57 year old Abed Karim Jaabari, father of a large family, some with severe disabilities, owns family land between the Kiryat Arba and Givat Ha’vot settlements in Hebron.

In 2001 settlers occupied part of his land and constructed what became known as the tent synagogue. This was illegal under international law, and because it was built without Israeli authorization, illegal under Israeli law too. In addition to the synagogue, a path was constructed across the Jaabari land linking the two settlements. The path was declared a closed military zone, to be used by the Israeli military and police alone, but settlers made regular use of it too.

In 2003 a demolition order was issued by the Israeli Civil Administration, followed by years of procrastination by the relevant authorities. In 2013 the tent was destroyed by a heavy fall of snow, but was rebuilt using more permanent materials.

In 2014 Abed Jaabari was authorized by his extended family to negotiate with the Israeli authorities to secure the return of the land. On the 18th February 2015 the Israeli court found in favour of the Jaabari family, and ordered the Israeli military to demolish the structure. The military were given two months to complete the order.

On the morning of the Tuesday 14th April, the Israeli Defense Force carried out the demolition, but failed to clear the debris. In the meantime the Jaabari family are denied access to their land until the land is cleared. They are anxious that settlers will attempt to rebuild the synagogue. In fact that has already happened. Work began (Wednesday April 15th) while Israeli military, including the Border Police, watched!

When settlers’ illegal structures are demolished, Palestinians usually have to pay the price: the so-called ‘price tag’. That began on the evening of Tuesday 14th when 25-30 settlers gathered near the Jaabari land, clearly intent on attacking the Jaabari family. They harassed a Palestinian woman who was trying to reach her home nearby – pushing and intimidating – until the Israeli military and police arrived and provided protection for her. Palestinian witnesses confirm that the woman suffered no injuries.

Apart from the issue of the synagogue, Palestinians who live near the settlements endure regular harassment. Some are now permitted to use their cars, but are often targeted by settlers who throw stones at their vehicles; and crops grown on the Jaabari land are regularly trampled and destroyed by settler children.

Jaabari has also lodged a complaint against a Kiryat Arba security guard, claiming that on three occasions the guard aimed shots at him. When Jaabari made his complaint, he was detained himself, and released only when a 7,500 shekel ‘bail’ was paid.

The Jaabari family are now asking for the support of human rights organizations to bring pressure on the Israeli authorities to clear the site of debris so that after fourteen years they can have full, safe, access to their land.

© 2015 With love from Hebron.
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