Arab Unrecognized Villages: Ain Hod
Heba Zoabi - 31/01/2008
There is only one long entrance to the village, a part of which is covered with tarmac. The villagers covered the rest of it with concrete when they could no longer stand any more summer dust or winter mud. They used concrete because bulldozers cannot dig it out. They did it themselves, as with all the other projects in the village, which they initiated without any governmental support. They were motivated by their strong will and continual insistence to remain in their new place. Muhammad Abu Al-Hayja inspired and reinforced this spirit of perseverance in his sons and grandchildren after they migrated from their home, Ain Hod.
In 1948 Muhammad and his family lodged in the nearby wood, which constituted the 120 dunams that the family owned. They planted it with all kinds of trees, such as olives, almonds, and pomegranates. They raised cattle and birds which provided them with meat, eggs, and milk. The family members dug water wells; they managed to have a stable life and were self-sufficient, which enabled them to survive.
The first three concrete houses were built in 1954. Each consisted of one single room, a small kitchen, some plantations and a few vines.
Assem Abu Al-Hayja, one of Muhammad’s grandchildren, who followed his path of struggle for recognition, says: "we had a common lifestyle. We ate together, we drank together, and everything was shared, and we went on with our struggle united."
It is worth mentioning that the single family that formed Ain Hod's population, are direct descendants of Hussam El-Deen Abu Al-Hayja, one of the leaders with Salah el-Deen Al-Ayoobi.
The new village's destiny caught in negotiations and struggle with the government
Negotiations with the committee of the lands of Israel, about the village's future, began in 1964. Assem says: "we had been offered back then, many solutions to resolve our problem, such as moving to another village and exchanging our land with land elsewhere. The last offer was to sell us our land cheaply. My grandfather chose the latter, but the committee of the lands of Israel withdrew its offer on the basis that they don't sell land to Arabs. After the failure of these negotiations, all of the one hundred and twenty dunams were confiscated and all the habitants of Ain Hod were forced to live in only ten dunams of land. They surrounded our houses with barbed wire, uprooted the fruit trees and replaced them with pines. But we didn't give up, and we didn't accept these unfair actions taken against us. So we pulled out the fence more than once and took our case to court many times. We even got fined great sums for the destruction we caused to the palisade. One time, a whole police unit came to fix the fence that we removed, so my grandfather Muhammad Abu Al-Hayja, threw our IDs in their faces as an objection to the injustice, and he asked them to bring the United Nations to resolve our issue. Not once we gave in to their frequent harassments that made our lives difficult. For example, there was the "Black Goat" decision, issued by the former Prime Minister Sharon, forbidding us from owning goats, which formed one of our basic sources of sustenance.
Then in 1972, our village was included in Carmel Park, and fell within the green area. That was another one of their attempts to make our lives more difficult. But to our surprise, we were soon relieved to discover that the park also contained a part of Haifa university, and a few of the Jewish surrounding villages. We demanded to be treated like the other villages within the park, and our situation got so bad that we would have been happy to be treated like the park animals, who had more rights than us. We took our case to the high court which did not resolve the issue. The court ordered us to undertake more negotiations with the committee of the lands of Israel, with whom we did not reach any agreement at the time. During the seventies, we were motivated to continue our cause thanks to the youth who joined our struggle and encouraged us to go on down the recognition path."
A quiet-loud struggle to take back the village
Assim says: "we decided to relieve grandpa Muhammad in 1978, and wanted to take over and continue down his path, fighting our battle in a calmer way, away from the media. We decided to work quietly on building the village houses, and only after which go out and display our case in the media. We pulled out the barbed wires and pine trees and built the new houses in the village with reinforced concrete. Back then we succeeded in recovering forty of the one hundred and twenty confiscated dunams, and to date, we have regained eighty of them. During the eighties, we took our battle to the public; we appeared on television and formed a local committee. We started negotiations, along with some Arab parties and Jewish friends who sympathized with our cause. Later on, we decided to form an Arab-Jewish body for the recognition of our village. It used to be called Abu Al-Hayja's village, and we decided to re-name it Ain Hod, for it is the continuation of this old village. Our efforts to register the committee as a neutral one were refused many times. That stimulated us - the committee of work for the recognition of Ain Hod - to fight our battle through the media, so we appeared in Arabic and Hebrew newspapers, as well as in foreign ones. Many movies were made about our cause!
“In 1976 we received a leaked document from a trusted source proving the government’s plans to demolish fifteen thousand houses within Arab areas, based on a report produced by a five member committee, reporting on the unauthorized houses in the Jewish and Arab areas. This was provided to us by one of these members. The document included a recommendation to demolish fifteen thousand houses, and about four hundred of them were to be destroyed immediately. Most of them were in unrecognized villages. We photocopied this document in the office of one of our comrades and delivered it to the related committees to discuss the issue and take proper action against it. But no one moved, and instead, it was followed by another decision to confiscate Arab lands in Galilee which formed the essential reason for launching Land Day.”
Israel put the application of these decisions on hold.
“We then held meetings with well known officials along with the citizen’s rights association. The latter granted us a team of its lawyers to support us. That year we faced internal disputes about the identity of our struggle; one faction preferred to focus on Ain Hod, while the other part wanted to generalize the struggle to include the recognition of all the unrecognized villages. For we discovered there were another twenty seven unrecognized Arab villages, that we had ignored the existence of.”
The attempt to demolish the village houses in 1987
The decision to demolish the houses that had been put on hold in 1976 was renewed in 1987. Seven houses were destroyed in the village of Arab al-Khawaled, after which, police forces came to Ain Hod to enforce the decision to demolish its houses. Assim says: "we resisted and withstood the aggression. The village has only one entrance which we blocked in every possible way. We used stones and tires to prevent them accomplishing the orders they were given. For they had a limited period of twenty four hours to execute those orders, after which, if the destruction didn’t take place, we would be sued. We then succeeded to gather crowds from all the different social groups, e.g., the Front Party Youth and the Cats Movement, who supported us in defying the bulldozers that came to destroy our homes. We wanted to defend our village in every possible way. The bulldozers, along with police forces, failed to enter Ain Hod within the twenty four hour period. We escaped the demolition order."
And about this, Assim tells us: "the recognition of our villages started during the period when the Ministry of Interior was headed by Ariel Darii. For a start, he offered us a deal to recognize Ain Hod, and in return, he wanted us to give up the Committee of the Forty. We refused this offer, but later on, he promised to recognize four villages: Al Dameeda, Al Kamara, Al Aryan and Al Khawaled al-Gharbya., about which we asked him to give us a written document. He refused and began employing delaying tactics.
“However, during a television show when Darii was hosted by Gill Sedan, he stated that he wanted to grant recognition to four villages.
“Recognition of the four villages started in 1992, followed by six other ones, including, Ain Hod."
A full ten years after recognition, the village only began to receive power recently, which only benefited two houses. The rest of the village’s institutions were founded thanks to the villagers’ personal initiatives, and the people of new old Ain Hod continue their struggle for their basic rights. They insisted on their new village being a continuation of their old one, that they were forced to depart.