View more topics under
Land and Space


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

Personal Story

Haunted by Waiting for Expulsion in Sheikh Jarrah


Asala is a young and ambitious resident of Sheikh Jarrah. Already an optometrist at 23, Asala has dreams for herself and her future. However, she lives under constant fear of being forcibly expelled from her family’s ancestral home.

Asala Abu Hasna, 23, was born and raised in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. She still lives in her ancestral family home, the third generation to do so.1 In the summer of 2021, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in optometry from Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem, and she is currently completing her master's degree in the same major and university. She works as an optometrist.


Asala Abu Hasna, at her family home in Sheikh Jarrah

Asala Abu Hasna, at her family home in Sheikh Jarrah; the home is targeted for takeover by Jewish settlers. 


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

Asala’s maternal grandmother was a refugee from Jaffa. Driven from her city along with most other Palestinians of Jaffa in 1948, she sought refuge in Jerusalem’s Old City. There, she met Asala’s maternal grandfather, Mahmoud al-Qasem, who was from Qalqilya in the northern West Bank. The couple married and lived in her house in the Old City. When the 1948 War ended, Jordan annexed the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

In 1956, the Jordanian Ministry of Construction and Development and the UN refugee agency UNRWA settled 28 refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah. “According to this agreement, the families were told they would have legal ownership of their new residence,” said Asala. Asala’s maternal grandparents were one of those families. The al-Qasems were offered a bigger house with better living conditions than the one they had in the Old City.

Asala's grandparents, whose spirit remains alive in their family home


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

Asala’s father’s family are also refugees. They lost their home in Ramla when David Ben-Gurion ordered the expulsion of all Palestinian civilians from the area in July 1948. Ramla and neighboring Lydda were ethnically cleansed, and the al-Qasems sought refuge in Rafah, Gaza.

Asala’s parents—one with an Israeli permanent-resident ID and one with a West Bank ID—got married in Jerusalem, but after Israel imposed closure on the occupied West Bank and Gaza in 1991, anyone with a West Bank ID wishing to enter Jerusalem had to apply for an entry permit (see Jerusalem: A Closed City). Her father was banned by the Israeli military from entering and living in Jerusalem due to “security reasons,” and her mother could not extend her permanent-resident status to her husband due to the ban on family unification. He lived in Ramallah and she in Jerusalem to make sure her permanent-resident status would not be revoked (see Precarious, Not Permanent: The Status Held by Palestinian Residents and Family Unification).

As soon as we started the interview, Asala described her connection to her home and everything in it—the furniture, plants, family photos, and everything else. “I remember and feel my late mother and my grandparents’ presence in every corner of the house,” said Asala. “We did not change anything since the house was inhabited by our grandparents.” Asala lives in the house with her brother and sister.

“I remember and feel my late mother and my grandparents’ presence in every corner of the house.”

Asala Abu Hasna

Asala talked about the Israeli media’s propaganda campaign in support of Jewish settler claims to Sheikh Jarrah. She explained how the Israeli police use a variety of means to forcibly expel Palestinians from their lands and homes; “their ultimate goal is to get all Palestinians to leave,” she asserted. “They forcibly expelled my ancestors from their land and homes. The expulsion is carried out not only through home evictions, but also through limited service provision, closures, police aggression and violence, and overall poor living conditions.”

Asala explained how the Israeli legal system works seamlessly with the government to achieve this goal. “We don’t have faith in the Israeli judicial system; they will always rule in favor of the Jewish settlers.”

The residents are determined not to leave their homes and to oppose Israeli designs on their neighborhood. They meet regularly to discuss ways to fight their expulsion. “We decided to launch a social media and advocacy campaign. Muna and Mohammed El-Kurd had many Instagram followers, so we decided to use their accounts,” said Asala. In her opinion, this media campaign is the only reason they have not been expelled yet. The campaign drew worldwide attention to their case, and the Israeli court postponed ruling on it. “If we had waited for the court’s judgment, believe me they would have expelled us in May 2021,” she said.

Asala talked about other ways they drew attention to their case. To make sure everyone passing by the neighborhood knew what they were facing, they hung pictures on the walls and conveyed messages through graffiti. “This angered the settlers,” Asala explained. “They removed the pictures and covered the graffiti.”

The youth group coordinated with the long-standing neighborhood committee and started calling for solidarity in the neighborhood. They knew that involving people from outside the neighborhood would make it harder for the Israelis to remove them.

Asala explained the importance of diversity in the neighborhood committee to bring all voices together. “Sadly, all the neighborhood committee members are men. My late mother was the only woman in the committee.” The neighborhood committee was established in the 1970s, and it represents the neighborhood before the Israeli judicial system. In addition, it deals with other issues related to neighbors’ relations and needs.

“Their ultimate goal is to get all Palestinians to leave.”

Asala Abu Hasna

Asala elaborated on the daily harassment the community experiences from both Israeli settlers and police. She described how the Israeli settlers who occupy the house next to hers dumped their trash in her garden. The home belongs to the al-Ghawy family; when they were forcibly expelled in 2009, Israeli police and settlers imposed a curfew on the neighborhood and threw the al-Ghawys’ belongings in the street. The settlers moved in immediately.

Four days before the interview, the neighbors had planned to have breakfast together on Friday. “The neighbors have a good relationship, and we sometimes have Friday breakfast together,” Asala shared. “Last Friday, while I was leaving the house to join my neighbors, an Israeli police officer popped up in front of me, pushed me inside my house, and told me: ‘Today, you are not allowed to have breakfast together.’”

Residents of the neighborhood must contend with settler vandalism and damage to their cars. Often, friends who come to the neighborhood for visits are turned back. Israeli aggression is constant. “We don’t enjoy Eid or other holidays anymore,” said Asala.

On March 1, 2022, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled to annul the expulsion orders against the al-Qasem family in addition to those against three other families (Jaouni, El-Kurd, and Isakafi). The court deferred the case to a review over the ownership of the properties.

Still, Asala is convinced that her days in the home she loves, the home that holds the memories of her loved ones, are numbered. Sooner or later, Israeli police will expel her and her family, and she is saddened by the very real possibility that any children she might have will not have the opportunity to grow up in the family’s ancestral home.



Research for this story was conducted in September 2021 by the Jerusalem Story Team.

Load More Load Less