For two days now, Israel has been investing in Khan al-Akhmar’s infrastructure. Yesterday, heavy machinery drained a large swamp of sewage flowing from nearby settlements, finally tackling a health hazard that has affected the community for years. And today, giant tractors and rollers were leveling truck-loads of turf and paving the still-wet ground. Israel is constructing a road to Khan al-Akhmar, now that it has decided to destroy it.
The facts on the ground are in plain view under the blazing desert sun. In Khan al-Akhmar homes are either tents or tin shacks. The village has no running water, electricity, sewage, medical clinic, and trash collection, and until European donors helped build a structure from recycled tires, children had no school. Although located yards from the main highway leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, there is no interchange here, and no road leads to the community. Since the Israel’s 1967 occupation, Khan al-Akhmar has remained off the grid.
The logic informing Israel’s actions becomes clear the minute one looks into the horizon: the settlements are closing in on Khan al-Akhmar. Kfar Edumim, Mishor Edumim, Ma’ale Edumim, and several other Jewish colonies and outposts stifle the dilapidated village. These are green, sprawling suburbs, with highways, fancy schools, cutting edge medical clinics, and all the modern amenities one can think of. They are growing rapidly, too. The municipal area of Ma’ale Edumim is already larger than Tel Aviv’s.
So this tiny Palestinian community, forcibly evicted by Israeli army in 1952 from their lands in the Negev to the West Bank, which at the time was part of Jordan, is about to be expelled yet again, this time to a junkyard. Yes, the plot of land Israel has allocated to these soon-to-be second-time refugees is adjacent to a huge landfill. The state is finally paving a road connecting Khan al-Akhmar to the highway so that the bulldozers can level the homes and hand the small swath of land over to the settlers.
The irony seems to be lost on everyone: the workers preparing the infrastructure of the destruction, the policemen accompanying them, itching for violence, the supreme court judges who unanimously consented to this barbaric act, the occupation bureaucrats who initially demanded that the villagers destroy their own homes, and, finally, the stateless and defenseless Palestinian residents who are in no mood for Israeli irony. Trucks and tractors work steadily from morning to night. Today Khan al-Akhmar is no longer isolated. Tomorrow it will be gone.
All photos by Yigal Bronner.