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‘We have nowhere else to go’: Bedouins say they will continue to rebuild as Israel carries out home demolitions at a record pace

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A white tent is the only structure left standing among the scattered piles of twisted metal and tarp that was a Jahalin Tribe Bedouin encampment West of Jericho city in the Wadi Qilt valley.

On the morning of Wednesday, January 25th, Israeli forces escorted two bulldozers down from the main road up to the small Bedouin community. Mohammed Jahalin and his family were ordered out of their houses and forcefully gathered together on the edge of their encampment where they watched as the metal blades of bulldozers smashed through their homes.

Israeli forces destroyed every standing structure in the encampment — including three houses and two livestock barns — leaving 12 people homeless, half of whom are children.

In 2016, Israeli forces demolished homes, particularly Bedouin homes, in record numbers. According to United Nations documentation, Israeli forces in 2016 demolished or seized an unprecedented 1,093 Palestinian-owned structures throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, resulting in the displacement of 1,601 Palestinians and affecting the livelihoods of another 7,101.

In the first 23 days of 2017, Israeli forces demolished 119 Palestinian-owned structures, leaving 177 Palestinians displaced. The bi-weekly average for home demolitions in 2017 is nearly a third higher than 2016’s, putting 2017 on track for another record-breaking year.

A single donated tent will house the 12 people who live in the encampment until they can rebuild. (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

Mohammed Jahalin and his family are grateful for the tent that was donated by the Red Crescent Society the morning after the demolition — the dark clouds creeping in along the horizon warned of rain, and the family has no other option for shelter. The night before they slept outside in the open, with only piles of blankets and a campfire to keep warm during the cold desert night.

The encampment, nestled between rolling hills, is hidden out of sight, only accessible through a barely noticeable dirt path.

When Israeli forces showed up with bulldozers, Mohammed and his family had no previous notice, but they knew exactly what to expect, as this was not the first time their encampment has been razed to the ground

A young boy plays in the ruins of his family home. (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

“What are we expected to do now?” he asked, dejectedly. “If someone destroys your house in front of your eyes, in front of your children, what would you do? What would be your reaction? Even though this has happened before, you can’t get used to something like this. You can’t get used to your home being destroyed in front of you.”

“Imagine that maybe you’re a brave person and you’re angry about what’s happening, but you can’t do anything about it because you don’t have any way to defend yourself or your family when you have soldiers in front of you with guns,” he said.

Mohammed said soldiers started with the barns, taking out only the animals before destroying the structures. Then they came for their homes.

The families salvaged their kitchen supplies from the ruins over their homes and gathered it together under tarps. (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

“They took out the gas tanks from the kitchen, and left everything else inside when they destroyed the building,” Mohammed told Mondoweiss. A few feet away, their salvaged kitchen equipment was gathered together near a small fire where Mohammed’s mother made tea.

“When the soldiers came here, for me, I could keep it together, but the women and children, they were so upset. The children were crying —  they didn’t understand what was happening — it’s an incredibly hard issue,” he said.

The Israeli government says the encampment is illegal, as it is on state-owned land, and technically in a closed military training zone. However the families who live there said they have never seen or heard any military training in the area, and that outside of the few times Israeli forces have come to demolish their encampment, they never encounter Israeli military at all.

Still, the Israeli government insists that families move and resettle within the city of Jericho, essentially leaving behind their Bedouin heritage and lifestyle. For Mohammed, moving to the city is out of the option — even if he were willing to resettle, he would have no idea where to start — the life he and his family live in the hills is the only life they have ever known.

Instead, he plans on rebuilding, as long as he can get the humanitarian aid he needs to do so. He and his family have been living in the same encampment for around 10 years, Mohammed explained, but originally the Jahalin Tribe hails from the Negev desert in what is now Israel.

The Jahalin’s were forced out of their traditional tribal territory, which ranges from 50km northeast of Bir Sheva to 30km west of the Dead Sea and 30km south of Hebron City, in 1949, a year after the creation of Israel, according to the Jahalin Solidarity group, a Palestinian non-profit that “aims to develop and work with Palestinian society targeted for transfer and forcible displacement.”

After 1949, the Jahalin Tribe fled their tribal territories to the edges of the Negev desert, where they were again displaced and forced into the West Bank and Jordan. In the early 1950s, many of the tribe applied for refugee status with the UNRWA.

