Today’s weekly demonstration against the evictions in East Jerusalem drew between eight hundred and nine hundred people. We began in the usual spot, outside the police barricades leading into the area where the Ghawi and Hanoun families had their homes before they were taken over by Jewish settlers.
It was easy to spot Nasser Ghawi with his huge black beard. He told me that on the evening of last week’s march on behalf of Gilad Shalit, the soldier captured four years ago by Hamas, he and his family had joined the march into Jerusalem. Just as they passed the Prime Minister’s home, a block from the rallying place in Independence Park, the police stopped him and the other Palestinians and held them there for two and a half hours, until the rally was finished.
I told him that I had spoken with Gilad’s father, Noam, about the Ghawi family’s participation in the march, and of Noam’s gratitude for that. Nasser told me that he and author David Grossman are going to visit Noam and Aviva Shalit together.
Soon thereafter I found myself standing next to a small Palestinian woman among all the demonstrators. We began to talk and she asked me to come with her to her home in another section of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Her name is Nazira Tsiam. We went to her home. It was a very poor hovel of two rooms, immaculate inside. She explained that she has lived there for forty years and that she has been a widow for thirty-seven years. Her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren live with her. She exists on a national insurance pension and showed me her shoebox full of medicines she must take. She has thirty-six grandchildren and twenty-six great-grandchildren. She is sixty-seven years old.
On May 26, she received a letter from a law firm, signed by Attorney Anat Paz, that she was living in an illegal building and would have to leave her home within 45 days. (I wanted to read the letter carefully, but had not brought my reading glasses. Nazirah gave me hers.) For every day she stayed in her house after that, she would have to pay 350 NIS (Israeli shekels), and in addition, twelve thousand shekels for each year that she remained in this house. Obviously, she has never seen that much money in her life.
As we came out of her house, she introduced me to other relatives, all of whom had received the same letter. “There is no mercy,” she said as she looked at one of the undernourished small children.
We returned to the demonstration, which turned into a march. Since we have not been allowed to approach the Ghawi and Hanoun homes, we turned to this other section of Sheikh Jarrah and circled the homes of Nazirah and her neighbors. She wanted us to come. I told her I would tell her story to as many people as possible. I know that it will not be long before she and her family will be aroused at gunpoint before dawn one of these days and thrown out onto the street, just as the Ghawi and Hanoun families were one year ago on August 2.
I relate this with great sadness.