Synagogue attacker’s family penalized

Israel so far did not demolish home of Ghassan Abu Jamal, man behind deadly attack on Jerusalem synagogue

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Nadia Abu Jamal’s world has fallen apart since her husband’s deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue: Israeli authorities have ordered the demolition of their home and revoked her residency rights.

The widow of Ghassan Abu Jamal is especially fearful for her three children, Walid, six, Salma, four, and three-year-old Mohammed.


Their 31-year-old father and his cousin Uday, 22, launched a brazen attack on a Jerusalem synagogue on Nov 18.

Armed with meat cleavers and a pistol, they killed four rabbis and a policeman before being shot dead by police, in the city's deadliest attack in six years.

Israel has retaliated by ordering the demolition of the Abu Jamal house and ordering Nadia back to her native West Bank.

The children, however, will be allowed to stay in Jerusalem where they were born but as punishment for their father’s crime they have lost all social benefits, including medical coverage.

Mohammed, the youngest, has a heart condition, and Nadia does not know how she will be able to care for him anymore.

“My children have already lost their father. Now they want to destroy the only home they ever had and send me away,” said Nadia, holding Mohammed in her arms.

She wears a black veil that brings out the palour of her face, and tears swell up in her eyes.

“What wrong have my children done?” she cries out.

“This is collective punishment. It is unfair.”

Nadia’s home is in the teeming neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber, in annexed east Jerusalem, where houses on a ridge overlook the eastern part of the Holy City.

After she was served demolition orders by the Israeli authorities, Nadia emptied the house and moved next door to stay with her mother-in-law.

The family has appealed the demolition order, and now they are anxiously awaiting word from Israel's supreme court.
Israel has used punitive house demolitions for years in the West Bank.

But the policy was halted in 2005 after the army said they had no proven deterrent value and instead were likely to encourage violence.

Human rights watchdogs and the international community have condemned the practice as collective punishment against the families of perpetrators.

“They told us, the day after the (synagogue) attack,” that they had revoked my residency rights in Jerusalem and that the house will be razed to the ground, said Nadia.

“If we’d known that my husband was planning an attack, of course we would have stopped him,” she said.

Her face is drawn and she is still in shock when she recalls how she learned about the attack.

“I heard it on the radio, I heard that the man I loved had done such a thing.”

Her daughter Salma sits nearby listening, but not uttering a word, a frown across her face.

Salma stares at holes carved into the walls of their home by the demolition crew, and where explosives will be placed.

Her mother says everything that has happened since the attack and fear of what is to come have taken a toll on the children.

“Before, they were not like this. Now they’re always upset, they're becoming aggressive. They don't sleep at night. They're afraid Israeli soldiers will come and blow up the house.”

Nadia’s in-laws say they cannot come to terms with what pushed Ghassan and Uday to attack the place of worship.

Ghassan’s relatives say he used to struggle to make ends meet and feed his children always but was too proud to ask his family for help.

Uday’s house also faces demolition.

On Nov 19, a day after the synagogue attack, Israeli forces razed the east Jerusalem home of a Palestinian who had killed two Israelis with his car last month.

“Answering violence with violence will only encourage youths to carry out more attacks,” said Uday’s mother.

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