Families in Hebron face enormous difficulties with every aspect of daily life due to the occupation and actions of settlers and the Israeli military. They personify enormous courage and resilience in their commitment to staying in Hebron. Read the profiles of some of Hebron’s courageous families and be inspired to join their struggle!
Zleikha, 50, is a teacher who lives on Shuhada Street in the Old City inside the H2 area of Hebron. Her front door, which leads out onto Shuhada Street, is welded shut. Zleikha cannot walk out her front door! Like all Palestinians in the Hebron, she is not allowed to walk up or down Shuhada Street.
Except for a few brief periods, Shuhada Street has been closed to Palestinians since the attacks, by an American born settler, on Muslim worshippers at the Ibrahimi mosque in 1994. Palestinian residents of Shuhada Street are disallowed from using their front doors because they lead onto Shuhada Street. Many Palestinian families still reside in homes on Shudada Street and are forced to use long, convoluted routes to get to and from their homes. Before Shuhada Street became an apartheid street, it was one of the main, most heavily used streets in Hebron.
In 2006 Youth Against Settlements took the issue of Shuhada Street with its apartheid functioning to Israeli court. They won the case and the judge ordered that residents of the road should be able to freely use their front door to enter the street. A year later residents were issued with permits and were promised security protection by the Israeli military, because they knew their presence would be met with hostile reactions from the settlers who use the road on a daily basis.
However, the promises of security and the assurances of safety for Palestinians were not kept. The first time that Zleikha used the street was in the presence of an international group. She faced hostility from settlers; they tried to block Palestinians from walking on the street and they tried to start fights. Soldiers frequently detained Zleikha between 10 minutes to 1 hour to ‘check’ her permit.
In 2008, once again in the company of internationals, Zleikha was blocked by a settler. She tried to continue giving the tourists a tour of the apartheid system in place in the city, but she was stopped and blocked by the notorious and extremist settler Anat Cohen who called the police. Soldiers and police officers attended the scene quickly and made Zleikha stand at a distance from the international group. She was made to show her permit to be on the street and was told that it did not apply on this stretch of Shuhada Street. Soldiers forced her into a military jeep and drove her back to her house. They said they would not arrest her on this occasion due to her ‘good conduct.’
Not only was Zleikha frequently harassed and denied the right of passage by settlers and soldiers, but the military also failed to keep their promise to protect the Palestinian residents on the street. On one occasion, Zleikha’s elderly mother was kicked and verbally abused by a group of settlers. The military responded by sending her out of the area. The Street was once again closed to Palestinians in 2009.
In June 2012, Zleikha’s front door was welded shut. She was not informed. It was a response to an action by Palestinian and international women who were working with locals to reopen Shuhada Street. Protesters had entered the street through Zleikha’s front door. Then doors were broken down in the neighbourhood, including the entrance to Zleikha’s kindergarten. Settlers claimed that Zleikha’s visiting brother was the house owner, and he was then arrested and detained over night despite his health problems. The army then took action to ensure that the door could never be opened again and welded it shut.
Zleikha was able to use Shuhada Street for a total of one year between 2007-2009. She was given a 3 month permit that had to be renewed at the end of this time. There was up to 4 months between each renewal, and in 2009 the police refused to renew the permit again, citing security reasons.
Al Hadad Family
Location: Tel Romeida
Members of household: 9
Abu Talel lives with and his wife Suha, their four sons, and two daughters. They have one other daughter who is married and lives in Hebron.
Abu Talel works from home. He makes shoes that he then sells to a company based in H1. The two eldest sons work in Jericho and return home every two weeks. The middle daughter has finished her studies in engineering and now stays at home, and the two youngest sons and youngest daughter are still in school.
