The ‘Firing Zone’, or more specifically Firing Zone 918, refers to an area near the border between the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel where 12 small Palestinian villages exist. The Israeli government is claiming the military needs that area to do weapons testing and practice military maneuvers, although Israel has the area to do this within its borders it claims the right to place it in the Palestinian area under Israeli military control. If Israel were to make the area a firing zone it would displace 8 of the 12 villages leaving 1500 people homeless. As to not bore you with statistics and background information here is a link to an interactive report I helped make for CPT (I’m really happy with it, please check it out): Firing Zone 918 Interactive Report
I went to the Firing Zone area yesterday. It was my third attempt. The first two got canceled partially because Israel was not allowing anyone other than the UN in. This time we went with a UN worker who is passionately involved with the issues there. We left the main road and followed a dirt path past a huge cement cube telling us that we were entering a closed firing zone. There are still people living there, and the Israeli courts have not ruled that Israel can use the area as a firing zone, but it is already being treated like one by Israel.
The path was so bumpy that only SUVs could drive on it. Our UN guide mentioned that a European organization had donated the money to pave the road, but Israel would not allow it. Similar stories followed throughout our trip.
We met a family who still live in caves because Israel will not allow them to build any permanent structures.
The father talked to us about possibly building a school closer to their families home, because his children can hardly make it to the school miles away over hard terrain. But that school has a demolition order on it, and the new school will also have to be build illegally because Israel won’t give permits. (Think about this one in context of children’s ‘Right to Education‘)
We saw windmills and solar panels paid for by a German organization and built by an Israeli company, which could be destroyed at any time without warning because Israel deems them illegal.
The people living there have to live in that uncertainty every day. They must stay there to have the space to graze their livestock, but if a court decision goes against them they will be evacuated, their homes demolished, their livestock killed, and they will be left with nothing. You may think I’m being over dramatic in my description, but this has happened before 700 people from that area were evacuated in 1999. Four months later the court ruled that they must be allowed back, but they returned to see their villages destroyed, and Israel gave them no compensation. For the last 12 years they have lived in the uncertainty of being allowed by an outside force to remain in their homes instead of it being acknowledged that those truly are their homes.
Believe it or not this is an issue you can help in. Most of our work is starting campaigns to raise awareness and put international pressure on the Israeli courts and government. I’ll have more information on exactly how you can get involved soon.
Pray for the villagers who are facing eviction.
Pray that we can find ways to effectively work with them.
Pray for the courts to be just and merciful.
Pray for peace.