Monday, December 31, 2012

RUBBLE TO RUBBLE: The Last Demolition of Beit Arabiya

by Jean Riesman

Beit Arabiya is already down. Returned, again, to rubble. Rebuilt this summer for the fifth time since 1998. Re-dedicated July 16, 2012; demolished, November 1, 2012. Gone. No, not gone. The rubble will stay this time. Right where it landed. Or right where it is now, after anything retrievable has been retrieved. The rubble will be the place. The rubble will imply the house. All six of the houses that have stood on that spot. Each one the home of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh and their seven children. "Beit Arabiya," in Arabic, for "Arabiya's house." It sounds the same in Hebrew.

In the rubble is the work. Pouring the foundation. Wrestling the jacks into position to hold up the beams for the pouring of the flat cement roof, and then wrestling them down. Passing the concrete blocks from the truck to the site, hand over hand, the buckets of cement, the rocks, the floor tiles. Stacking the concrete blocks into walls, sandwiched by mortar. Plastering over the concrete blocks. Painting over the plaster. The rubble holds all that kinetic energy. It embodies that painstakingly-gathered attention, task by shared task.

Beit Arabya Demolished November 2012
It contains all the rubble that came before it, all the terror of those previous demolitions, all the policy behind that terror – in Anata, in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem.

The rubble is local. It joins the rubble in the next field, and the rubble cleared from the previous demolition. Some of which had gone into the reconstruction, especially through the genius of Riad, the Palestinian stone-mason who engineered a series of retaining walls and garden walls and low walls around wounded pomegranate trees recovering in new dirt.

The rubble is global. It bears the fingerprints of the all Palestinians, Israelis, and international volunteers who – gathered together by the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolition (ICAHD) – re-assembled it, time after time. It bears the marks of the American-made bulldozers that, six times over, turned it back into rubble. It bears the collective entropy of an international community's failure to hold Israel accountable for the violent cyclical alchemy of rubble to rubble.

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