The Khyara family realized their lifelong dream in 2017 when, after years of saving and help from family members, they were able to build a home for their family. In a few short months, on September 3, 2018, the Israeli military rolled through the village of al-Walaji and demolished their home, leaving Khalid Abu Khyara, his wife, and their three small girls homeless.
“As Palestinians, there is little room for us to build a life on our ancestral lands. Year after year, Israel passes new laws against us, they change the borders of our lands, they change land ownership deeds…they use every tool they can to displace us,” said Khalid. “We are left with no options to build on our land. As Palestinians, most can’t leave even if we wanted to. We don’t meet the requirements for immigration to other countries. A lot of don’t have the financial resources to move either. But for a lot of us, we won’t leave our land because it is an issue of justice. This is about justice, not just for Palestinians, but all indigenous people and minority groups who are languishing under oppression and violence. So we have to rebuild for justice for all people. We have to resist.”
Following the words of Khalid, Holy Land Trust and Amos Trust collaborated again to resist Israel’s methodical program to erase the indigenous communities of al-Walaji and create a colonial bridge connecting the illegal Gilo settlements to the Gush Etzion bloc, in the attempt to create a “Greater Jerusalem.”
For years, Israel has been trying to find ways to ensure a demographic majority in Jerusalem, and up until now, they have implemented a series of zoning and planning mechanisms to slow down natural expansion in East Jerusalem. Through the years, they have also erected an elaborate legal system to revoke Palestinian residency status in Jerusalem to curtail indigenous population growth. As those methods to guarantee a Jewish majority continue to fail, Israel is trying to annex the largest settlement blocs and incorporate them into Jerusalem. In doing so, it would add 450,000 Jewish residents to the Jerusalem census. The community of al-Walaji, in many ways, is a significant roadblock in the realization of this strategy.
Understanding that nonviolent resistance is more than just “not being violent,” but rather a series of tactics implemented in a meaningful strategic way to create structural change. In other words, yes, we want to change hearts and minds, but we have to think about changing physical realities on the ground.
Rebuilding a Palestinian home that was demolished as part of Israel’s system of Apartheid is one tactic, among many, that helps usher in a new reality of peace and justice.
“What makes Holy Land Trust’s approach to home demolitions unique, is that like many other organizations that offer only legal support, they bring material support,” explained Khalid. “Yes, legal support is important. But when you’re working in the Israeli legal system, all the laws go against the Palestinian people. In many ways, there is no chance of winning a case. So we are only left with the option to resist. Holy Land Trust gives Palestinians who want to resist the type of meaningful solidarity nonviolently to do so.”
Elias Deis - Executive Director
Holy Land Trust’s E.D., Elias Deis has worked for over a decade at Holy Land Trust. He was formally the Travel & Encounter Program Director and serves on the Beit Sahour City Council.