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Umm Islam with husband and children, 'Summood Camp', Jerusalem, June 1998

Umm Islam, 'Sumood camp', East Jerusalem, June 23:

It's the friends in BADIL, a Bethlehem-based NGO devoted to legal work, who tell me about 'Sumood camp'. The people here are Palestinian Jerusalemites who, in August 1997, set up a tented camp on waqf land near Ras al-Amud in protest against rising rents and threats of confiscation of their Jerusalem ID cards. Their protest attracted considerable media attention. Soon after the protest began, a permit to build on the land that had been denied before was granted by the Municipality... Of the original 75 families of 'Sumood camp', 22 refused to give up their living demonstration since they couldn't afford Jerusalem rents, and would lose their ID cards if they left the city area. They decided to stay together, and moved into an unfinished Islamic waqf building on Salahadin street, close to the American Colony.

Mahfooz Abu Turk, a news photographer, is the chairman of the committee that runs 'Sumood camp', and has been appointed by Orient House to negotiate on its behalf with the waqf. He has tent space in the camp but it's more symbolic than real. He turns up to brief me, show me round and introduce me to possible speakers.

Inside the waqf building tents have been strung up on wooden struts over untiled concrete floors. It's strange to see tents in such a setting; they cover the ground floor. The waqf administration are saying now that they have found the funds needed to finish the building, and the demonstrators must move out. 'Sumood camp' people are insisting on being moved to homes whose rents they can afford. Negotiations were still going on at the time of my visit. Mahfooz says that as a result of their campaign, the confiscation of certain categories of Jerusalem ID cards has stopped.

Mahfouz's neighbours are Abu and Umm Islam. He knocks on their partition, and I

enter the tent they occupy with their five children. There are areas partitioned off for kitchen and sleeping - probably the parents sleep there, the children in the reception area, furnished with floor mats, cushions and a low settee. Umm Islam agrees to record, and I photo her with her oldest child, a daughter of 12 years Umm Islam is a Jerusalemite, her husband is from the West Bank, a low-paid construction worker caught in the rent squeeze that forms one 'arm' through which Israel aims to empty the city of Palestinians.

Umm Islam speaks:
"My family is from here originally, they're living in Jerusalem. My father is originally from Qibya, if you've heard of it, in Ramallah district. But before he married he was living her, in Jerusalem, in Wadi Joz...We were born here, here in Jerusalem, me and my brothers and sisters, all of us. We were all born here. My destined husband came, I married. I went to the [West] Bank, my husband is from the [West] Bank of course. You know, a woman when she wants to marry, when the bridegroom or his family come to ask for her hand, she doesn't think of the situation, or the identity card, or that she's going to have children. There wasn't this situation then, things were normal. The West Bank, Jerusalem -- no problem. We didn't feel this problem thirteen years ago... So I got married and we lived in the village with his family. They didn't have a lot of space. I was living in one room, with them. [Where was that?] Beit Laqiya, in Ramallah district. They gave me a room, to live in temporarily. I gave birth to a boy and a girl. After I had a boy and a girl, there was no space. How could one room hold us? I left them and rented. Then I stayed with my family for two years. Then I rented in Beit Hanina. We suffered a lot..."

[Hajji Rafiqa Sleimi] ['Odette']


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