An Appeal on Behalf of Jaber – A Cave Dweller from Masafer Yatta

June 21, 2022 (Summer solstice, the longest day of the year)

To our dear friends all,

On May 4, 2022, the State of Israel’s Supreme Court decided to publicize its ruling, to dispossess the inhabitants of Masafer Yatta of their homes and land. It was the eve of the Jewish State’s seventy-fourth Independence Day. 

I have friends in Masafer Yatta, some of them close friends. Dababsa is one of them. Jaber lives with his wife and three sons (9, 7 and 2-years old) in Khalat A-Dab’a, one of the eight villages now destined for dispossession.  Jaber lives in a cave, like many others in this area. As the family grew, Jaber built them a small dwelling with his own golden hands. It was demolished. This happened in 2019. He built it again. I told him they would demolish it again, and he said he would rebuild. Thus – five times. Five times the occupation forces demolished Jaber’s home. When I visited him after the second demolition, I write the following:

The Za’atar

Even last Wednesday, October 16, 2019, Jaber welcomed us with his winning smile. A smile that has something open and mysterious and bittersweet, all at once. My heart noted some silent longing to hold a hidden scarlet thread and follow him into the depths of his mind, reflected in his smile.
Three weeks earlier his home was demolished. We visited him the next day, and he smiled. When we visited him yesterday, again his special smile was there.
It was an autumn day. The sky above was gray and a drizzle had begun. Jaber opened the wings of a tiny tent he erected after the demolition in order to sit with his guests (the family lives in the cave for the time being), and invited us in.
For a long while Jaber spoke of his feelings, his wonder, his painful thoughts about the home that had been demolished and the destruction of the trees he had planted.
We began to walk towards our car, parked on the main dirt road, making our way among the dirt rubble of the demolition. With such compassion his hands had caressed the pomegranates that had been uprooted from mother earth, and wilted. Suddenly he stopped, bent down, pointed to a tiny green shoot that had made its way among the rubble, smiled and said: “This sprout is za’atar, insisting on living”. I looked into his eyes and asked his permission to ask something. “Go ahead”, he said. “What holds you inside, what keeps you from getting angry, hateful?”
“I tell myself that this is what occupation is like”, he answered, and smiled his special smile in the humility saved for those who know…

This is Jaber. He refuses to play the dangerous game of perpetrator and victim. In this game, as he has no control of the perpetrator, he knows how not to be a victim.

“I shall not fall into their trap. They want me to be miserable enough not to care anymore, and hate and seek revenge. I will not give them this gift.” This is what he said to me on one of my latest visits. Three days later a settler broke his nose with brass knuckles while he was held down to the ground by two soldiers of the ‘most moral army in the world’.  Jaber’s wife carried a child in her womb until just before this last Independence Day eve, the days when there was still the crack of a chance that justice, in the Higher Court of Justice, would rule in favor of Masafer Yatta. After three sons, they were hoping for a daughter. Ten days ago, she bore Jaber twins – sons. I visited again, asking what I could bring as a present. I wished to bring something that would be useful, necessary. Jaber with his gentle smile answered that what he really needs I cannot bring him as a gift. I insisted on knowing. “A place”, he said. I invited myself to the cave in which they live. It is my first visit to their dwelling cave.
In a small living space, and another such small space that serves as a kitchen and a shower (in a small tub) live five persons. Another few days, when the mother with her twin-babies will return from the hospital after her Cesarean section, seven persons will be living there.
Jaber will not rebuild now that the dispossession sword threatens his head, but he has begun to dig an additional cave near the existing one. He worked by himself, but the Congo digging machine must be rented as well as fuel for it, and he has been paying from the pittance he managed to save from occasional work. And the money is now gone. I asked him how much money he thinks he will need in order to conclude the digging. Jaber said it is not a sum that I and our small group could raise. I begged him to tell him. I told him that when many people give a little, one can even reach a serious sum.
20,000 shekels, he estimated carefully, accompanying this with his special smile. “Thank you,” I said. “I will try to involve friends”, I added. So here I am, involving you… Whoever is willing and able to support this. And I thank you, even for just reading this letter.

On behalf of the Villages Group

For donations: (for the USA) (for the UK)

Other Countries: 

Account Name: Hibuk Olam (registered NGO:580564995)
Bank Name: Bank Leumi

Bank Identification Code: LUMIILITXXX

Routing Code: IL010806

Account Number: 0630619648

Bank Address: 50 Dizengoff St.  Tel-Aviv, Israel 6433222

IBAN Number: IL 05010806-00000-30619648

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