Arab villagers come together to rebuild razed home in northern Israel

12:00 Sep 9 2012 Bir al-Maksur

Arab villagers come together to rebuild razed home in northern Israel
Home demolition in Bir al-Maksur. Photo by Abdullah Shama

In just five days, relatives, villagers and dozens of construction workers restored Hassan Gdir's unfinished home to its pre-demolition state.

By Jack Khoury

Last Tuesday Hassan Gdir stood on the rubble of his unfinished home in the northern Israeli village of Bir al-Maksur. He did not conceal his pain and anger: Five years of legal battles ended in two hours, when bulldozers accompanied by hundreds of police officers tore down the house he was building on his farmland, east of the village, because it was being built without a permit.

This weekend Gdir was tense but smiling. In just five days, relatives, villagers and dozens of construction workers restored the building to its pre-demolition state. “I don’t have the words to thank everyone who stood by me and helped me,” Gdir said, adding, “I wanted to build on my own private land in order to live there with my wife and two children, not to fight with anyone. I simply have nowhere to live.”

During the demolition last week, conducted by the Building Inspection Unit of the Interior Ministry’s Northern District, young men from the village clashed with police. Some villagers say that incident, during which tear gas and other crowd dispersal methods were used, will seem like child’s play next to what a second demolition attempt would bring.

“They came in the morning, after most of us had already left for work,” said Mohammed Gdir, a cousin of Hassan’s, as dozens of relatives stood nearby. "There were mainly young adults and women in the village, otherwise blood would have been spilled. Instead of razing they should have thought of other, more appropriate solutions that answer the community’s housing shortage.”

After the demolition, Bedouin communities in the north held a three-day protest strike. Arab MKs, officials and public figures visited the village to show support.

In 1990 Bir al-Maksur was removed from the Jezreel Valley Regional Council and incorporated as a separate local council. Gdir’s plot is located just outside Bir al-Maksur’s current boundary, in the territorial jurisdiction of the Jezreel Valley council. However, it is within the redrawn boundaries of the village, according to Bir al-Maksur municipality head Yasser Hujeirat. The new boundaries are part of the community’s new master plan that has been awaiting approval of the Northern District Planning and Building Committee for several months.

The zoning body confirmed that it received the draft of the new master plan in 2009, but said that it is now waiting for the Bir al-Maksur Local Council to submit its final changes. Bir al-Maksur officials said they filed their final changes and expected to receive the planning and building committee’s approval within weeks.
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