The Tragic Story of a Palestinian Elementary School Which Israel is Intent on Demolishing

This week nearly 100 Jahalin children do not know if they will be able to start the school year without their school being demolished or closed down by the Israeli Army.

Even though several members of the international community and civil society have visited the Jahalin and Khan Al Ahmar school and promised to apply pressure on Israel to lift the demolition order, the community has not seen any concrete change on the ground.

The Khan Al Ahmar school was established in 2007 after the Israeli authorities demolished Eid Abu Dahuk’s family tent, located in Khan Al-Ahmar (between Jerusalem and Jericho). The soldiers gave him no time to take his family’s belongings from the tent, and demolished it with everything inside. As a result, Eid’s children were forced to go to school without books for days, until they were suspended from school for not having proper school supplies. At that time, the closest school was 22 kilometers from their home, in Jericho and students used to have to travel on the highway, many were injured by cars on the road, four were handicapped and five were killed.

The Khan Al-Ahmar elementary school was built with the help of local and international organizations, as well as a number of activists. The clay and tire building receives 85 boys and girls (5 -12 years old) from the five Jahalin communities in the area every year. However, since the school was built the Israeli authorities issued a demolition order on it claiming that the school -- like the rest of the structures in the community -- were built without permits. Demolishing the school will force the children to return to their long journey to Jericho and Al-Eizariyyeh and once again travel on an unsafe road.

It should be noted that the school serves elementary school age children only, while older children still have to go outside the community for education. This situation mainly affects girls above 12 years old from receiving education, due to the dangers of traveling and the cultural norms of protecting girls.

The demolition of the Khan Al-Ahmar school will contribute to increased illiteracy in an already struggling community. While this may seem like an isolated incident, it is a part of Israel’s broader assault on Palestinian education, which is intended to disempower Palestinian communities and make it easier to displace them and Judaize Jerusalem.

Without access to education, Palestinian communities remain ignorant, illiterate and impoverished and lack the chance to develop and empower themselves. As a result their resistance to the occupation and the violation of their human rights is weakened.

However, it isn’t only the Israeli authorities who are trying to displace the Jahalin. Kfar Adumim, a nearby settlement, has filed a lawsuit against the building of the school, claiming that the land the school is built on belongs to the settlement, even though Kfar Adumim was established 13 years after the Jahalin bedouins settled in the area.

"We will not leave this spot unless it is to go back to Tel Arad, the land of my ancestors," says Eid, who has lived with his family in Khan Al Ahmar since their community was displaced for the second time in 1967. In the 1950s, the Jahalin were displaced from Tel Arad in the Negev desert to the Jordan Valley by the Israeli army.

The new educational year is near, and we must move quickly in order to secure the chance for education for the children in Khan Al-Ahmar.

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Fayrouz Sharqawi

I work as the Advocacy Coordinator at Grassroots Jerusalem, a platform for Palestinian and international activists and organizations in Jerusalem. We seek to strengthen a Palestinian grassroots network that will represent the community voice that disobeys, opposes and nonviolently resists the occupation.

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