Unsettled life

Wadi al-Hussein is a neighborhood in Hebron adjacent to the Kiryat Arba settlement.  Meet 2 of its residents who show that settler violence and fear dominate their daily lives.

by Anssi, Hebron team

Photo of Wadi al Hussein

A view of Wadi al Hussein. Photo EAPPI.

Kayed’s Story

Meet Kayed, a 50-year-old Palestinian man who lives in Wadi-al-Hussein with his family right next to the wall surrounding Kiryat Arba, the biggest Israeli settlement in Hebron. One can see endless fatigue on Kayed’s face after being stuck in his yard for years since he is forced to protect his home and family against unpredictable settlers nearly around the clock.

“I am able to go to downtown once or twice a month. I practically do not have leisure time. On Friday I go to prayers worrying about my house and family. There is no psychological relief.”

Even though Kayed owns his house and land, the Israeli occupation practically reduces his rights to his property. According to Kayed, he must stay two meters away from the wall of Kiryat Arba. Passing too close to the wall would make the Israeli army intrude into his yard, considering him a threat to the settlers. Kayed tells us that one Friday three settlers invaded his house without any consequences.

“If I had done the same in Kiryat Arba they would have killed me at once”, Kayed states.

Photo Kayed's house close to Kiryat Arba.

Kayed’s house on the right is located adjacent to Kiryat Arba settlement, behind the wall on the right. Photo EAPPI/A. Holmstrom.

Moreover, his everyday life is comprised of settlers throwing stones, garbage, and sewage into his yard. He reminds us that settlers in Kiryat Arba live there for religious and ideological reasons, not simply economic reasons.

Kayed lives in his house with his wife and 10 children. The house belonged to his family long before the 1970s when Kiryat Arba was established. Kayed has seen both Palestinian intifadas, and his adult life has been underscored by movement restrictions and settler violence that Israeli soldiers often cannot and will not control. Therefore, it may not be a surprise that he seems highly pessimistic concerning the future. However, he strongly believes that liberation is coming soon:

“[Prime Minister] Netanyahu thinks he has control over Israel and Palestine. This attitude will turn against him very soon.”

Jamal’s story

Photo of Jamal

Jamal, age 50, and his family live in Wadi al-Hussein next to Kiryat Arba settlement. They face settler violence on a daily basis. Photo EAPPI/A. Holmstrom.

Meet Jamal, a 50-year-old man whose family suffers the same problems as Kayed. Jamal’s house is situated in Wadi al-Hussein right behind a religious settler school in Kiryat Arba where kids learn at an early age the legitimacy of harassing Palestinians.

“If you love God throw a stone”, has been written, according to Jamal, on the school wall.

The results are apparent. Jamal says settlers from Kiryat Arba throw things, such as eggs and stones, at him and his family on a daily basis. In practice, the family’s options to defend themselves are minimal:

“If you throw a stone back they will put us in jail”, Jamal says.

He also criticizes the Israeli police who do nothing to protect them. He tells us about an incident where settlers burnt his father’s house with a Molotov cocktail. Police arrived at the house after the fire had been extinguished but could not do anything because they did not see the fire itself.

Jamal has stopped expecting sympathy from the Palestinian Authority as well. He says that the presence of municipality administration in Wadi al-Hussein is non-existent and rather than protection, the family receives insults from decision-makers.

“We are in the frontline. We should not go to them, they should come to us!” Jamal raises his voice. “We [through our persistence in staying on our land] stop the settlements from expanding!”

Kiryat Arba settlement as seen from Jamal's house. Photo EAPPI/A. Holmstrom.

Kiryat Arba settlement as seen from Jamal’s house. Photo EAPPI/A. Holmstrom.

Apart from security issues the family also confronts problems with the municipality regarding water supply. The family receives water irregularly twice a month. However, when water runs out it is, according to Jamal, useless to wait for any help from the municipality.