Bedouin tribes, particularly those in the Negev, are one of the main groups targeted by Israeli forces for home demolitions. According to a report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), “more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages, which the state refuses to provide with a planning structure and place under municipal jurisdiction.”

“The government uses a variety of measures to pressure Bedouins into relocating to government-planned urban centers that disregard their lifestyle and needs. Whole communities have been issued demolition orders; others are forced to continue living in unrecognized villages that are denied basic services and infrastructure, such as electricity and running water,” the report continued.

Looking out over the ruins of his home, Mohammed said he has no choice but to keep going the way he and his family always have, but he is scared for the next generation raised to know a way of life which is constantly under threat of being eradicated.

“They keep tearing down our homes, and it’s so expensive to rebuild,” he said. “But we don’t know what else to do, we are refugees, we don’t own land, we have nowhere else to go. Tell us where to go where we can continue our way of life and we can do that, but right now we have nowhere else to go, this is our home.”

Every standing structure in the encampment was destroyed when Israeli forces invaded the area on Wednesday. (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

About Sheren Khalel

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She focuses on human rights, women's issues and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Khalel formerly worked for Ma'an News Agency in Bethlehem, and is currently based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk.

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44 Responses

  1. Ossinev
    January 31, 2017, 11:56 am

    The Nazis didn`t like gypsies either. Great National movements think alike?

    • xanadou
      January 31, 2017, 3:55 pm

      The Nazis did not like anyone.
      On “30 January 1933, President Hindenburg appoints Hitler chancellor of a Nazi coalition.” (Wikipedia)
      “The Dachau concentration camp was established on 22 March 1933. It was the first regular concentration camp established by the National Socialist (Nazi) government. Heinrich Himmler, as police president of Munich, officially described the camp as “the first concentration camp for political prisoners.”” (Wikipedia) i.e., disaffected Germans, who earlier had supported Hitler’s rise to power on the basis of his nationalist promises of jobs (and land in the Ukraine recently cleansed by Yagoda during the Holodomor (1932-33) of millions of starved to death Russian citizens in an already underpopulated country.
      On that same day “First Nazi “racial hygiene” office (was) established in the Interior Ministry.” (Wikipedia).

      A historic career timeline and race against the clock as inspiration for some in 2017? (rhetorical)

  2. xanadou
    January 31, 2017, 2:58 pm

    This is going to get exponentially worse at an ever faster clip. The yahoo and his grim band of zios know that the current monumental turmoil in the USA has created a nightmare/diversion come true for the zio vampires. USA’s attention in anything that may be happening outside its borders, and the “western civilisations” who have no clue how to handle this unfolding disaster or stand on their own two feet, have also forgot how to walk and chew gum at the same time, rather than take this opportunity to finally distance and reassert themselves away from the toxic partnership that has the horrendous potential to metastasize into the unthinkable.

    Evil is at the white man’s door and is waiting to at last cut the arrogant once-powerful minority into an also-ran.

    • inbound39
      February 1, 2017, 6:02 am

      My observation having watched this problem evolve for most of my life is America was Zionisms target to fulfil its Israel Dream. They got nuclear armament assistance from America and the veto and military supremacy in the Middle East thanks to America and stalled the Palestinian State with American help as settlements spread. Then the World changed. Zionism is now making its last ditch stand to take ALL Palestine now it has manipulated Trump into power and sowed chaos. America is dead in the water as an effective superpower at the moment. Nothing stands in Zionisms way in Palestine……..unless the European Union grows a pair and places harsh sanctions on Israel and shuts it out of Europe.

  3. Kaisa of Finland
    January 31, 2017, 4:05 pm

    I lived in Israel about ten years ago: Fell in love with the beautifull country and lovely people I met. Then I started to see the other side of the truth. The love was not there for everyone. I visited Negev and West Bank last time 2009 and have not been able to return since then. I got physically ill of the discrimination and bullying of the palestinians and the bedoins and the fact that I couldn’t do anything about it.

    I am so ashamed of the hypocritical politics of Europe, playing that eternal theather in U.N. , but never having the guts to boycott Israel for it’s behavior and actions towards the palestinians. (The collective guilt of happenings of 2nd WW has made many European countries blind for Israel’s actions).

