The family’s cherished almond and cherry orchards are a thing of the past; only a few straggling trees survived the bulldozers of the Israeli Antiquities Authorities (IAA) in the last year. On 31 December 2014, the Abu Haikel family had their case protesting Israel’s takeover of the land on which they held a protected tenancy contract for more than sixty years heard in the Israeli High Court, only to find that the State of Israel, in a secret deal, had given the land to Hebron settlers in 2012. And this week, a section of the family’s retaining walls collapsed yet again because of the digging beneath them; the footpath to one of their front doors is also danger of collapse.
In the High Court hearing, the three judges glossed over why Israel took over the tenancy from the Abu Haikels in the first place and said they had done nothing to establish tenancy despite the fact they have faithfully paid rent on it for decades (See link to timeline below). However one judge still expressed her shock over the behavior of the State. She asked what criteria Israel had used for giving the land to the Jewish settlers of Hebron instead of putting the land on the market.
Nevertheless, the attitude of the court does not seem likely to produce an outcome favorable to the Abu Haikels. On their side is one lawyer supplied by the Hebron municipality; against them are three lawyers representing the State of Israel, the Jewish settlers of Hebron and the Israeli Antiquities Authority.
And in the meantime, despite the fact that no reputable archeological enterprise accomplishes its work with bulldozers, the family watches as the IAA continues to destroy its property and the property of its neighbors.
A member of the family visited Christian Peacemaker Teams on 14 January to update them on the family’s legal situation and next steps. He said a meeting was in the process of coming together with the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, the PA Ministry of Tourism and some Israeli solidarity groups, but the prospects for improvement in the family’s fortunes look bleak.
“It’s very depressing to be in a situation where you never really win,” he said. “When the walls come down, you know they’re never going to be replaced…People ask us now, ‘Why are you bothering to put up a fight to save the land?’ What’s the point?’”
When asked why the family continues to resist, he replied, “Well if you don’t stop them at every point, the whole thing keeps on shrinking. The family has a huge fear that they will lose not just their land but their houses as well. Emmanuel Eisenburg, the so called ‘archaeologist’ in charge of the excavation has said he wants to dig under their houses because that’s where the Canaanite city was.”
A timeline of settlement expansion on the Abu Haikel’s land through 2014 is available here.