Israeli writers visit South Hebron Hills to prevent expulsion of Palestinians

Prominent Israeli writers Zeruya Shalev, Eyal Megged, Sayed Kashua and Alona Kimhi visited the South Hebron Hills in the occupied Palestinian West Bank last week. The writers met with the Palestinian residents of the village of Jenbah, who told them about the reality of their lives and the danger they face of being expelled from the site, which the military has declared “Firing Zone 918.”

Author Zeruya Shalev said: “Nothing compares to witnessing, firsthand, the enormity of the injustice that is being done to poor farming families who are not endangering a soul and demand so little. I very much hope that, on the fifteenth of July, the court will decide to let them stay where they are, will relocate the firing zone and will make sure that they are able to live a human life, which every single person deserves. This Biblical setting and this Biblical way of life bring to mind two famous stories of injustice: the vineyard of Navot the Yizre’eli, and the poor man’s lamb. It sounds very similar, that the state is not letting them hold on even to that vineyard, to that poor man’s lamb.” In mid-July 2013, Israel’s High Court of Justice will discuss a petition filed by hundreds of residents from the area of Masafer Yatta in the South Hebron Hills against the plan to expel them from their homes, following the designation of the area as a firing zone.

The Israeli writers in a South Hebron village (Photo: Guy Butavia)

The writers who visited the site are part of a group of 24 Israeli writers who signed an appeal written by David Grossman, calling for the expulsion to be cancelled. Among the signatories: David Grossman, Salman Masalha, Amos Oz, Haviva Pedaya, A.B. Yehoshua, Ronit Matalon, Natan Zach, Salman Masalha, Meir Shalev, Yehushua Sobol, Eyal Megged, Etgar Keret, Zeruya Shalev, Agi Mishol, Nir Baram, Sami Michael, Dorit Rabinyan, Shimon Adaf, Alon Hilu, Alona Kimhi, Sayed Kashua, Yehoshua Knaz and Assaf Gavron.

The full text of the appeal said:For the past twenty years Israel has been actively expelling and displacing the inhabitants of the South Hebron Hills villages. These villagers have always practiced a unique lifestyle: most of them are cave dwellers and find their livelihood in sheep- and goat herding and small crop farming.

“Over these years they have suffered unceasing harassment by the Israeli army and settlers. Their dwellings are repeatedly demolished, water wells ruined and sealed, and their crops destroyed.

“1,000 people, adults and children – in eight villages of an area that in the 1980s was declared ‘army firing zone no. 918’ – are now threatened with immediate expulsion from their hamlets. They live in constant fear, helplessly facing a ruthless power that does everything to displace them from the home they have inhabited for centuries.

“Now their plight is up for a last review by Israel’s High Court of Justice.

“We call out to those who are still able to listen:

“We cannot bring peace today. But the least we can do is to expose and condemn “small” local outrages. In a reality of ongoing occupation, of solid cynicism and meanness, each and every one of us bears the moral obligation to try and relieve the suffering, do something to bend back the occupation’s giant, cruel hand. In a place where there are no worthy people, strive to be a worthy person (Pirkei Avot -Ethics of the fathers). Should we not do even this very little?”