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Personal Story

When Your Right to Your Home and Safety Is Continuously Threatened


Amal, a young resident of Sheikh Jarrah, lives under immense psychological stress due to the ever-present threat of being expelled from their home. To make matters worse, Amal identifies as queer and nonbinary, which is generally not accepted in their patriarchal community.

Amal, 24, was born and has lived all their life in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.1 They identify as queer and use they/them/their as their pronouns. “I am always at home,” said Amal. They leave only to go to work and then return home immediately, and they rarely leave until the next day. “My knowledge of the law is minimal. I know that we will eventually be expelled from our homes, but I can’t say that I am interested in knowing more about the legal labyrinth that Israel uses to expel us,” said Amal.

Amal recalls learning about the Israeli plan to expel their family and the residents of Sheikh Jarrah from their homes when the Hanun and Ghawi families were expelled from theirs in 2009. “I knew then that we would eventually face the same fate,” Amal said. “When my family told me that the Israeli occupation court will make the final decision in May 2021 and that we would probably be expelled, I wasn’t surprised; I saw it coming sooner or later.”

Amal was only 12 when the two neighboring families were expelled, but they recall that day like it was yesterday. “It was a sad day,” they begin. “The Israeli occupation imposed a curfew to prevent Palestinians from helping the families. Together with the other kids, I jumped across rooftops to look for a way to help. To empty the homes quickly, the Israeli military threw the families’ furniture through the windows; Israeli settlers moved their own furniture in at about the same time. It was sad how Palestinians were kicked out to the street, and their homes were given to settlers who had no right to be there.”

Jewish settlers expelled the al-Kurds from a wing of their Sheikh Jarrah home, December 4, 2009

The home of the Rifka El-Kurd family in Sheikh Jarrah, when Jewish settlers forcibly expelled them from an extension they had built and dumped all their belongings in the yard, December 1, 2009



In the May 2021 uprising, residents of Sheikh Jarrah started a worldwide media campaign led by Muna and Mohammad El-Kurd to mobilize international pressure to stop the expulsions. Amal’s family had been given an expulsion notice, but an Israeli court issued a temporary stay of proceedings. As Amal sees it, “the Israeli courts will wait until things are calm again in Jerusalem, and then they will move to expel the families. I am being realistic here; it will take days, months, or years, but it will happen.”

“The Israeli courts will wait until things are calm again in Jerusalem, and then they will move to expel the families.”

Amal, Sheikh Jarrah resident

After the expulsions were put on hold, the presence of solidarity activists in the neighborhood eased up. The overall mood in Jerusalem was calmer, too. Amal expected that this would be the case. “Most Palestinians doing solidarity work were exhausted,” they explained. Amal doesn’t blame them; people must hold on to their jobs and they have their own problems with the Israeli authorities. People still contend with a host of other oppressive Israeli policies, including arrests and detentions without cause.

Notwithstanding the closure imposed on Sheikh Jarrah and the Israeli police’s aggression, Palestinians and allied activists continued to stand in solidarity with residents of the neighborhood, bringing neighbors together to protect their homes.

Amal is severely depressed. Clearly, the aggression of the Israeli military and police forces against the neighborhood’s residents, and the aggression against solidarity groups, had a profoundly negative effect on their mental condition. “When things calmed down, I was glad to have some quiet,” said Amal.

Amal noted the power imbalance between Palestinians and Israelis. They explained that the Israeli courts never serve justice to Palestinians, and that the Israeli police protect the Israeli settlers while assaulting Palestinians with rocks and sometimes bullets. “Because of my mental condition,” they said, “I was not able to confront the police like others did. But through my window, I saw how the Israeli security system protected the thieves and threatened homeowners.”

Amal always wonders how to fight this situation. “I might decide to fight or maybe surrender, I still don’t know.”

Amal talked a lot about their connection to and love for their home and land. “This is my land and that is a fact. I have plenty of happy and sad memories in my house.” The family will never willingly leave the house, but Amal wonders whether it is time for them to move on, if only to ease the psychological pressure with which they live. Amal’s family members can never leave home as a family for an excursion because of the distinct possibility that settlers may move in during their absence. If that happened, they would never be able to reclaim their home.

Amal’s family members can never leave home as a family for an excursion because of the distinct possibility that settlers may move in during their absence.

“Palestinians have been trapped for so many years in so many ways,” said Amal, “and this trap prohibits natural discussions between community members.” This is compounded by the fact that people are not inclined to talk about issues related to gender and sexuality, which are central to Amal’s life.

Amal explained how colonial violence nourishes patriarchy. Palestinians reproduce violence among one another, targeting the most vulnerable groups in the community. Amal shared many personal stories where they experienced discrimination and violence from their neighbors for being “different.”

According to Al Qaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society:

Israeli settler colonialism works by breaking apart and eliminating Palestinian communities, whether through the military violence of occupation and siege, the legal regimes of apartheid, or the denial of refugees’ right of return. Yet it also divides Palestinians internally and psychologically, in the personal realms of self-perception and collective identification. In order to understand the nature of this struggle, we also have to understand ourselves, and how colonization impacts our inner lives.2

Amal understands the root causes of their situation, but that is of limited help. They conclude that confinement to their bedroom offers protection from violence and discrimination from Palestinian neighbors and Israeli forces.



Research for this story was conducted in September 2021 by the Jerusalem Story Team. Identifying information has been changed.


Beyond Propaganda: Pinkwashing as Colonial Violence,” Al Qaws, October 18, 2020.

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