In the memory of my friend
After seven years of negotiation between Palestinians and Israelis and five years of an interim agreement, Abed Qotqot, an ordinary Palestinian citizen who livid his entire life in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, decided leave this vastly overcrowded area. He moved to a piece of land he inherited from his family, located in an area occupied in June 1967 and designated as Area C according to the interim peace accord. Area C compromises 60% of West Bank in the occupied Palestine territories and it is land that Israel retains full security and administrative control over.
Abed’s piece of land is located in front of al-Walajah village, Abed’s original hometown that was displaced and destroyed during the Nakba in 1948. Abed’s land, from the Israeli point view, is located between three communities; Har Gilo and Gilo (located in West Bank area ) and Malha in West Jerusalem. The Israeli occupying authority did not give him a building permit to build a shelter, so he decided to live in an old cave. Though the area where Abed settled is part of a Palestinian town called Beit Jala and remaining part of al-Walajah, Palestinians usually need permission from the Israeli army branch called Israel Civil Administration to do work in his land.
In Abed’s case the Jerusalem municipality intervened under the pretext that the area is part of Jerusalem’s master plan. The Jerusalem municipality, which is a Jewish Israeli entity, asked Abed to move out of his parcel since he does not hold a Jerusalem residency. Abed refused and petitioned the municipality’s decision in front of an Israeli court. During the period the court was hearing the case, Abed was ordered by the judge not to change the status quo. The status quo means; he can’t do anything in his land, while for Jerusalem municipality; it is business as usual.
Nevertheless Abed started to reclaim his land by planting it with olive trees, a permaculture garden, and added an outdoor bathroom and awning in front of the cave. Because he was not able to use tractors and machines Abed resorted to instruments like shovel and axe. And because he was not allowed to dig a well, he has to bring water in gallons from far away.
Israeli police warned Abed multiple times for him to desist from his work. He kept telling them sarcastically; if you want to take the land take it planted with trees. Jewish settlers from the surrounding colonies threatened him by unleashing their dogs on him and many other harassment methods.
After more than a decade in the court, and after the Jerusalem municipality started developing the area by establishing a park and the government announced a settlement expansion, the verdict came out. The court verdict stated that Abed can stay in his cave but cannot alter the land, which means no water, no electricity, and no safe passage.
As a consequence of the court verdict the police and municipality demolished the bathroom, the awning and destroyed his garden. Abed became sick after this experience, however he decided to rebuild the demolished structures. With the help of his local and international friends, he managed to rebuild part of the demolished structures after three months. However the municipality and police raided the place and demolished it again without any warning, and without a court order. Abed again became sick. He was admitted to hospital suffering from Asphyxia and passed away. He was 54 years old when he died, and spent 14 years of them fighting Israeli colonization institutions in the court by remaining steadfast in his land. A friend of Abed’s visited him one day before he passed way, Abed told him that he wanted to go back to his land to rebuild it again. His physical strength failed but his dream did not. His progeny also wants to return to their land.