Bedouin Demolishes Own Home as Tribe Prepares for Destruction of Its Village

'It’s not easy to uproot a human being. And it’s not just me. There are 40 other people here,' says resident.

Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
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The site of Umm al-Hiran, a Bedouin village that the government wants to plow over.
The site of Umm al-Hiran, a Bedouin village that the government wants to plow over.Credit: Eliahu Hershkovitz
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

Since the buildings of his village are due to be destroyed to make room for the planned Jewish town of Hiran in the very near future, Ahmed Abu Al-Qi’an began demolishing his own house on Saturday.

For Abu Al-Qi’an, 74, the word “agreement” is a dirty word. “Police representatives were here three times last week,” he told Haaretz. “They pressured me to sign. I had no option. They told me that the sword was already at my throat.”

Abu Al-Qi’an lives with his family in Umm al-Hiran: some 40 people in about 15 buildings. Five of them, including his home, are built of stone. They wil be demolished despite being outside the construction plan for the new town.

Last week he sounded more pugnacious. “Let them evacuate,” he said. “I’ve been here since I was a child, from before I was married, and I don’t intend to leave.”

Now he acknowledges that he has been broken. “A person has no value for the government,” he says. “Everyone came to me and pressured me; it’s not simple.”

It was agreed that, for his evacuation and the destruction of his house, Abu Al-Qi’an would receive six plots of land and cash compensation.

“What is most frustrating is that I live on land on which they don’t need to build,” he says. “They could have given us more time. Things didn’t need to be so pressured.”

Abu Al-Qi’an is now preparing for the move. Due to his financial difficulties, he carefully removes each tin sheet and puts them aside for use in the new house he’s going to build in Hura, the neighboring town.

He has not yet begun building the new house and has no idea how long the move will take him. “If it rains the day after tomorrow, I can’t work in the rain at my age,” he says.

Last week it appeared as if the state and Arab society in Israel were nearing another clash. Villagers obtained information that the Israel Lands Authority intended to demolish the Umm al-Hiran buildings within two days.

That evening, dozens of activists and members of the Joint List Knesset faction, including faction leader Ayman Odeh, arrived to sleep in the village out of concern that the police would cordon off the roads the next morning, preventing them from arriving at the site to protest the demolitions.

The demolition was canceled by the police late at night, according to a land authority source, after they understood that the forces they had at their disposal to enforce the demolition were insufficient.

But what began as a sign of struggle ended with a whimper.

Abu Al-Qi’an signed the agreement last Thursday night. Normally a healthy man, he collapsed shortly afterward and was taken to Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva, where he stayed under observation until the next morning.

“It’s not easy to uproot a human being. And it’s not just me. There are 40 other people involved,” he said.

All that remains of the village now are the stone houses and the sheep pen.

The government approved the construction of the new community of Hiran in November 2013, to be built on the land of Umm al-Hiran. The residents lost the legal defenses they mounted, including an appeal to the Supreme Court, and were unable to prevent their evacuation from the village.

Supreme Court President Miriam Naor closed the circle on their legal struggle in January, when she dismissed their motion to have the issue discussed again in a full forum.

“As mentioned in the ruling, it is a matter of great public importance and sensitivity,” Naor said. “Nevertheless, there is not enough in it to justify a fourth hearing of the case. This case does not belong to the exceptional exceptions, the rarest of rare cases in which we would hold another hearing.”

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