They family has lived in this house for 10 years. Before, they were living on Wadi al Huriya in H1. They decided to move into H2 because the rent of the previous house in H1 was too expensive. The owners of their current house had left because life in the area had become too difficult — two of their sons had been injured by soldiers. The al Hadad family moved into this house to protect it in 2002. The army wanted it. For their first 4 months in their new home, soldiers occupied the house. At night the soldiers would sometimes force all of the family into one room. However when the army realised that the family was not going to move away, they abandoned the house and installed security cameras on the roof instead. The soldiers say that the camera is there to watch over the settlers, but Suha states that it is in fact there to watch over the Palestinians.
They tell of the difficult life in Tel Rumeida. The army comes to the house on average twice a week to check the camera. They usually bang violently on the door and often come in the middle of the night. The family is also harassed by settlers. In 2006, settlers broke the hand of their son Ahmad when he was only 13 years old. His eye and head were injured too. The family’s house has also undergone many attacks by the settlers, although things are a bit better now than during the Intifada. Many times the settlers have actually come into the house, and many times they threw stones at it. And every time, the police did nothing. Suha says that they have many stories, enough to fill a whole notebook! But most importantly, Suha was pregnant and lost her baby twins because of the settlers.
Abu Haikal family
Location: Tel Romeida
Members of household: Three brothers and their families live in two houses on the land. Two parents and their five children live in the first house, the other two brothers and their respective families in the other, nine in each.
The family have lived on this land for generations. In 1985 the first wave of settlers came to the area, living in caravans, and the trouble began for the family. In 1994 a military base was built next to the house, and in 2003 a new house was built for the new settlers in Tel Romeida. The Abu Haikal family’s land is right next to this settlement and their home is surrounded by Israeli cameras. There is a small military monitoring post in the corner of their land. They have problems accessing their olive trees on the land. The soldiers often prevent them from walking to the trees, especially during the olive-picking season in November. During the 2nd Intifada in 2000, IOF soldiers used this post on the family’s land to shoot down into the Qub al Jameb neighbourhood, and they blew up two homes from this point. They cut off the tops of the family’s olive trees to have a clearer view, and the soldiers fired machine guns all through the night and prevented the family from sleeping. This meant that the family members were constantly keeping low to protect themselves from any gunfire.
Israeli settlers attacked the home before and during the Intifada. Now they are attacked less frequently, but there are still attacks. They have had put up fences in front of the windows because of how often the settlers throw stones. In May 2000, a group of approximately 50 settlers tried to enter the house. One settler sent two gunshots into the air. The group was comprised of settlers living in Hebron and settlers from a tour group from outside Hebron. Settlers come to Hebron from all over the West Bank during festivals and holidays to show support for and solidarity with the Hebron settlement project.
In 2000, the IOF arrested four family members from the home. They were in jail for three or four days each, and they had to pay a lot of money for their release.
Every time there is a new patrol in the area (every three to four months), the home is raided by IOF soldiers. They usually come after midnight, force everyone outside (even in the middle of winter), check everyone’s IDs, and then search through everything in the house without saying what they are looking for. This happened even more frequently during the 2nd intifada — in 2006 the soldiers would pay a visit three or four times a week.
The year 2000 held the most trouble for the family. Most of the family members were refused permission to travel to Jerusalem and to leave the West Bank. They felt that Israel was trying to subject them to the worst circumstances to pressure them into leaving their home. Although they are still denied permission to go to Jerusalem, they feel they are under less pressure now than before.
Living in H2 has many implications for their daily lives. At the beginning of each day, when they are on their way to work or school, soldiers stop them to check their IDs, sometimes stopping them for an hour for no reason. They face the same thing at the end of the working day. Blocks of concrete 200m away from their house mean that they have not been permitted to bring their own cars onto their land since the beginning of the intifada in 2000. They have to use a trolly to bring heavy loads into their house. The closure to traffic of Tel Rumeida Street down to Bab a-Zawiya, and a-Shuhada street through to Wadi al-Hussein, is a great obstacle for travelling anywhere.
Despite the difficulties they face, the family have never considered moving.
