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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

2 August 1998
Subject: Lena’s New Home...Destroyed

Gila and Arabiyye carry a large stone while others work in background


You may recall that, two weeks ago, the Israeli authorities demolished the beautiful home of 14-year-old Lena with its lemon trees and rose bushes. This is part of the government policy to prevent Palestinians from building in areas that Israel hopes will become part of the Israeli state at the conclusion of the peace process. Thus, Lena and her family have become part of the statistic of more than 1,800 (sic!) Palestinian homes bulldozed into the ground since 1967 by a drive to expand the borders of Israel.

Many of us witnessed that traumatic moment of destruction, and were determined to help the family. Thus, a large group of people spent three days last week first clearing the rubble and then placing stone upon stone to rebuild the home. It was a labor of love and a privilege for all who participated — the Palestinian neighbors of the family side-by-side with Israeli and Palestinian peace and human rights activists. And many friends from abroad, whom Lena and her family have never met, mailed in checks to support the effort.

With incredible motivation, we got the walls up by the end of the third day, and when the glow of headlights appeared over the hill of the trucks carrying cement for the roof, Lena’s father broke down and cried. By late at night, the home had a roof, and the smell of fresh concrete sweetened the cool night air for those resting from their efforts.

Sunday was Tisha B’Av in Israel, the holiday commemorating the destruction of the ancient Temples of the Israelites. Jews throughout the world fast and pray on this day, asking God never to visit such destruction upon our people again.

It was thus ironic and tragic when the Israeli administration waited until the end of this fast day to engage in its own act of destruction. The bulldozer appeared at Lena’s brand new home at 5:30 this morning. It took less than half an hour to do the job, and this time they also knocked over the tent in which Lena’s father had slept. By the time most of us arrived, there was nothing to do but sit among the ruins in anger and disbelief.

Lena was not here to witness the second destruction of her home, I’m relieved to report. She, her mother and five siblings have gone to stay with relatives in Jordan until they have a home to live in. Her father, Salim, has been “at home” the entire time, however, alternating between defiance and despair. On Sunday he had replanted some of the flowers in his garden. These are now “pressed flowers” — in the bulldozer’s treads.

Many of us in the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps are trying to help Lena’s family and at the same time overturn the entire policy of home demolitions by the Israeli government. Thanks to inside sources, we know that both the US State Department and senior Israeli officials have been flooded with your emails and faxes, and have made note of the public outcry. “Your voice is being heard dramatically, I assure you,” we were told by a friend in State. This pressure is imperative and *must not abate*.

Salim and his family say they will persist — rebuild and rebuild and rebuild — until they have a home to live in. We support them in this struggle, and are trying to leverage it to prevent other families from undergoing this trauma. Please join us in this campaign. Every home demolition is not only immoral and inhuman, but drives a wedge of anger and hostility between our two peoples, distancing us even further from peace.

Shalom/Salaam from Jerusalem,
Gila Svirsky

Back Introduction
March 1996: Bombs, Revenge, and One Iota of Hope
   2 Nov 1996: Hand in Hand in Hebron
  4 Apr 1997:  Children Still Alive and Abdallah
25 May 1998:  So We Won’t Die in Any More Wars
10 July 1998:   Lena Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
  2 Aug 1998:  Lena’s New Home... Destroyed
  3 Jan 1999: Rifle Grenade #400
  9 July 1999: A Housewarming for Peace
23 Jan 2000: The Politics of the Tree
18 Oct 2000: On Violence by Israeli Arabs
10 Nov 2000: Peace Efforts in Israel
22 Nov 2000: We Refuse to Be Enemies
23 Nov 2000: Meeting of Women MKs for Peace
26 Nov 2000: Views of Faisal Husseini
28 Nov 2000: Lack of coverage for women’s events
  1 Dec 2000: Principles and Action
  8 Dec 2000: Women in Black today
30 Dec 2000: On the Way to Crowning Jerusalem with Peace
Letters from Jerusalem, 2001
Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
New & recent letters from Jerusalem (2004)
Resources and Links

The photo above shows Arabiyeh Shawamre (Lena’s mother) on the right and Gila on the left, rebuilding the home of the Shawamre family. The morning after this home was rebuilt, the Israeli army destroyed it again...for the second time.

Text and graphic © 1998 Gila Svirsky.

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