Mondoweiss / July 23, 2019
Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and across the diaspora are reeling after Israel conducted an unprecedented mass demolition of 10 buildings in the occupied East Jerusalem town of Sur Bahir on Monday.
The demolitions gained widespread international media attention as videos surfaced of Israeli forces aggressively beating activists and forcibly evicting Palestinian families ahead of the demolitions.
One of the more shocking videos of Monday’s events came to light in the evening, following the final demolition of the day.
As local activist Hamada Hamada told Mondoweiss Monday afternoon, Israeli forces had demolished all the buildings, except one, using bulldozers.
Due to the sheer size and location of the final building, instead of bulldozers, Hamada told Mondoweiss that Israeli forces rigged every apartment unit in the building with explosives and evacuated the area.
A video of the events shows Israeli forces stationed on a hill overlooking the building, counting down from 10 in Hebrew. At the end of the countdown, a masked soldier, flanked on either side by two border police officers, presses a button setting off a chain of explosions in the building.
Within seconds, the building crumbles to the ground and a huge cloud of dust and smoke fills the area.
The Israeli officer filming the video can be heard laughing, while the soldier who pressed the button and the border police officer next to him begin to laugh, pat each other’s backs, and embrace.
Loud cheers could be heard in the background, seemingly belonging to the dozens of troops stationed in the area.
One border police officer on camera then prompts the soldier with the detonator to turn around and pose for a photo with the clouds of smoke in the background.
The two then share a congratulatory handshake before the video ends.
The video caused a stir on social media, with Palestinians expressing their outrage, heartbreak, and sadness over seeing Israeli soldiers celebrating the demolition of dozens of Palestinian homes.
The former Minister of Health in Gaza Dr. Basem Naim tweeted: “When a person celebrates the bombing of another person house … He loses his humanity.”
The PLO tweeted out the video, highlighting the fact that a total of 24 Palestinians, 14 of them children, were forcibly displaced during Monday’s demolition campaign, while hundreds of others were otherwise affected.
Lifelong dreams shattered
One of the hundreds of Palestinians affected as 52-year-old Jehad Sous, a father of five, who owned an apartment unit in the building that was demolished by controlled explosion.
“I put all of my life savings into that apartment, more than 345,000 shekels (approx. $97,480),” Sous told Mondoweiss on Tuesday.
“I worked every day of my life with the dream that one day I could provide a better life for my family. And yesterday I watched that dream crumble in just a few seconds.”
Sous told Mondoweiss that he put his savings towards buying a unit in the under-construction building five years ago, with the hope that he could move his family out of their current apartment, a small 70 square meter space.
But three years ago, just as soon as he was close to finishing up the unit so his family could move in, he received a stop-work order from Israeli forces.
“I continued to pay off the cost of the apartment to the landlord, because I had hoped the courts would eventually rule in our favor against the demolition order of the buildings,” Sous said.
He was devastated when the Supreme Court ruled last month in favor of the military’s argument that the building’s posed a “security threat” due to their proximity to the separation barrier.
As he watched his dreams and his family’s future go up in smoke, Sous said he felt like he was living in a nightmare that won’t end.
“I couldn’t believe, I still can’t believe that my house is crumbled to the ground. We can’t believe it. Everything I ever worked for is gone,” he said.
Sous told Mondoweiss that though he has faced many economic difficulties, physical ailments, and hardships in life, he was brought to tears for the first time while watching his house be destroyed.
“I never cried in my life, but I cried yesterday. I can’t describe how I felt in that moment. Watching all my dreams falling down.”
When asked how he felt after seeing the video of soldiers celebrating the demolition, Sous said he was overwhelmed with disgust and frustration.
“They have no humanity,” he said. “They celebrated, while we cried.”
“Even sometimes as soldiers you have orders to carry out. But at least when you do it, and you know it’s wrong, and is destroying the dreams of people, you shouldn’t be happy about it, you should be ashamed.”
Yumna Patel is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine
Akram al-Wa’ra contributed to this report from the West Bank.