Demolishing Homes in Jeremiah's Old Home Town

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 12/1/2004

In the Palestinian village of Anata (annexed by Israeli law after 1967 as part of Jerusalem), two Palestinian homes were demolished this week, and more are scheduled to be.

These demolitions have nothing at all to do with security against terrorism. The homes were demolished because they did not have building permits. But the permits are impossible to get, because after the annexation of this village no Israeli authority took the trouble to make zoning regulations for homes (or anything else, except that the Shin Bet was allowed to erect a large building in the area, just across a ravine from the homes).

No zoning, no homes. And where should people live?

Nowhere. That's why the homes were demolished and the families' life savings wiped out.

Anata is a special place. It is the "Anathoth" that was the prophet Jeremiah's home town.

Jeremiah spent his life warning that unless the Israelites reformed their own society (by releasing slaves, for example), God would send Babylon to destroy their homes and Temple. They refused to reform, the Babylonians did occupy the land, and at that point Jeremiah foretold its redemption in a graphic way — the kind of prophetic street theater he had often used.

He wrote out a deed of redemption for his own home and buried it in an earthenware pot, to be unearthed when the Babylonians left and the land could be redeemed (Jer. chapter 32).

Now, it seems to me, the Jewish people is faced with a profound question:

Are we to understand Jeremiah's deed of redemption as applying ethnically, tribally, to "the Jews" who are now supposed to "redeem" the turf of Anathoth from whoever lives there now? By making its people homeless?

Or should we understand it in an ethical sense — promising redemption to people who live in Anathoth today and who are having their homes demolished?

In Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) has chosen the "ethical" interpretation, and has been trying to prevent the home demolitions.

Being able to live in a home, they say, is a human right. According to Torah, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to the Geneva Conventions as they apply to occupied lands, according to the human spirit and the Divine Spirit.

You may want to read this report.

If you agree with RHR, you could write any or all of the following Israeli officials. It's urgent. Once a home is destroyed, the rubble is — rubble.

And you could write your own newspaper and your own Member of Congress, to urge that the US insist that this behavior stop:

Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Str., P.O. Box 187
Jerusalem, 91919 Israel
Fax: 972-2-670-5475
Spokesperson of the Prime Minister <>

Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz
37 Kaplan St.
Tel-Aviv 61909
Tel: 972-3-5692010
Fax: 972-3-6916940

Minister of Justice, Yosef Lapid
29 Salah al-Din Str.
Jerusalem, 91010, Israel
Fax: 972-2-628-8618

Ministry of the Interior,
Avraham Poraz
2 Kaplan St.
P.O.B. 6158
Kiryat Ben-Gurion
Jerusalem 91061
Tel: 972-2-6701411
Fax: 972-2-5666376