The desire for a permanent house is a most conventional desire in our society. A house is usually conceived as a structure of four walls, a floor below and a roof above, and the desire for such a house is mostly fulfilled using the mortgage system.
But what seems to be such a conventional desire in many societies may prove rather unconventional in a society living under the conditions of prolonged Occupation. In fact, in the small Bedouin community of Umm al-Kheir, among the families who live close to the settlement of Carmel, such a basic desire for a four walls’ house is not only unconventional but should also be regarded as quite unrealistic.
In Umm al-Kheir one meets the lethal conjunction of the regular oppressive regime of the Occupation, which denies its subjects some basic human rights, and a kind of “Not in My Back Yard” syndrome – Israeli settlers from Carmel just want to see the wide open landscape of the Judea Desert and the Jordanian mountains, without the poor Bedouins stuck in the middle and blocking the view. So the Israeli newcomers of Carmel, who settled on Umm al-Kheir’s lands more than 30 years after the Bedouins arrived there as refugees, following the 1948 war; these settlers try their best to get rid of the poor people living next to them. The settlers operate the Occupation machinery, and the result is wave after wave of house demolitions which don’t spare even the toilets.
The ways the people of Umm al-Kheir chose to cope with and struggle against this seemingly hopeless situation are not limited to the more common ones, such as building their houses anew after every wave of destruction, or trying to take some juridical measures; they also express themselves in different artistic idioms.
The importance of artistic activity for the preservation of hope for better prospects in the future, and for the sublimation of pain, is manifested in the different creative ways people from Umm al-Kheir express their desire for a house.
a very creative and ambitious way of expressing this desire was adopted by Eid Hathalin, who summoned his friends, David from Israel and Malak from the U.S, to build together a complete miniature of Umm al-Kheir, one which would overcome, at least in this mini-scale model, the great limits and restrictions imposed by the occupation on the actual Umm al-Kheir.
A second no less ambitious and beautiful project, was chosen by Salma Hathalin. Salma is a 30 years old woman who has been living in a small tent in Umm al-Kheir all her life. As an unmarried woman in a society where the women usually count on the men to provide for them, Salma is seeking not only a house of four walls, but first and foremost some income. Now she succeeded in combining these two pursuits by creating a work of handcraft – a big colored picture, made of wool, of her imagined dream house (One might guess that she drew some inspiration from the very real houses of the Carmel settlers, standing right before her eyes).
You, who read this report, may find yourselves sympathizing with Salma yet realizing that you can do almost nothing to help her fulfill her dream for a house. However, Salma has created for you an opportunity to help her earn some income: this picture – which symbolizes the creative struggle of Umm al-Kheir for its survival – was offered for sale, and purchased by a couple from Leeds, England.