Al Jabari family
Location: Qiryat Arba
Members of household: 19
Abdul Kareem is formerly an iron monger. He and his wife live with their three daughters and seven sons, two of whom are married and live in the family home with their wives and children. The eldest son and his wife have two boys, one girl, and are expecting twins. The second son and his wife have two daughters. (Three daughters are married and live elsewhere with their families.)
The land on which they live has been in the family for generations. Abdul Kareem built the house in 1998 when settlers began to take the land. Before this they lived in the Jabari area, close to Abdul Kareem’s father. He has been offered a blank cheque for his property but he refused. It was at this point that the problems and violence really began. Abdul Kareem now rarely leaves the house because he is too scared for the safety of his family. As a result he can no longer work as an ironmonger.
Since its construction, the family home has constantly been under attacks from settlers. The family had to build a wall around the house in 2005/6 to stop the settlers from coming in to open or break the door and windows. Everyone was terrified and used to hide under the beds. While they were building, soldiers and settler came and tried to stop them. When Abdul Kareem built a new building next to the house all the settlers came here to pray. They want this house.
The land outside the walls of their house belongs to the family as well. The land on which the Javara or Givat Ha’avot settlement is built is the family’s land, and so is the currently open field that lies directly between the two settlements. There is now an outpost settlement tent on this land where the settlers pray and throw parties. The Jabari family grows food for their sheep on this land, but sometimes the settlers set it on fire, usually just when it is ready to harvest. Twice the settlers have stolen their sheep and also their ducks. When Abdul Kareem tried to stop them from taking his sheep, soldiers held him back.
In 2000 the main street Wadi al-Hussein was closed to both Palestinian pedestrians and traffic by military order. In 2002 it was reopened for pedestrians only, and settlers would still attack them with stones. There are now four checkpoints that surround the home, enclosing approximately 200 Palestinian families in between the two settlements Qiryat Arba and Givat Ha’avot. A week before this interview was conducted, this area was totally closed off to traffic by putting up concrete blocks. There is now only one road leading in and out of the area – this is Wadi al-Hussein, which Palestinian vehicles cannot use.
All members of the family have been to the hospital at some point because of settler violence. At one point settlers threw tear gas into the house, and as a result a pregnant woman inside required medical care. In 1998/9 a settler stabbed one of Abdul Kareem’s sons in the stomach. The settlers throw stones if the soldiers leave. Before the intifada, settlers punched one of the brothers in the eye, and on a separate occasion in 2001/2 they threw Abdul Kareem off a hill, breaking his arm.
In 2008 settlers threw stones at the house during the wedding party of one of Abdul Kareem’s sons. Soldiers came into the house and one soldier held another one of the sons (the one who was stabbed in 1999). He held the son’s arms behind his back and ordered the settlers to throw stones at him. Settler women came and attacked his sister who was filming the incident. They both had to be taken to hospital and a number of the guests were arrested.
In 2009, Abdel Kareem’s daughter Ayat was walking up to the house when settlers threw a stone at her head, concussing her. An ambulance was called but it took 2 and a half hours to arrive. The ambulance driver said that he had arrived at the checkpoint 4 minutes after the call but had been detained there for the remaining amount of time. Because she missed a meeting whilst in hospital, Ayat lost her job as a science teacher. She has mostly been out of work since then.
The children have a lot of difficulties going to school to the extent that only one daughter currently goes to school. The sons do not go to school. Three of the sons, aged 28, 25 and 14, have physical disabilities affecting their legs and chest, and another son has one leg which is shorter than the other. They do not receive specialist medical care, since there are none in the West Bank.
Outside of the family, but living next to the Jabari family, some neighbours wear the full veil and are particularly in danger to settlers attacking them, ripping their veils off and even trying to run them over. The girls wearing the hijab are however also at risk of having it pulling off them. Three of the daughters stopped going to school because it became too difficult to get there.
Members of household: 7
Zidan, father, a plumber by trade.