Settler harassment has severely limited Jamal’s family’s everyday life. During Jewish religious holidays the family is too afraid to sending the children to school or to kindergarten. When we met Jamal, his 19-year-old son had been assaulted by a group of settlers near the Mutanabi school. According to Jamal harassment and assault are the settlers’ way to try to make the family leave their home. They have, however, firmly decided to stay:

“My family has been living in this house since 1949, my family was one of the first people who built houses here. I have never felt like going away from here”.

*Read more about Wadi al-Hussein.

Life behind the wall

‘Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi is in the seam zone. Sandwiched between the green line and the wall, the village is isolated.

by Samuel, Jayyus/Tulkarm team

The car for the PMRS mobile clinic, loaded with medical supplies. Photo EAPPI/S. Skånberg.

The car for the PMRS mobile clinic, loaded with medical supplies. Photo EAPPI/S. Skånberg.

“Fine, let them build the wall. But do it on the green line,” Suhad says to me.

Suhad works for the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) which is an NGO that offers medical services for the most vulnerable people in Palestinian society. She says these words as we stand on the outskirts of the village ‘Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi, which is a village PMRS supplies medical services for. The reason is that the village is in the seam zone.

In 20012, the Israeli goverment decided to build a wall between Israel and the West bank for security reasons. But due to illegal Israeli settlements in the West bank, the wall was built to keep as many of the settlements on the Israeli side of the wall. 85% of the wall is built on Palestinian land, thus creating an area between the “green line,” the internationally recognized border between Israel and Palestine, and the wall. This area is known as the seam zone. Those living in this area are still living in Palestinian territory, but are separated from the rest of the West Bank.

Because’Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi is located in the seam zone, they are not able to build. Therefore, the new school they built has a stop working order on it, which means it will be demolished. The case on the school is in the Israeli court and is yet to be decided.

I talked to Alam, the head mistress in the school. She previously worked as a teacher in Hablas, a village in the West Bank that is not in the seam zone.

“What is the biggest difference to work here compared to Hablas?” I ask. 

“The movement” she says. “To come here you need a permit to cross the checkpoint.”

To cross a checkpoint in the wall, you need to apply for a permit for a specific checkpoint. You either need to have land or a job on the other side of the wall. Many people are rejected. Alam tells me there is problem for her and the teachers at the checkpoints. It can be problems related to permits, but mostly it takes a long time to stand in the queue to pass. 

“How are the children affected by the occupation?” I ask.

Always when I ask questions like this I feel embarrassed because it is so obvious the children here can’t live a normal life. Still, I want to hear the people living under Israeli occupation describe it themselves.

“To be isolated here,” the headmistress replies. “They can’t move and they can’t get the services they need. They are blocked in.”

A boy running off to class. Photo EAPPI/S. Skånberg.

A boy running off to class. Photo EAPPI/S. Skånberg.

She tells me that they can’t go to school trips like normal school children. The school must coordinate with the Israeli authorities to get books to the school. It is also hard when the children will be vaccinated because they have to pass the checkpoint and go in to other parts of the West Bank.

“Everything is hard behind the wall. Things that normally take one hour take the entire day.”

Suhad and I take a tour in the school and greets the children. When Suhad asks if they are happy to be back in school, they smile and say yes.

“Why” Suhad asks.

“Because it will help us to become adults and be educated,” a little girl replies.

Suhad pointing at the nearby settlement. Photo EAPPI/S. Skånberg.

Suhad pointing at the nearby settlement. Photo EAPPI/S. Skånberg.

After our school visit Suhad and I take a walk around the village. She points to the Israeli settlement on a hill not too far away. This settlement is the reason that the wall is dividing this village and others from the rest of the West Bank. She tells me that her father used to be a farmer and have land. He used to export fruit to Kuwait and other countries, then only to Jordan, then selling only locally in the West Bank and now the land is behind the wall so he can’t use it.

Once again I feel embarrassed for my question but I ask it anyway.

“What do you think is the first step towards peace?” I ask.

Suhad smiles sadly and says, “To stop the occupation.”

 

*Read about how life is dramatically different in ‘Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi from the nearby settlement, Alfe Menashe.