At 3:30 AM on November 9, 2008, Reverend Richard Toll was awakened in his hotel room in the neighborhood when the Israeli Occupying Forces/IOF broke down the door of the home of the Al Khurd family. Rev. Toll told me [during the final day of Sabeel’s 7th Annual Conference: The Nakba: Memory, Reality and Beyond] that he was jarred awake by a woman’s pain filled scream that was indescribable.
The Al Khurd family have lived in their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood since the days when east Jerusalem was under Jordanian control. The United Nations upon contract with Jordan, allotted them the land after they became refugees when they were expelled from their home in west Jerusalem by Zionists during the 1948 war.
Hasib Nashashibi, of the Ensan Center for Democracy and Human Rights-an NGO coalition of Palestinian Muslim and Christians- explained to me, “When Jordan controlled this land and the UN granted privileges to the Palestinian refugees including those from west Jerusalem, such as education, health care, and relief and development portion, they also allowed the refugees to give not all the privileges up and receive a home and land deed instead. Jordan never fulfilled their obligation to send the written documentation that these west Jerusalem refugees are land owners and not tenants. Now the Israeli’s are trying to make them refugees for the second time!”
In 2001 a group of settlers broke into the west wing of the Khurd family home while the couple were at the hospital due to Mr. Khurd's ill health. Mr. Khurd went back to the hospital suffering from the emotional stress and physical problems and died the day after his wife welcomed me with a smile and invited me in to share a meal with the neighbors and many international supporters.
Family and neighbors offer Mrs. Khurd sanctuary but the internationals sleep in the tent every night to maintain a presence on the rented land and to support the other twenty-seven Palestinian families in the neighborhood who have received orders from Israel to evacuate their dwellings-in one home alone 52 people are currently residing.
A few days ago, three internationals were arrested, interrogated and then released. They returned to the neighborhood, but were not on site during my visits.
Since East Jerusalem’s occupation by Israel in 1967, the Oriental Jews Associations and the Knesseth Yisrael Association have been waging a brutal take over of the Khurds’ home, claiming that the land originally belonged to Jews.
In 1972, they succeeded to register the land in their name with the Israeli Land registrar.
In 1999, settlers burst into the home and set up an occupation in a wing of the house that belonged to the couple’s son, Raed.
The Khurd family hired lawyers and have spent a fortune in court battles.
In 2006, the Israeli court finally revoked the claim of ownership by the settlers.
On February 25, 2007 the Israeli Supreme Court issued an order to evict the settlers; but it was never enforced!
The settlers-most of them are from America- have been stealing homes from Palestinians in the neighborhoods around the Old City of Jerusalem which if not challenged and prevented, will pre-empt any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
The settlers current desire is to cleanse more than 500 Palestinians from the neighborhood and build 200 apartheid apartments for Jewish only colonists.
This hurdle of injustice by the Israeli Government has lit a fire in the international community.