    We pretend to be a group of civilized nations respecting equality and human rights.. But still those rights do not seem to belong to everyone..

    • Kaisa of Finland
      January 31, 2017, 4:47 pm

      (Just to add to the previous comment: I apologize for all my mistakes in my written english. Hopefully the point is still there to be understood.. )

      • just
        January 31, 2017, 5:02 pm

        It’s a welcome and easily understood comment. Nice to ‘meet’ you, Kaisa of Finland.

        Your English is much better than my Finnish! ;-)

      • Citizen
        January 31, 2017, 8:32 pm

        You did a good job informing us of your experience, Kaisa of Finland (a wonderful country, people)

      • bintbiba
        February 1, 2017, 11:30 am

        Thank you Kaisa of Finland for your heartfelt witness and observations about your experience.

        And welcome to the MondoWeiss family !

  4. RoHa
    January 31, 2017, 10:53 pm

    A while ago, I was assured by an unimpeachable authority that ethnic cleansing was “currently not necessary*”.

    So either it has now become necessary again, or they are just doing this to keep in practice for when it does become necessary.

    The main thing is (if I recall correctly) for us to hold our noses and primarily rejoice.

    Have I left anything out, eljay?

    (*Quoted from memory, so perhaps not accurate”.

    • eljay
      February 1, 2017, 7:25 am

      || RoHa: … Have I left anything out, eljay? ||

      Just one thing: “I feel that the nakba [sic] was a necessary wrong … “

      Oh, and it’s “primarily celebrate”.

      Other than that, well done. :-)

  5. Jackdaw
    February 1, 2017, 12:09 am

    On a recent trip to the Dead Sea, a Bedouin waiter told my wife that he had 38 brothers and sisters from his father and the father’s wives.

    The Bedouin are not disappearing from the Negev.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 1, 2017, 2:31 am

      a Bedouin waiter told my wife

      oh please

      • Jackdaw
        February 1, 2017, 8:58 am

        Are you calling the Bedouin waiter a liar?

      • Annie Robbins
        February 1, 2017, 11:04 am

        the alleged bedouin waiter who allegedly has 38 siblings who allegedly spoke with your alleged wife? uh huh, why heavens no. even tho this is the internet, anonymous people (like you) can make up anything and claim it’s true, because it’s unverifiable. but again, by all means heavens no. in fact i would stake my own life on your truthieness jackdaw, a man of upstanding character and integrity — i’m sure all would agree.

      • Jackdaw
        February 1, 2017, 12:24 pm


        In all honesty, I don’t think enough of you or your ‘dead ender’ cohorts, to make the effort to contrive a lie.

      • eljay
        February 1, 2017, 12:47 pm

        || Jackdaw: … In all honesty, I don’t think enough of you or your ‘dead ender’ cohorts, to make the effort to contrive a lie. ||

        Which could mean that you think enough of us to effortlessly contrive a lie. :-)

    • echinococcus
      February 1, 2017, 5:55 am


      A people under alien occupation and subjected to genocidal practices counts as disappearing, period.

      Besides, what was your wife doing with her illegal presence in the illegally occupied Najaf?

      • Jackdaw
        February 1, 2017, 9:00 am

        “Besides, what was your wife doing with her illegal presence in the illegally occupied Najaf? ”

        Flipping off gutless Jew-baiters like you.

      • echinococcus
        February 1, 2017, 10:34 am

        Nice. Go there together, you Jewisher-than-thou. Just don’t forget that once anywhere in Palestine you shouldn’t be a protected person.

      • Mooser
        February 1, 2017, 12:06 pm

        “Flipping off gutless Jew-baiters like you”

        Well, you hope so, “Jackdaw”. Did you notify the Purity Patrol?

        Wives fly away from little birds sometimes.

      • Mooser
        February 1, 2017, 12:27 pm

        “Besides, what was your wife doing with her illegal presence in the illegally occupied Najaf?”

        Hoping for a little “Midnight at The Oasis” while the little bird’s away?

    • diasp0ra
      February 1, 2017, 7:18 am


      Well, that settles that then!

      Here I thought there were actual issues here.

      • Mooser
        February 1, 2017, 11:53 am

        “diasp0ra”, you must keep in mind that “Jackdaw” (the little bird!) is always in the midst of a charm offensive. Ever seen such a charm offensive?

