Note: I wrote about the impending Israeli government’s demolition of the homes of 38 Palestinians in the East Jerusalem village of al-Walaja on March 24, and there is good news to report. The following comes from Amenu, the American support group for Israel’s Labor Party. Ken Bob, the President of Amenu, helped lead the action in the United States to garner American Congressional support to enlist Secretary of State Tony Blinken to help persuade Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to use his influence to persuade the Israeli courts not to demolish the homes of 38 Palestinian families in this village. Read Ken’s brief report here with links to Ken’s article in the Times of Israel and the congressional letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Here is one example in which the American Jewish community in our role as progressive Zionists can, at times, have an impact on Israeli policy:
“Over the past couple of weeks, we have been reporting on the threat of home demolition facing 38 families in the village of al-Walaja on the outskirts of Jerusalem. We wrote about our visit to the village in the Times of Israel and called on our members to urge your congressional representatives to support this letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
We are pleased to report that our activism worked!
Our friends at the NGO Ir Amim report that on Wednesday the hearing to block the demolition took place at the Supreme Court and it lasted only five minutes. The judges decided to postpone the proceedings for 7 months to allow for the further advancement of the planning process that has been initiated by the village alongside experts, including those from Ir Amim and Bimkom. This means that the demolition freeze currently protecting the 38 homes is extended until at least November 1, 2022.
It is clear that the pressure created by all of the public and private efforts succeeded in moderating the stance of the Israeli government. Previously, it took a hardline approach pushing for the demolition of the homes and expressing opposition to an equitable planning arrangement; following the extensive campaign carried out by a coalition of organizations including Ameinu, the State Attorney yesterday proposed a postponement of the proceedings, suggesting an openness to alternative solutions.
Together with our colleagues in the U.S. and in Israel, we are discussing next steps to ensure that we support the al-Walaja villagers as they prepare a compelling zoning plan for submission to the municipal authorities. In addition, there are eight homes within the village that are not included in this legal case and have pending demolition orders against them. Since they are not protected by the demolition freeze, they can be destroyed at any time. We must all join together to call upon Israeli government to freeze these orders and advance fair urban planning policies for al-Walaja and the rest of the East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
We will share the next steps of the action plan in the weeks to come as we continue to support the desire of Arab residents of Jerusalem to live their lives equitably alongside their Jewish neighbors.”
Dennis Cambly said:
Good morning Rabbi. I smiled when I read “a 5,000-year-old olive tree”. Wish there was a photo of it. Activism is too often thought of as a group of lunatics. Our city thought nothing of cutting down 77 up to 80 year old trees for a bike lane. Is there some way to designate the homes and the olive tree as a historical site?