By The Rev. Richard Toll Board Chair, Friends of Sabeel—North America November 8, 2008
I arrived in Jerusalem on the 8th of November to participate in Sabeel’s 7th international conference.In my fourth floor room at the Mt. Scopus Hotel in East Jerusalem in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood I was awakened at around Sunday morning by loud noise below caused by settlers in the process of taking over the home of Mohammad and Fawzieh al-Kurd, a Palestinian family that had lived in the home since the early 1950s.I heard the woman screaming and went out onto the balcony where I saw 30 to 40 soldiers and police on the roof and surrounding the house.There was an ambulance present and the noise continued.
Later that morning I joined with others at the hotel who were part of the Sabeel conference, including peace activist Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, who had come to learn of the eviction.We learned then that the father, Mohammed al-Kurd (Abu Kamel), had been taken away to a hospital in the ambulance.
During the Sabeel conference many of us visited the al-Kurd family’s tent, which had been set up near their confiscated house.The tent had been erected by family, friends, and supporters so that the homeless family could receive condolences from visitors. On my visit I heard directly from the lips of the woman who had awakened me with her screams.Fawzieh al-Kurd (Umm Kamel) said the police and soldiers pushed their way into the house at about 4 in the morning and physically removed those inside, including her husband and some internationals who had been staying with them.Their furniture was tossed outside in front of the house.
The settlers moved in immediately.
One of the most obscene parts of this story is what happened early that Sunday morning when a settler came down where we were all gathered visiting the al-Kurd family.He performed a “victory” dance for all of us to see, celebrating the settlers’ confiscation of another Palestinian home.I say “obscene” because what is happening is obscene from any point of view.A family home is sacred and it is obscene to celebrate a house confiscation and the forceful removal of a family.
On my return to Oregon I learned the sad news that the Mohammed al-Kurd (Abu Kamel), who had been taken by ambulance that night, had died of a heart attack.Suffering from dangerously high blood pressure, and in the aftermath of his family’s eviction from the their house, 61 year-old Abu Kamel suffered from a heart-attack and died. Fawzia al-Kurd has lost her husband and her family home within two weeks because of the Israeli state’s campaign to evict Palestinians and expand Jewish settlements in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Despite high-profile formal complaints from the US State Department, numerous foreign consulates, and European politicians, the state of Israel continues to violently pursue its plans to evict the refugees of 1948 from their homes in East Jerusalem.
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