A new family recently joined the SUMOUD Camp this week raising the total number to 23. Joher Abu Sunaina has moved his family of seven out of their small apartment in East Jerusalem to rejoin the SUMOUD Camp because his income could not adequately support his family with the rising rent costs. Joher first lived in the Camp when it was located in Siwane, on the Mt. of Olives, but since this tent camp was bulldozed on April 1, 1998 Joher returned to his small apartment trying unsuccessfully to make ends meet.
On Thursday, June 18, Mayor Ehud Olmert announced plans to add 140,000 homes to Jerusalem by the year 2020 to bolster the number of Jewish residents in the city. Palestinian families, on the other hand, are finding themselves forced from their homes either because of building permit difficulties, ID card confiscation, or because of the rising rent costs in the Palestinian private sector. Tragically, both the difficulty in attaining building permits and the Israeli policy of ID card confiscation, along with the recent expansion of Municipal boundaries, has compacted the problem of housing in occupied East Jerusalem, as Palestinian families flock to the city to retain their status as Jerusalem residents.
The families of SUMOUD are the embodiment of the current housing calamity in Jerusalem. Together their stories encompass the struggles and difficulties facing Palestinian residents of Jerusalem today. However, though forced from their homes, the families of SUMOUD remain dedicated to securing their right to live in their hometown and persevere despite the repressive policies of the Israeli occupation and the repeated abandonment and neglect by the Palestinian Authority. The chemical toilets, allocated to them by the Orient House, have remained uncleaned for weeks and the families have pooled their resources together to build indoor toilets. Though this project is, as of yet, unfinished, the camp council continues to anticipate other perspective projects. One of these projects is to build a Learning Center for the 120 some children, of whom only half are registered by the Interior Ministry and thus able to attend public school and acquire health benefits.
With the population of Palestinians growing at a much higher rate than the Jewish population and with the Israeli government’s determination to keep the number of non-Jewish residents down to 30%, policies of ethnic cleansing have become increasingly stringent. Pressures such as these keep the conditions at the SUMOUD Camp remaining tenuous at best, but its members remain convinced that they will stay until living in Jerusalem once again becomes a right, not a privilege.