IT WAS US STANDING ON THE ROOF
At 5:00 in the morning on April 30, 1948, no one remained in
the village of Salame - except one blind old woman. People with nothing, in exile. And they built them transit camps, and they built us transit camps; refugees, refugees on the land, Arabs the sons of Ishmael and Jews who just arrived from the Mashrek and from the Maghreb(1). You could still hear the babies crying in the receding distance as the State brought in Yemenites and Iraqis to house them in the remnants of the village. Thirty-four years passed until the second expulsion. God will punish those who gave the order to expel the residents of Kfar Shalem and to tear all their houses down to the ground. The horror hidden in the picture of the death of Shimon Yehoshua, may his memory be a blessing, bleeding out on the roof of his home on the 23rd of December, 1982, during the cruel evacuation of the neighbourhood, a moment after a police officer shot him as he resisted the destruction of his home. The tree which cuts across this picture pierces his body, straight and proud, a reminder of his stubborn struggle. Behind him, his brother stands bent over, looking in shock at his death, holding a bottle, perhaps a Molotov cocktail, a hint of revenge. In the following days, masses of people swept out the Argazim and Hatikvah quarters and burned the white city(2). Again in the '70's, the spark was lit by the struggle for our homes.
1.The Mizrachi, meaning Eastern or Oriental, Jews from Mesopotamia and North Africa, vis a vis the Ashkenazi Jews of European origin.
Shimon Yehoshua bleeding on the roof of his house
The flame was lit in Zion Square when they expelled the residents of Mamila, Yemin Moshe, and other neighborhoods where lived Mizrachi Jews. And the Panthers went out from the ghettoes to the center of the city to defend their honor and self-respect(3). They understood what others understand only on the day they get their expulsion order; that our part of building the Land is mixing mortar and plaster and tiling – not getting our own piece of the Land.
3.The Black Panthers were a 1970's radical protest movement of the Mizrachi community struggling against the Ashkenazi-dominated establishment.
In the village of Lifta, as in Salame, four years after the last Arabs were displaced, Jews from Yemen and Kurdistan were dumped there to protect the border. On November 2, 1952, the village council wrote a letter to the evil one from Plonsk, in these words: "Dear Prime Minister Mr. David Ben Gurion, What has become of us? They brought us from the camps to an abandoned Arab village without our knowledge and deceived us and told us Go to Jerusalem, you'll manage; we accepted their words like hammered nails and never thought that they wanted to throw us to the dogs, a place of darkness and the shadow of death, a place of desolation and waste, of uphills and downhills, a place with no chance of repair forever, a place of animals and of infiltrators, a border area of enemies…".
Ten years without electricity and without water, and the whole country slums and more slums, and on its borders Moroccans living in crumbling Amidar flats, God help us. Sixty years will go by for Lifta, and Esther Ovadia will twice slap her face when she receives the notice in her hands. This must be a mistake, she thinks to herself, it must be. She calls her son, puts the letter in his hand, and he reads the text: "The accused trespassed and holds, with no authority, (land) […] about which the honourable court is requested as follows: to require the accused to evacuate and to remove all effects from the property." The following day, all the residents of Lifta met in the synagogue, in fear of heaven and the Israel Lands Authority, tears in the eyes of the women. Boaz Sando found it hard to believe, going from curse to prayer: "It is written, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’, not ‘he shall eat and another watch him’." But where is the State of the Jews now and where are the ethics we were raised on, where? Here the greedy rule, their Torah is not our Torah, their belief is not our belief. The synagogue was silent, all eyes focused on Yoni Yochanan, a native of Lifta, the son of Matlub Yochanan. He looked at the eviction notice, looked in the eyes of the people, and declared war.
Like the residents of Lifta, thousands of Mizrachi families are presently designated as trespassers in their own homes, the "housing provider" is the evacuator, it is determining our fate; the same agency which expelled the Yemenites of Kineret is the one that expelled the Arabs and is the one expelling the Mizrachim. And a home is not just walls and a roof, a home is life and its destruction is the destruction of souls and memory. Finished is our marginal role in their history, we will hit our heads that we did not understand that there is a false messiah here. We will remember that in 1971, wise men wrote in the Panthers' public letter "The Poor Man's Lamb" (4), that the ghettoes in the large cities - which were built to separate the poor from the rich – because of the expansion of the cities and the increasing cost of land, are becoming easy prey for land developers. And from the city centers we are forced out to wander and from the periphery of the country they expel us from public housing; we are lost between the strangling kibbutz lands where "the best of our young people" continue the robbery as though there is no one besides them. And in Be'er Sheva the clerk says, "Over there in Dimona you will find something," and in Dimona we found nothing. And where will we go, to Egypt, to Iraq, to Tunis? Even the homes and property we had there they took from us, as a counter to the property that was stolen from the Palestinians.
