Displacement: A Palestinian Women's Voice Archive

by Rosemary Sayigh

Salim and 'Arab Shawamra

Recorded in Qunatra on April 1, 1999

Interview recordings:


In April 1999 I'm in Jerusalem with the photographer Leena Saraste. K, the friend who took me to Nabi Samuel in 1998, teels us about a recent home demolition in a village called Qanater, just outside Jerusalem's present municipal boundary, and offers to take us there. Home demolitions have recently been speeding up in all the villages close to Jerusalem, in preparation for the 'Greater Jerusalem' that is already planned, which is expected to extend the area of the city by (? square kilometers).

Qanater is some way beyond Shu'fat camp (the only UNRWA camp inside Jerusalem, NB check Kalandia, maybe half in half out?). The village itself is small. We drive beyond it to a bare rocky hillside, facing towards the city. There are a few houses, thinly scattered, alonmg recently built roads. Two of them have recently been demolished. In the distance are tin shacks inhabited by bedouin. We pass the demolished houses and come to a new unroofed house structure. Beyond it there's a one-roomed shack of planks with a zinco roof, with a banner across the entrance proclaiming in Arabic, English and Hebrew "The Movement Against Ethnic Cleansing". In front of the shack is a small space with grass and five plastic chairs. Here live the Shawamras, a family of eight, Salim and 'Arab (or 'Arabiyya?), with their six children.

Their home has been demolished twice and twice rebuilt. The rebuilding has been done by volunteers, mostly Israeli. All that is lacking now is the roof.

Salim first tells how and why he bought land and built a home out here, and then how he tried and failed to obtain a 'ruksa' (permit), from the Israeli authorities. The IDF attack on their home was extremely violent, beating his wife and the children with gun butts. Later they found the youngest child among the rocks, where he had run in terror. The Israelis shot at neighbours who came to help them.

I record with Salim first, in front of their temporary 'home'. There's a wind that hits the banner every now and then, making it crack. So to record with 'Arabiyya, who has a very soft voice, we move inside. The shack has nothing in it at all except mattresses to sit and to sleep on. None of the usual home equipment, cups, trays, stores, only a liquid gas container. There are large cracks between the planks of the walls.


Salim Shawamra speaks:

I'm a human being, Salim Shawamra, a Palestinian. I was born in Palestine, in Jerusalem to be exact. My father and mother moved in 1948 from a village called Umm Shaqqa. It's one of the 450 Palestinian villages that were destroyed before/after (?) 1948. They moved and lived in Jerusalem. I was one of ten children, five brothers and five sisters. We were born in Jerusalem.

In 1965 they transferred us to the Shu'fat camp, near to Jerusalem. Five brothers and five sisters, and the camp gave us two small rooms, each one three by three (meters)! The family expanded, the brothers married. And I graduated from Kalandia Institute, the Vocational Training Centre at Kalandia, in Jerusalem.

After I graduated I left for the Gulf, to Saudi Arabia. I worked there for eight years. During that time I married my wife, and we have three children. In the year 1998 we decided to go back our country, to live in our country and build a house, after the work I'd done there. So we went to Jerusalem. The camp there was full, our house in the camp was full, it wasn't possible for us to live in the house because my brothers and their children were there, a large number of people were living in it. It wasn't possible for us to live in the house in the camp.

We decided to buy a piece of land and build a house on it. The money that we brought back from the Gulf after eight years' work, we went and bought this piece of land with it, that we're on right now. We tried to get a license from Beit El, from the Israeli organization (?). The first time we applied for a licence they refused, with the senseless pretext that the land is outside the limit of the master Plan. But there isn't any master Plan for the Palestinian villages (West Bank), it was all just talk. And the second time also they refused a license, also on a senseless pretext. We applied a third time, and again the refused us a license."


'Arabiyya Shawamra speaks:

I'm from Jerusalem. From Umm Shaqqa, Yes, near Hebron. [Can you tell us a bit about your life, the house, how it affected you?] It affected me not a little, but to a degree of madness. [What about before?] I was born in Umm Shaqqa, and my family left for Jordan. I lived in Jordan, and I married in Jordan. Then I left for Saudiyya with my husband. Eight years later we came and settled here in Palestine. We built the house. We lived in it. [You worked on the house too?] Yes. [What did you do?] No, nothing. My husband worked on the house and he laid its foundations. We came to Palestine and we bought this land and we built the house on it. We stayed in it for five years. After five years, they came to destroy it.

[Were your children at school?] Yes. [Is there a school here?] Yes. [Was everything okay before?] Yes everything was okay. But they used to threaten us. The Jews used to threaten us. [There were schools, and shops?] Everything was available in the area. [Did you have a right to Agency services?] Yes, everything from the Agency. They came at 1.0pm. we were sitting down at lunch. Suddenly they surrounded the house. They came in, they forced us out, the Israeli Army. They came in, inside the house. They threw out the children, they hit them as well. [With their weapons?] Yes, they hit us, and they hit me hard on the head with a gun. I fell unconscious. They hit the kids hard, those women soldiers. They were there to kick us out of the house."

Before we leave, I ask Salim about the bedouin shacks. He says they too have been served with demolition notices. As we go back up the hill towards Qanater village, we pass a house where the fence has been bulldozed down. A woman looks out at us with an expression that makes me realize how fearful it must be to live like this, never knowing from moment to moment when 'they' will come, nor what they will do.

'Arab

Anata, Jerusalem area. Destroyed house of Shawamra family. 1999
(L. Saraste)

'Arab

'Arab al Shawamra in front of a banner that reads, in Arabic, Hebrew and English, "Committee Against Home Demolitions", Qunatra near Jerusalem, April 1999.
(L. Saraste)

'Arab

'Arab al Shawamra, Qunatra, April 1999.
(L. Saraste)

'Arab

'Arab al Shawamra standing near her twice-destroyed home, Qunatra, April 1999.
(L. Saraste)

'Arab

'Arab al Shawamra, Qunatra, April 1999.
(L. Saraste)

'Arab

Quantra, April 1999.
(L. Saraste)

'Arab

Qunatra, April 1999.
(L. Saraste)

'Arab

Qunatra, April 1999.
(L. Saraste)


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