        “Jackdaw” wants the world to know that besides the simple fact that there could be as many as 2 billion Jews (most are Zionist) we’re pretty goddam tough, too!

    • eljay
      February 1, 2017, 8:18 am

      || Jackdaw: On a recent trip to the Dead Sea, a Bedouin waiter told my wife that he had 38 brothers and sisters from his father and the father’s wives. … ||

      That’s quite the demographic threat!

      || … The Bedouin are not disappearing from the Negev. ||

      The stubbornness of the Bedouin smacks of “Jew hatred”.

      • Jackdaw
        February 1, 2017, 9:01 am

        “The stubbornness of the Bedouin smacks of “Jew hatred”.

        Smacks of misogeny to me.

      • eljay
        February 1, 2017, 9:30 am

        || Jackdaw: Smacks of misogeny [sic] to me. ||

        The desire of the Bedouin to retain their presence in the Negev stems from a hatred of women? Interesting.

      • Jackdaw
        February 1, 2017, 12:31 pm

        Last year, the last Bedouin tribe finally ended clitoridectomy of their women. Hatred of women, or fear of women?

      • Mooser
        February 1, 2017, 12:35 pm

        “That’s quite the demographic threat!”

        You bet it is. Especially when something, nobody really knows what (I can make some guesses) keeps us Jews from matching it anywhere.

        Gosh, what could it be which is holding us back in that department? It is a very critical need.

        You brought it up, “Jackdaw”. Got any ideas on how to keep our womenfolk from running after Bedouins?

      • Mooser
        February 1, 2017, 1:06 pm

        “Last year, the last Bedouin tribe finally ended clitoridectomy of their women.”

        Might be just a wee bit more convincing if you could spell it.

        Shall we talk about the increasing invasiveness and extremity and complete disregard for function shown by Judaism as it tries to customize the male organ?

        And, oh yes, we haven’t given it up, have we? And a happy brit periah to you, “Jackdaw”

      • eljay
        February 1, 2017, 1:20 pm

        || Jackdaw: Last year, the last Bedouin tribe finally ended clitoridectomy of their women. Hatred of women, or fear of women? ||

        I don’t see how the desire of the Bedouin to retain their presence in the Negev results in clitoridectomies, but if clitoridectomies were in fact necessary for the Bedouin to retain their presence in the Negev, halting the practise would seem to put their presence in the Negev at risk.

        Also, if clitoridectomies indicate a hatred or fear of women, circumcision must indicate a hatred or fear of males or of penises. The Bedouin apparently no longer hate or fear women. When will Jews and their Arab co-circumcisionists stop hating or fearing males or their penises?

      • Mooser
        February 1, 2017, 1:31 pm

        “When will Jews and their Arab co-circumcisionists stop hating or fearing males or their penises”

        “eljay” the term “circumcision” covers a lot of ground. Some of the milder forms may be of little consequence, or at least harmless.

        Me, when I want something “chopped and channeled” I’ll pick up a ’39 Mercury.

      • Maghlawatan
        February 1, 2017, 1:48 pm


        When will menstruating Orthodox women be allowed to sleep with their husbands? To the nearest century

      • echinococcus
        February 1, 2017, 1:52 pm


        That would have been relevant if the habits of the people you are still robbing and systematically exterminating had ever been any of your dirty business.

        Be that as it may, it should match the sheet with a hole in the middle, used for screwing in good Orthodox families –and the cleansing prayers before and after, in real Hebrew.
        No wonder: some ladies under Zatriotic-demographic overachievement pressure might take, hmm, fertility trips to the Najaf… productivity numbers like 38 sound impressive.

      • eljay
        February 1, 2017, 2:00 pm

        || Mooser: … “eljay” the term “circumcision” covers a lot of ground. Some of the milder forms may be of little consequence, or at least harmless. … ||

        Those, according to Jackdaw logic, would be the forms that involve less fear or hatred of males or penises.

        || Mooser: … Me, when I want something “chopped and channeled” I’ll pick up a ’39 Mercury. ||

        And then, let me guess, you’re gonna cruise it up and down the road. :-)

      • Mooser
        February 1, 2017, 3:54 pm

        “And then, let me guess, you’re gonna cruise it up and down the road. :-)”

        Thanks! Love this version. I think I like it better….well, it’s different than the Ry Cooder take.