They steal and we pay the price. So today, after more than 60 years of their crimes and the jails are filled with Moroccans and Arabs – among them brave defenders of home and land in the face of ruin and destruction. Many resisters to violent laws, many people pushed to the wall. Three years and another year on probation and a bullet in the leg got Nachum Chamis for his heroic action in the attempted expulsion from Malcha in 1974, after he took over a tractor just as it began to tear down walls and turned it on a police vehicle, so that all would see and be seen.
4.See the story in 2 Samuel 12:4, where Nathan rebukes King David through the parable of the greedy rich man who took the poor man's single lamb.
Nachum Chamis, The hero of Malha
Fifty residents who were on their roofs will bear witness to this. The Housing Authority quickly came to an arrangement and cancelled the expulsion orders. "He died of sorrow, the State killed him," they say there. And how his father Mussa cried, For 2,000 years we waited for a place in Zion…so they can return us to wandering. Go walk in the streets of the new developing Jerusalem, there behind every Arab refugee stands a Mizrachi Jew with an eviction order in his hand.
Everyone should know, from the Argazim neighborhood to Givat Amal, to the last generation, that the Land Law - that was passed in 1970 which cancelled the Ottoman Law - determined that from now on all the Mizrachi Jews in these neighborhoods are criminals and children of criminals, trespassers and children of trespassers. This is the bureaucracy which kills us and brings down ruin, these the laws which were created just for us, to limit us and to make it hard for us.
You should know about the document discovered by Yoni Yochanan in the State Archives under the title "Ordinances for the Sale of Development Authority Property 1960", where it is clearly written, "Priority is given to residents to purchase their flats," and these documents were hidden from us by the red-booklet people (5) – and at their head the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice, a curse be upon them – who live in the mansions of Talbieh and Katamon and other abandoned property, and on their right to be there no one casts doubt. They are the lords of the land,they are its judges, they have the land and the property.
5.Labor Party functionaries who dominated the civil service through the 1970's.
We are not here to fight over the spoils of the Palestinians. We were a means for achieving others' intentions; and we got shelter in the ruins of their homes, breathing the same spirit. We dreamed of Jerusalem, and they have the gold and silver. And they continue with their evil heart; in the slums and ghettoes what little there is left to us they
take for their real estate deals. We will not come defenseless; rather together we will point at the murderer, the thief, the mortgage holder, the evictor, the Housing Authority, the Sovereign State. Rachel Levy, who lived in an Amidar flat all her life, will come to tell of the cruelty of those who blocked up the door of her home with bricks and mortar; and the old blind Arab woman will tell of the voices she heard, the shots fired, and the pounding of horses; and Sarah Ahmad Uda will testify about her childhood in Lifta before she knew of war. It is the same hand which pulls the hair of women in Beit Hanina and in Katamonim to this day; the same hand which stands dark-skinned men in those same lines to watch the destruction of their homes. Ben Harush will come, and Tuito may his memory be blessed, and Knafo, and all the sit-inners in the bread-circles and single-parent tent camps; and all the "eligible's" with their numbers in line waiting for years for a home; and Leah Shemi and Meital Avraham who barricaded themselves with a gas balloon to prevent the expulsion of their children from the only shelter they have ever known in Be'er Sheva; and the Natshe family with nine children and the tenth on its way who were dumped on the street late one night. Opher Buzaglo will come, a taxi driver whose mortgage payments beat on him with no mercy, until he and his wife were expelled with no pity from their home in front of their three children. And the souls of all the homeless who froze to death will come down, and the souls of the hopeless who killed themselves in the face of expulsion orders will come down.
And all the residents of the villages known to us will bear witness, and the women of Abuhatzeira Street will come out on their balconies to pronounce righteous judgment. They will stand to judge according to heaven and earth all those who signed the expulsion notices, every one of them, among them the one who signed the notice to expel Ovadia and Miriam ben Avraham, both in their 60's, who received an eviction notice demanding they leave their home in Neve Ya'acov in the cold winter of 2012 when they were unable to pay the extortionate rent demanded by Amidar, that criminal housing company which instead of housing the weak forcibly expels them and makes them suffer as part of the evilness of erasing public housing. For five days was Ovadia on his hunger strike sitting opposite the Amidar offices to open their eyes, and after a stubborn struggle the notice was cancelled. Akiva Alkarif from Wadi Salib, our own Muhammad Alboazizi, will come to drink a pleasant glass of Arrack in celebration of our success.
I dream of them all, the dead and the living may their days be long, hurrying to Zion, the holy place we dreamed of, to trespass in the homes, to root out the institutions, to burn the bureaucracy and the documents and the administration, the buildings of the housing companies, who left us lost and crying for God's mercy, laid out flat on the doorsteps of the crumbling welfare system; despairing yet desperately clinging to the graves of the just, kissing the hand, looking to heaven, God will help!
