The findings emerge as Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan face eviction from their homes, pending decisions by the Israeli Supreme Court.
For the report, ‘Hope under the rubble: the impact of Israel’s home demolition policy on Palestinian children and their families’, the child rights organisation consulted 217 Palestinian families across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, all of whom have had their homes demolished by Israeli authorities over the past ten years.
Eighty percent of the consulted children said they lost faith in the ability of not just the international community but also the authorities and even their parents to help and protect them. They reported feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness about the future.
16-year-old Fadi* said: “Nobody stopped them – or could stop them again - from destroying our home, our lives. So why should I bother to dream about a good future?”
The report also found that the majority of parents (76%) and caregivers feel powerless, unable to protect their children after losing their homes. They also feel shame (75%), irritation and anger (72%), as well as being emotionally distant from their children (35%).
Seven out of ten children said they felt socially isolated and had no connection to their communities after their homes were demolished.
Faris, 14, said: “We keep moving around to find somewhere to live - the instability is driving me crazy. I feel that wherever I go, they will come for me and destroy my life.”
The majority of children consulted showed high rates of distress, including feelings of sadness, fear, depression and anxiety. Children described having frequent nightmares, feeling like there is no safe place for them, and paralysed with fear.
Fifteen-year-old Ghassan* said: “All I have are sad memories. I still feel traumatised by the soldiers and their dogs attacking and injuring my father [during the demolition]. I have nightmares about the bulldozers ripping away every stone in our house, and the sounds of the explosions still haunt me.”
Most (80%) families reported a devastating impact on their financial situation, with more than a quarter losing their job post-demolition – their situation is compounded by the spiralling cost of living. Despite this, very few families reported receiving compensation or financial support to rebuild their lives.
Jason Lee, Save the Children’s Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, said:
“These shocking findings should be a warning cry to the international community – children and their families feel beaten down and powerless. Since 1967, Israeli authorities have demolished 28,000 Palestinian homes. Each demolition has uprooted an entire household – quashing the dreams and hopes of 6,000 children and their families in the past 12 years.”
“These demolitions are not only illegal under international law, they are also an obstacle for children to fulfil their right to a safe home, and to be able to safely go to school. As the occupying power, Israel must protect the rights of those living under occupation, especially children.
“Unless the international community makes it clear that it will hold the Government of Israel accountable for such violations, homes and schools will continue to be torn down and children will pay the highest price.
“We need children to be able to feel hope again. Without hope, there is no future for children to live in peace. The ceasefire after last month’s escalation of the violence in Gaza and southern Israel is just the first step. The international community cannot forget its obligation to uphold the rights of Palestinian children, and to push for a long term solution to a decades old conflict.”
Save the Children is urging the new Government of Israel to immediately halt the demolition of homes and property in the occupied Palestinian territory and revoke policies that contribute to a coercive environment and increases the risk of forcible transfer of Palestinian communities.
Save the Children, together with partners, helps families impacted by demolition by providing psychosocial support to children and their parents through individual and group counselling sessions.
Notes to editors
*names have been changed
The title of the report was inspired by this quote: “I feel deeply sad now. My home was demolished, and my memories and hope went under the rubble.” Lana, 13 years old, Area C
Save the Children ran a survey and in-depth interviews with 217 households, including 67 children between the ages of 10 and 17 years old between December 2020 and February 2021.
The families who participated live in 58 communities across the West Bank. 77% of participants live in Area C, 14% in East Jerusalem, and 9% in Areas A or B.