JERUSALEM: Palestinian Rabeha Rajabi did not think she would be holding her wedding celebrations in the rubble of her own home in occupied East Jerusalem, until Israeli authorities destroyed it.
“Before any blow hit the house, it hit our hearts,” said Rajabi, speaking among the debris and donning a traditional Palestinian thobe and henna-inked hands. “This was our home, our dream, our memories.”
The 22-year-old bride said she moved to the Ein al-Lawza neighbourhood from another part of Jerusalem as a young child and that over the years her family were served several demolition orders on the house they had built, putting them on edge.
In Arab tradition, on wedding day the groom’s family arrives to greet the bride in the home she grew up in, an emotional ceremony symbolising the new life she is about to embark on.
“Their goal is to drain the Palestinian residents, financially and morally,” said Fares Rajabi, the bride’s brother. “It is a policy of displacement.”
Israel says the demolition orders in Jerusalem are issued for illegal constructions, although Palestinians object that it is nearly impossible to get building permits and see the policy as part of an effort to force them out of the city.
Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Arieh King denied the demolitions were aimed at driving Palestinians away.
“Just as illegal construction is demolished across the country, it is the same in East Jerusalem,” King told Reuters, adding that authorities have been approving building permits.