Wafaa's Story

Written and told by Kathy Huffstetler, June 30, 2019

 

This is a story of Wafaa.

We met her in March of 2015 when I visited her along with my small ecumenical peacemaking group. We were invited to her home so she could tell us her story.

 

We gathered in her small living room and she welcomed us with tea and cookies. Her story is that in 2002 after years of saving and planning, she and her husband built their dream home. It took five years of construction to finish this three story house that was perfect to raise their family and to house extended family. It was built on her grandfather’s land that had been handed down to her.

Soon after moving in, Israeli soldiers presented the family with demolition orders to demolish the house – saying that Israel now had claim to the land. Early one morning some weeks later, Wafaa went to a hospital in Jerusalem to visit her mother. Her sister got in touch with her there and told her the Israeli soldiers were outside Wafaa’s home with bulldozers and to come home quickly! She hailed a cab and flew home. But it was too late. They had bulldozed everything down, including the contents of her house.

The soldiers wouldn’t let her back on the property, and Wafaa said it took two years for her to have the strength to go back to her property because the experience was so painful, and she was heartbroken.

Then, around 2013 the Amos Trust of England heard about her situation. They are sort of a Habitat for Humanity whose purpose is to rebuild Palestinian homes destroyed by Israeli soldiers. Amos Trust built them a modest one story home which is where we met her. When her house was complete, she threw a party for her neighbors and family. On this same day, an Israeli soldier appeared at the house and gave her demolition orders for this house.

While she was telling this story through an interpretor, she was looking down like in this portrait. She spoke her story simply, quietly, factually and without anger. Looking at her face, I can’t tell if this is a look of sadness, resignation, or what. Her son, who is a lawyer, in the meantime had gotten out the deed to the land proving their ownership and showed us this and other legal paperwork concerning their appealing this second demolition order.

After she was finished with her story, a woman in our group, Lynn Harrington, spoke up.  Lynn is a retired Episcopal priest and an artist.  She was so moved by this story that she asked Wafaa what she could do.  Wafaa replied, “This is my story.  I hope God will bless us and I’ll keep my house.  Pray for us.”

So Lynn went back to her home in Connecticut and began praying for Wafaa every day. She couldn’t get this situation out of her mind so painted a portrait of Wafaa using a composite of photos taken during our visit. She displayed the painting in galleries now in her home and sent prints to some of us on the team so we wouldn’t forget Wafaa. Wafaa is a face of Palestine and needs our prayers. It is her story and other stories from Palestine that I feel compelled to share with others.

Lay theologian, social activist and lawyer, William Stringfellow, said, “All we can do is say our prayers and tell the truth. The truth is that the occupation is a wound on the soul of Israel and an injustice that would have the biblical prophets railing. It not only crushes people’s homes and belongings, but also oppresses their spirit and threatens their dignity. It is simply put, sinful.”

Written and told by Kathy Huffstetler, June 30, 2019

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