“I could only provide stones as gifts to the heads of the British
churches after Israeli bulldozers demolished our house,” 19 year old
Bethlehem University student Motaz told PNN on Tuesday. He presented
four stones to the delegation that visited Bethlehem and its university
during the Christmas season. The Archbishops of Canterbury and
Westminster were among the visitors.
The church delegates came at the invitation of Bethlehem and the Open Bethlehem campaign. The student said that the stones were the best way to describe the reality of his life under occupation and the repressive practices that it entails.
Motaz explained to the visiting Christian dignitaries that Israeli forces had used bulldozers to destroy his family's home in western Bethlehem's Al Walajeh Village just 10 days prior to the visit.
The pretext for the demolition was that it held the status of “non-licensed.” Israeli forces annexed half of the village into the Jerusalem boundaries that it controls over the past two years, while building the Wall on the other side. Residents were suddenly breaking Israeli law by being inside their own homes, or from walking from the kitchen to the living room in some cases as they did not have Jerusalem identification, but rather West Bank ID.
The student said, “The suffering of my family is the same humanitarian story that most families have to tell, particularly for us as our home was demolished twice in the past year and a half. After the first destruction, my father rebuilt it with the help of people in the village. But just months later the bulldozers returned.”
He explained, “My father and I are expected to pay 15.000 dinars for the demolition service of our house, which is impossible for us, especially as there are Three children in the family and we are all still at the age of our studies
Director of Public Relations at Bethlehem University, Carol Sansour, expressed pride and solidarity with the family, pointing out that such Israeli practices illustrate the “real war of hate against the Holy Land.” She said, “The way in which these home demolitions are carried out should be shunned internationally, not only for contravening international law, but for the human rights aspect of it.”
The Archbishop of Westminster stressed that the gift of stones had great meaning to him and to all the members of the delegation, saying that when they returned to Britain they would speak about it in particular, and to the relevance of such actions.
President of the well-organized Village Council of Walajeh, Salah Khalifa, said that he was proud to be a part of a village that rebuilt the family home the first time, and that their “ability to rebuild showed such tenacity and unity.”
He confirmed that the village is prepared to persuade the father and his sons to rebuild the house again and will be on-hand to assist. However the family, Khalifa says, is fearful now due to the high possibility of seeing their home demolished once again.