        Or the original K.C. Douglas

        Anyway, cars can be customized and a song re-arranged. Me, thank you, I’d prefer to take my chances the way God made me, if I could. and if it was Goddess, instead, that’s even a better goddam reason to leave it alone!

      • gamal
        February 1, 2017, 5:33 pm

        “Smacks of misogeny to me.”

        but they loved Noah Livneh

        “Bedouins ‘Adopt’ Israeli Jew : Woman Social Worker Opts for Life in Arab Village”

      • eljay
        February 1, 2017, 7:11 pm

        || Mooser: … Or the original K.C. Douglas … ||


        || … Me, thank you, I’d prefer to take my chances the way God made me, if I could. and if it was Goddess, instead, that’s even a better goddam reason to leave it alone! ||

        Amen. :-)

  6. Elizabeth Block
    February 1, 2017, 10:17 am

    “No place else to go…..”
    It would have been ten years ago, when there were rockets coming out of Gaza, that the CBC interviewed an Israeli Jew. “Oh, it’s terrible, I’m so scared, I have to pull over in the car and hide in the ditch….” and I thought, Hon, go home. Go home to Brooklyn, or New Jersey, or California, or wherever you’re from. I know your accent – it’s the same as mine! You have a U.S. passport. Use it. You have someplace else to go. The Palestinians don’t. And the Gazans don’t have American passports.

  7. Ossinev
    February 1, 2017, 1:50 pm

    “a Bedouin waiter told my wife”

    Sounds as if you may be on to a career development opportunity here sunshine since you are already clearly a comedian:

    “Have you heard the one about the Bedouin waiter and the Jewish woman ?”

    • Jackdaw
      February 1, 2017, 3:43 pm


      Here’s some slop for you. Wallow.

      My family traveled to the Dead Sea for a holiday. My wife, who speaks some Arabic, chatted up a Bedouin waiter who told her about himself and mentioned that he was one of 38 children (from one father).
      End of story.

      • Mooser
        February 1, 2017, 6:13 pm

        “Here’s some slop for you. Wallow.”

        Thanks for warning us in advance your word is slop, ‘little bird’ .

        “End of story”

        Where’s the punch line?
        “Jackdaw” don’t go into comedy, unless you think there a place for an enraged-but-impotent-spluttering settler schtik

      • echinococcus
        February 2, 2017, 1:06 am

        Where’s the story, Jack***?

        First of all, your family was illegally on occupied and invaded territory. How irresponsible if you think what well may happen to them as unprotected persons –cannot be worth a holiday.

        Then, how much Arabic does your wife understand, what with today’s definition of “understand” as used by patronizing Anglos like yourself on Cinco de Gringo?

        Then, even if she did understand, where is the proof? Was any evidence produced and checked? No? It could well be fertility propaganda by a single child, aimed at seducing some Zionist productivity-stressed chicks –and you present this on say-so?

        Finally, you Zionists are a real curse. Your family goes to the sea and right away it turns up dead. Can’t even trust you with water.

  8. ToivoS
    February 2, 2017, 4:16 pm

    I guess way off topic but this is the latest post here at MW to point this out.

    I just listened to an NPR story (a car radio station for those who don’t use that media) and they reported on a major expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. I guess the number of new units was 2,500. Of course we all know that this has been announced. But what was new in this story is that NPR actually reported it. Not only that but that it is considered a major hindrance to Peace in the Middle East.

    This is new from my experience listening to NPR radio. Those stories are very, very rarely reported. There was one new twist on this one. Namely, they led the story with Trump’s announcement that he was going to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Of course that is not news but was announced months ago. No, they led the story with that announcement to explain why Israel is now going ahead with this massive expansion of West Bank settlements. I suppose the Zionists are going to now say that “don’t blame us, it was Trump who forced us to steal more Israeli land”.

    I do hope that this I mean that there will be a little crack developing between the liberal US media and those “progressive” Zionists that so strongly insist on supporting any Israel government that might be elected.

    I know that Trump is bad in so may different ways but just maybe he will help turn the discussion around and legitimize an honest discussion about the rights of Palestinians in the US media.

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