At Iftaar, the Al Kurd family sat uneasily for breakfast. The last few weeks had been very difficult for the Palestinian family but now it was time to eat the dates from Nablus, where cousin Fayrouz and Abu Talibe have many palm trees. The table was full of the Palestinian delicacies that tell the history of a people who have been connecting with their land for centuries. Today they eat stuffed grape leaves with lamb chops, yesterday it was Chicken Makhloubi and Masakhan, and tomorrow, who knows what the culinary queens of this Jerusalem kitchen will dream up.
Eating together this evening hides the fact that these days are hectic. But, this is Jerusalem and Palestinians have to make time to eat, talk, argue and laugh. And resist.
For decades the families sit and plan their movements. No house shall be left empty for even one minute because then the thieves of East Jerusalem will enter and take over their homes. Tonight the table talk is about that man, Jacob, who they already know. The thief Jacob. He has already stolen half their property and he wants the rest.
He came from America and because he is Jewish, it means he can claim the right to the land he is not a native of. The Al Kurds are, they belong here, in this land stolen from them. They have cousins, uncles and aunts in exile who dream of a return to their beloved homeland. Many keep their house keys as necklaces around their necks, or in sacred store rooms of their makeshift homes in faraway lands.
“This guy came yesterday,” says Nai, “Ok, ok, maybe longer, but it was just the day before yesterday.”
The day that Jacob arrived at her house Mona stood aghast, a man she had never heard of, stood at the front door demanding to come in.
‘GET OUT. I AM TAKING THIS HOUSE!’ he screamed.
“This is apartheid,” someone (name) says.
“Apartheid” others murmured in agreement.
“They are not like the olives, born here and standing strong”, says young Mona.
The elders clap and give praise to Allah. ALHAMDULLILAH
The youth get dressed to go out to protest. They don their keffiyehs, slings and masks to protect them against Covid and tear gas. They remain defiant and inspire the older folk.
The neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah is abuzz. The sounds of voices get louder and louder, young men gather to resist, to protest. The al Kurd young men grab their jackets and rush out.
Late at night the families go to bed, it is an anxious disturbed sleep. Tomorrow is another day to greet the sun, do some chores, pray and fight the thieves next door. The presence of the THIEF next door in the stolen part of their house is rankling. He is there, a menacing, loud, rude and jeering oaf, all the time.
Mona al Kurd comes from a long line of warriors, and this has been her home for 22 years. Her family has lived here for almost three times longer than young Mona has been on this earth.
Even Israeli bureaucrats know this, but they hate to admit that the family has been there since 1956. The al Kurd’s and about 30 Palestinian refugee families have been living Sheikh Jarrar.
Many of the families carry the scars in their hearts and the memories of a lush and bountiful life in Jaffa and Haifa, which were simply erased by the colonisers in 1948.
It is on their stories, trees, memories, and bricks and mortar, that the new state was built – for the Jewish People. So continued the catastrophe for Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrar and those who has to scatter across the globe. The Naqba means catastrophe, and it is how Palestinians remember and relive their trauma.
After another war and land-grabbing in East Jerusalem took to new heights as the Israeli rulers passed a “law” in 1970. This law remains illegal under international law, but the world remains silent. It is this “law” that has encouraged under the robes of law and justice, the thieves to come at any time of the day or night to steal the homes of the Palestinians.
The day that Jacob arrived at her house, Mona froze. A man she had never heard of, stood at the front door demanding to come in.
“GET OUT” He yelled, adding “I AM TAKING THIS HOUSE!”
Mona tried to shut the door but he pushed his foot and jammed it again and again! Every family in Occupied Jerusalem knew this would happen, everyone expected the take over of their homes with impunity by the so-called Settlers. Backed by the military and the state they forcibly took the homes of the inhabitants of any Palestinian they liked. There was nothing Mona could do. She called. She resisted to no avail.
In his mind, Jacob knew that the law of this usurped land gave him the right. He came here from his cosy home in the USA with a mission to take over the land. In his mind, his bad conscience kept speaking to him about the founders of the state and it was a tale of theft.
“Jacob,” it sang in his ear, “you are right and this was what our first leader Ben Gurion taught us.”
“Tell me what our great leader said?”, Jacob asked his bad conscience.
“Our great leader, that is Ben Gurion, wrote to his beloved son Amos…” his conscience spoke slowly and deliberately.
Impatiently, Jacob prodded his conscience “I pray thee, please do tell…”
Well, patience is a virtue they say. And his conscience began to tell him of the letter Gurion wrote to his son Amos, in Hebrew.
“Ben Gurion said, “we must expel Arabs and take their places and if we need to use force… We have force at our disposal.”
Jacob was convinced that he was entitled to holy land when he heard Mona’s screams.
Screams and threats enveloped the air. Mona and her family prayed and called for help from other Palestinian families.
AS fought and pushed against the intruder, 22 year-old Mona Al Kurd remembered the United States teenager Darnella Frazier, who recorded the viral video of the killer cop Derek Chauvin as he put his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Mona’s friend Tamer Maqalda is a young and a seasoned activist and began to record Mona’s attempts to try to talk sense into the brutal thief.
The recording went viral.
Mona’s story is one of deep roots in her house, in this land, and she has many stories to tell, unlike the newly-arrived Americans, who daily search the Bible and other books to find a story that could explain their actions. Mona’s story is about the daylight robbery of Jerusalem.
Mona al-Kurd is dignified, calm and, she calls him by his name;
“Jacob, you know that this is not your home.”
Jacob’s reply makes Mona angry, she yells back at him:
“YOU ARE STEALING MY HOUSE!”
To which the insolent Jacob replies, “If I don’t steal it, someone else will steal it.”
Yet as he answers, he begins to hear himself and feel uneasy. Was it the camera? Or was it Mona and the camera?
Whatever it was, he begins to ask, “So why are you yelling at me?”
“No one is allowed to steal my home!” al-Kurd shouts back at him.
Jacob then says in Hebrew, “This is not mine in order to return it.”
If it is not his, he cannot return it, but does it mean that he can steal what is not his?
Mona and Family all shout out.
No One Is Supposed to Steal it.
This is our Home.
Resource to watch with the children:
Tale based loosely on these action events other names have been changed. Ben Gurion did write this to his letter to his son.