Behind the cheerful face that Nabil al-Kurd puts on when receiving guests at his home lies the fear that he and his family might be evicted from their home at any moment by Israeli forces.
Al-Kurd’s family is among a number of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem who are at risk of forced evictions.
An Israeli court ruling in January to evict seven Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah sparked fierce clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces across the Palestinian territories in May.
The dispute stems from the events of 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcefully evicted from their homes and lands, a tragedy Palestinians refer to as the "Nakba," or Catastrophe.
In 1956, 28 families settled in Sheikh Jarrah, under an agreement with the Jordanian government, which ruled the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, before its occupation in 1967, and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
Israeli settlement associations, however, claim that the homes were built on land that was owned by Jews before 1948, a claim vehemently rejected by Palestinians.
"I always stay alert roaming around the neighborhood until midnight and once I am home, I surveil it through the CCTV cameras in anticipation of being evicted from my house,” al-Kurd told Anadolu Agency.
The 76-year-old said his home is the only place he knows.
"This home is my small country where I grew up, received my education and got married.”
Al-Kurd vividly remembers when more than 1000 Israeli soldiers with vehicles and dogs evicted the al-Ghawi and Hanoun families from their homes in 2009.
“What happened to them can happen to us too,” said al-Kurd.
Al-Kurd is the father of the famous twin social media icons Muna and Mohammed al-Kurd. The two became famous for leading protests and social media activism against Israel's forced evictions and threats of displacement in Sheikh Jarrah.
In May, a video of an Israeli settler’s response to accusation of stealing al-Kurd’s house went viral. “If I don’t steal your home, someone else will steal it,” was the blunt answer the settler named Jacob gave as a justification for confiscating the house.
Months later, al-Kurd is still in disbelief.
"How can a stranger claim ownership of my own house?” asked the bewildered white bearded man.
Al-Kurd said the video is a proof to the world that the Israeli settler is a thief.
He said his family is originally from Jerusalem but his father moved to Haifa where he opened a restaurant.
He narrated how Palestinians fled their homes during the 1948 Nakba and how his father was arrested by the Haganah Zionist gang, who also confiscated his father's restaurant.
"I still have the property documents of the restaurant," al-Kurd said.
Al-Kurd’s family was among the 28 families who settled in Sheikh Jarrah following an agreement between Jordan and UNRWA.
According to the agreement, al-Kurd said, the Jordanian government would grant land to the families seeking refuge while UNRWA was to build the homes.
“The Jordanian government gave us contracts with us and UNRWA took our refugee cards, and we have lived in our homes since 1956," al-Kurd said.
However, the contract procedures were not completed by the time Israeli forces occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, according to al-Kurd, hence, the Jordanian authorities were unable to continue the registration of the homes in their names.
Al-Kurd said the problem started in 1972 when Jewish groups alleged their ownership of the lands of the 28 families, noting that 12 families were expelled from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood at the time.
In 2009, Al-Kurd built an extension to his house but he said an Israeli court ordered its demolition and slapped him with a huge fine.
Despite the order to demolish the extension of the house, al-Kurd was left surprised that the authorities closed it for nine years only to later on allow settlers to move in.
Al-Kurd fears that it is only a matter of time until Israeli authorities evict him from his house.
“We are people who have suffered since 1948,” said the old Palestinian man.
But al-Kurd still chooses to remain hopeful despite the odds.
"We were expelled (from our lands) in 1948, but God willing we will not allow to be expelled again under any circumstances,” al-Kurd said in conclusion.
“The truth must prevail in the end and everyone should get what he rightfully owns."
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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