Such rocky roads! The jeep lurched and landed, jumped up and banged the ground, with us on the hard benches — my butt is killing me! But don’t worry, it will heal before we meet, ha ha ha.

All in all, I think we did those Arabs a favor by demolishing their shacks, which were made of corrugated tin and pieces of wood, or their miserable tents made of nylon and burlap, with a few toilet cubicles scattered among the rocks. I don’t understand why they live like that. I was a bit sorry to see the sheep and lambs — they were so sweet — scattering in fear as the bulldozer hit the fence and roof of their pens. The shepherds should be thankful we didn’t kill their flocks.

The demolition was to their benefit, since their dwellings were in the middle of a firing zone. It’s true we only hold exercises there very infrequently, and only in a small part of the area, but still. An order is an order and they have to abide by it. They shouldn’t blame us later if they or their flocks are hurt or killed by our unexploded ordnance.

Our commanders told us that these Arabs have invaded these firing ranges and that invaders must be removed, and that they have their own places in Areas A and B. Those are their towns and villages. Let them go there. By what right do they invade our country? They’re crafty — they probably plan to build permanent houses with a garden instead of the caves and tents they live in now. I read somewhere that the problem with Arabs in this country is that they refuse to live in neighborhoods with high-rise apartment buildings.

We gathered the men in one area and the women and children in another. It wasn’t difficult, they didn’t resist. The women and children were guarded by Lital and the men were watched by Liron. There was someone who argued and yelled next to his tent. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, so we slashed his tent with knives and we spilled the water he had in some jugs. Let him learn how to behave.

The demolitions didn’t take place only in firing zones. In some places they just built without permits. What insolence! Our commanders told us that building infractions are rampant with them, a real plague! There were places in which we’d demolished some tents a week earlier and they had rebuilt them or put up a shack instead. There were some places that were demolished a year or two ago, and they continue to rebuild, while we continue to demolish. The bulldozer roars, lifts its shovel and comes down hard on the structure, with steel hitting steel, with a ripping noise the burlap makes as it tears and the nylon rustling like leaves in autumn as it winds around the steel spikes. One blow is all it takes to knock down these shacks. It reminded me of towers I used to build out of blocks in kindergarten, when with one punch I knocked it all down, and the pieces of wood and plastic went flying through the air.

First, some workers took out everything from inside — jerry cans, mattresses, blankets, broken chairs, an ancient TV set. The Arabs weren’t allowed to do this themselves, one of them could whip out a rifle or a knife. I think that after my military service I’ll try and get a job as a supervisor at the Civil Administration, that way I’ll be able to demolish illegal Arab dwellings every day. I’m told these jobs are kept mainly for settlers but I’m not sure that’s true.

We were told that many of these illegal dwellings are donations from the European Union. What gall they have, those Europeans! For example, there are toilets, sheep pens, tents, a water pipe — imagine that — also financed by Europeans. If we hadn’t destroyed it, it would have supplied water to another 50 families of law-breaking invaders. In one miserable hamlet we didn’t demolish a school that was financed by Europeans. It is made of two lousy caravans and a swing there. In 2011 an illegally built concrete school was demolished at the same hamlet. There’s a mosque next to it, but they said we can’t demolish that. Because it’s holy or because it was built more than 150 years ago. I can’t remember the reason now.

OK, its dinner time now. All this writing about demolitions has really turned me on. I really have the hots for you.

Any resemblance between reality and the author's wild imagination is not accidental.