Ali Awad, who lives in the village of Tuba, cannot remember a time when he wasn’t living under the threat of eviction. His grandmother, Zuhur, raised 15 children in the village, under that same threat. Jaber Dababseh, a resident of Halat a-Daba’ lives in a makeshift structure and is collecting materials to rebuild his house. His home was demolished five times last year.
Tuba and Halat a-Daba’ are two of the 12 agricultural communities that have existed for generations in the Masafer Yatta area – an open hillside spread over 30,000 dunams in the Southern Hebron Hills. In the early 1980s, the Israeli army declared the area a firing zone and military training area. In 1999, the army ordered the residents of Tuba to leave their homes, on the grounds that they were “residing in a firing zone against the law.” Soldiers loaded 700 residents onto trucks before demolishing homes, water cisterns and other property.
- In the South Hebron Hills, a Quiet Population Transfer Is Underway
- The Village Where Palestinians Are Completely Powerless
- Israel Plans Big Projects in South Hebron Hills
The residents petitioned the Supreme Court for the right to return to their land. In 2000, they were permitted to return until a final ruling is made on the matter. More than 20 years have passed, and the 1,300 residents are still living in a state of legal uncertainty. On March 15, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a final ruling. It is not at all certain that it will be in the residents’ favor.
Documents recently uncovered by the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research show that Ariel Sharon offered the Masafer Yatta lands to the Israel Defense Forces in 1981 with the express purpose of pushing out the Palestinian communities living there. At a meeting of the ministerial committee for settlement affairs, Sharon said: “We definitely have an interest in enlarging our territory there… given the spread of the rural Arabs on the ‘back of the mountain’ toward the desert.”
In recent decades, Israel has frequesntly used the declaration of firing zones in the West Bank as a pretext to uproot Palestinians from their land. 18 percent of the West Bank has been taken by the army and the government through this method. This photography project seeks to provide a glimpse of daily life in Masafer Yatta, to get to know the local residents and their creative ways of resisting eviction.
About the blog: Daniel Tchetchik has worked at Haaretz since 2003 as a photographer for the Galleria section and weekend supplements. He is the creator and editor of the Haaretz photography blog. His work has been exhibited at Israel’s top museums and in a number of international exhibitions and photography fairs. More of his work can be found at danieltchetchik.com.