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Eddie Gerald | The cave dwellers

PRIVATE 47, p. 12-13 (12-15)
Eddie Gerald, The cave dwellers, PRIVATE 47, p. 12-13 (12-15)

Buy PRIVATE 47 [C]old darkness prevails at all hours in the cave at Mufakara, southern Hebron hills. Beneath six meters of rock lives a ten-member Palestinian family, upholding a traditional way of life, which hasn’t changed for the last 200 years. They live by subsistence agriculture, producing milk, cheese and wool primarily for self use, whereas the surplus is sold in Yatta and the surrounding villages. Altogether there are twelve villages of cave dwellers in the Hebron Mountains. Each family has at least one cave used as a residence.

The typical entrance is a stone doorway leading to a cave which extends about 16 ft into the soft, clay-like rock. The light is dim, the air is cool. A second tier of raised concrete stretches across the back of the cave, nestled with cushions and blankets. They sleep, pray and eat in the same area. The cave is like night during daytime, blackened with the smoke from paraffin lamps. There is no electricity. There are few amenities and few medical facilities. Contrary to common perception, the cave residents are not Bedouins and do not migrate. Susya, Mufakara and similar villages suffer daily abuse at the hands of their neighbours, extremist Jewish settlers claiming ownership to the entire area.

With support from the Israeli army the Jewish settlers have systematically destroyed nearly 80 percent of the Palestinian’s cave homes, tents and makeshift structures. Ironically, their most consistent friend has been the Israeli supreme court, which has overturned repeated Israeli army attempts to evict them. Most children are born in the caves, in poor sanitary conditions, without qualified midwives and without appropriate medical equipment. The Nawaja old couple were born in a cave in Sussya. Their children and grandchildren were also born there. They say they will never leave. They will die in this cave.

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