At last, William and Frida have a home of their own. For years they went from one makeshift arrangement to another, while their children were born and grew up, and then the grandchildren arrived.
William and Frida are Palestinians who were born and bred in Jerusalem, and were determined to stay in the Holy City which is their home, despite the difficulties this has created.
East Jerusalem was annexed to Israel in 1967, but this annexation has never been recognised under international law.
William and Frida were part of a group of 80 Palestinian Christian families, none of them well-off, who were helped by an initiative launched by the Catholic Church in the Holy Land to build an affordable housing project. CAFOD gave £10,000 towards the project to cover taxes and legal fees. The families started moving in to their new homes in 2013. Here William describes their journey to owning their own home.
Palestinian Christians are a small minority in East Jerusalem – only 2 per cent. As a result, there are difficulties preserving our identity as Palestinian Christians.
Also, we were Palestinians but without a Palestinian passport. We lived in Jerusalem but we didn’t have an Israeli passport. If we wanted to travel abroad we needed a travel document issued by Israeli authorities.
If a man from Jerusalem marries a West Bank Palestinian woman, she can’t live with him in Jerusalem. If he chooses to live with her in Palestine, he will lose his Jerusalem ID and therefore his right to live in Jerusalem and his right to Israeli health and social insurance.
We’d been trying to find a home of our own for twenty years. But getting housing is hard because of the high cost of land for construction, high property taxes and the great difficulty of getting a license to build a house.
It’s had a huge effect on our family and home life. Not having somewhere of our own meant instability – a lack of assurance and dignity. It made me feel insecure and very anxious about my children’s future.
But we wouldn’t leave in spite of all the difficulties. We were not born here by chance or coincidence. We feel it is a privilege and a divine call to be born and live here and to carry the message of faith in this very place.
We stay because of our Faith and love for our Holy land, the land of our ancestors and community. We belong to the place where Jesus was born and lived. We are proud to live in the place where Christianity started.
The Latin Patriarchate, the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, announced a housing initiative and invited people to sign on. We accepted willingly and started by paying the price of the land. CAFOD supported us through a donation to cover legal expenses. We needed legal advice about everything from buying the land purchase, to registering the land in our names. With the help of an architect and a lawyer, we immediately started applying for construction permits, and even with their support it took four years to get them.
Before we could get the final permit, we had to seek approval from more than 10 offices: water and sewage authority, the Land Registry Office, planning office, archaeology ministry, for roads, telephones, electricity, and so on. As you may guess, we had to pay for the services of each office. Of course, it is a system which applies to all citizens, but for us, however, it took more time because of our status.
Owning a house means having security and dignity. CAFOD’s help has given us a sense of empowerment, the elevation of our social and cultural standing, and the realization of our dream.
What we used to pay as rent is lost forever and we had no security. Paying off a mortgage to the bank gives assurance that one day we will own the house outright.
It provides us with security and dignity, which are most important human needs to develop and flourish. We enjoy the landscape. We see trees from our windows. Before, this did not happen.
Your support is the difference between security and fear, hope and despair for so many of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged people. Thank you for all you do. Please continue to help CAFOD change lives.>>