From the echoes of the cries of the people of the Ma'abarot (6) came the tent cities of "no choice", the people of the slums, the homeless, the victims of public housing, all to set up a tent in the midst of the protest encampment of Summer 2011, to continue the struggle. And in academia they will speak of classes and of the oppressed. "The Oppression" they will label it; with interruptions, comparisons, speculations and dialectics. And we will name the names and tell the stories: Vicki Va'anunu, Etti Chen and Maya Zigov, the heroic mothers at the front of the march, Amnon Tzur tightening the tent flap and humming the tunes of Zohar Argov, Ovadia knocking on the door of Ben Sasson, the President of the University, asking for a place to sleep, David "Bottles" falling in love, and Rachel Levi chaining herself to the fence around the Prime Minister's House and yelling, "The middle class came out in summer 2011, Bibi. I say, if in Arazim a conflagration stopped, what will the little hyssop say? (7) What will 40 years of exploitation of the weak and the weakened say? What will the people living on minimum wage say, and what will say the people living on transfer payments, which is the people's wage? You expect us to live on money we don't have, to rent a flat with money we don't have, to buy food with money we don't have, and now you throw us out on the street, Bibi! You will pay for this."
6.The tent camps created in the 1950's to house the millions of Mizrachi Jews arriving from the Arab countries after the 1948 war.
7.An adage from the Babylonian Talmud, Moed Katan 25:4 – "If the Cedars of Lebanon (the strong) are burned, how much more so will the hyssop (the weak) be hurt."
God is with you Rachel, they will pay, they will all pay. You'll pay for every drop of blood, we will check off your names every one of you, we will send you to jail, send you to a foreign land. You will pay for the looting, for the destruction, for the killing, for the insult. No apologies will help; you will pay the price before it's too late. Return the land and the property, cover the debts from your own pockets, the cost of the foreclosures and the expulsions, the debt-interest and the increased prices of bread and milk, the mortgages on the factories we worked in, the taxes that went to your culture budgets and your universities. Not only our respect and honor will we take back, you will have to give up your privileges - every one of them. Shekel by shekel you will pay, and now you will pay the interest. We will detail everything; we will write, we will take pictures, we will tell the story, how they made life miserable for my grandfather and his friends during their time in the tent camps, who went and rolled boulders to block the road leading northward. How a group of young men from Gerba, educated with golden hands, found themselves with nothing. They took them in a truck to the police station. How the policeman the son of a bitch grabbed me and forced me into the police car, through the windshield I saw everyone blocking the road, and tried to get out and he slammed the door on me. Helpless, I pull out the camera and photograph the line of demonstrators. Nighttime at the Russian Compound, a small cement cell, four Moroccans and an Arab. And in the evening, three policemen jumped on Ovadia and punched him in the ribs while he was walking in Yemin Moshe on his way to a friend's. "You are hard core," they said, and took him for investigation on suspicion of stealing a vacuum cleaner. And when he asked for the names of the policemen who hit him he was sent to jail and released 12 hours later, telling him that apparently there had been a mistake. And Amnon Tzur, with the spark of revolution in his eyes, his place and situation putting him in jail for 17 months in Be'er Sheva; and the blows the mothers took when they blocked Amidar, ten of us were arrested from among thirty.And the group of thugs who came upon us to evacuate the liberated house on Pinsker 11.
Helpless, I pull out the camera and photograph the line of demonstrators
We will tell the story with no apologies: we blocked, broke in, we defended our bodies. Our hearts will be strengthened by all those who refuse the orders of Nebuchadnezzar, and by Hannah and her seven sons, and by Lala Sulika. Your law is not legal, your law is your law, designed to defend you, we have no interest in your order, we are not interested in your conventions for human rights nor in agreements with the English and the Americans, what have they to do with us? We do not want lines – not green lines, not any lines. No Supreme Court and no Hague, no laws - nothing at all. We want respect and justice, give us that and you will get it in return.
In every generation, it will be told….
It was all of us who sat in Rosolio Café, we all spoke of revolution in the alleys of Katamonim and Musrara, we all cursed the mother of the Mayor and beat our hands on the plastic tables in the snack bars in Netivot and Yerucham, in those places where we drank and cursed Ben Gurion. It was us, on our bodies, feeling the night storms that burst through the tears in the Ma'abarot; it was us who stood bent over on the roof, holding a bottle, perhaps a Molotov cocktail, watching Shimon Yehoshua bleed out. It is us now going out from the Jahiliyyah to welcome the Mahdi, the Messiah, Son of David, for Tikkun Olam, to repair the world. The struggle continues here, in Greece and in Egypt and every place else on earth.