“All I want is to be able to watch TV,” says Huda Awad, a 58-year-old widow looking at the rubble of what used to be her house. Huda moved to Tuba village, West Bank, when she was 20 after one of the local residents became her husband. In 1977, the area was declared a military training zone and all new construction was prohibited. But life continued its course, couples got married and children were born. People needed a place to live and built new houses.
Some demolition orders remain pending for years while others are executed quickly. For over a decade now, legal battles continue, while every family in this area of some 1400 inhabitants lives with the fear of losing their home. Early in the morning of 20 March 2019, bulldozers demolished Huda’s house. Her solar panel system, the only source of energy, was confiscated. This is how she lost her TV, the only pleasure available to her.
As the nearby Israeli settlement expanded, villagers lost access to large parts of their agricultural land. In 1991, a new Israeli outpost was built along the main road connecting the village to the town of Yatta. Since December 2000, the road has been off-limit for Palestinians for security reasons. This created a growing sense of isolation and having an immediate impact on all areas of life.
Masafer Yatta landscape seems austere and inhospitable. The dominant colour is yellow, as every object, animal or person is covered with dust. This impression dissipates as soon as I meet people who live here, many of them traditional cave dwellers. Tea is served, then coffee and fruit and local salty stone yoghurt, and then another round of tea. “I used to like it here,” Huda says “It is quiet. People don’t gossip.” The tea is very sweet, but the conversation grows bitter, as villagers talk about the hardship they face.