Rajha, mother, housewife.
4 children – Yazan, Waad, Yusef, Rand (aged 2 and a half to 12 years old)
The Sharabati family have been in this home for more than 65 years. They previously lived in a big family house in the Old City, close to what is now the Avraham Avinu settlement. But when the family became too big, some of them left the home to live elsewhere. Part of the Sharabati family was still living there until 6 years ago when soldiers/settlers welded the door shut while they were inside. After two days they managed to get out and subsequently abandoned the house which is now closed by military order. Most of the family went to Jerusalem, some to Amman, some to H1, and some to this house in H2. Although they live on Shuhada Street, they have not been able to walk down the main section of the road since the time before 2000 – Zidan’s mother doesn’t even remember what it looks like.
Zidan is a plumber and used to work in Israel. This became too difficult after the Gulf war, but he was still able to find work in the West Bank for some time. However there is little to no work for him now. This is partly because of the restrictions on movement for Palestinians in H2, but also because of a physical disability caused by settler violence. He cannot work in the sun or dust because of the injury to his eye. As well as the physical violence, Zidan and his family suffer from psychological trauma as a result of the settlements and the occupation. Zidan himself has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and his children frequently suffer from nightmares and wetting the bed. Members of his extended family have also been diagnosed with depression, and the heightened levels of stress because of the occupation have contributed to Zidan’s mother’s high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems.
His children all go to the school nearby in H2. The oldest son will soon go to school in H1, which will make things difficult due to the checkpoint – he will need to go to school and come back in groups. The children need the TIPH and other international observers to be present to protect them from settlers’ attacks – the army will not protect them. At the beginning of the academic year in 2011 the school teachers were refused entry through the checkpoint for 17 days, during which they held their classes outside the checkpoint, on the street in H1. When one day the children held a peaceful demonstration on the H2 side of the checkpoint, the police beat and pushed them around with such force that 7 or 8 of them had to be taken to hospital. Some of the children were even pushed onto barbed wire. Zidan’s son and his brother’s daughter were among the hospitalized children.
As already mentioned, the children have bad dreams, they scream and wet the bed at night. “They are like prisoners,” they have no place to play and think that all of Hebron is like this as they know nothing else. It is too dangerous for them to even play in the street. One and a half years ago his 12 year old niece was walking on the pavement when a settler car mounted the pavement and hit her. The driver got out of the car, only to ask her about the broken mirror, hitting her with his hand.
Zidan’s family has many medical reports, over 20 relating just to Zidan. There has not been a single year in which he has not spent a night in hospital. Not one single case has been acted upon by the Israeli police. Incidents include beatings by IOF troops, settler violence including stone-throwing, and being hit by a soldier’s car.
In one such case 4 years ago, Zidan was injured when settlers threw stones at him as he was sitting on his balcony. He was hit in the eye and as a result he now cannot see in that eye. He has made many complaints to the police but they proved useless. This is the injury previously mentioned that prevents him from working in dusty conditions or in strong sunlight.
The military restrictions mean that ambulances cannot reach their home so when Zidan’s mother is ill she has to be carried to the checkpoint where the ambulance can pick her up. A few days before this interview was conducted she had been in hospital. Once discharged she had to stay in H1 until she felt better so that she would be able to reach the hospital quickly if need be.
In the1970s, when the settlement started in Beit Hadassah, settlers came to the house, accusing someone of throwing stones. They pushed their way in to the house and turned to Zidan’s brother, beating him, and then dragged him out of the house and into the Beit Hadassah settlement. For more than 2 months his family heard no news of him. Once he was released he suffered from depression – he was only 20 years old and had been studying to be an electrician in Bethlehem, but he dropped everything and moved to Saudi Arabia.
In 1982, a Fatah attack on some of Hebron’s settlers took place in the immediate vicinity of the house. This is when the attacks on the house and the surrounding area really began to increase in frequency and aggression, in spite of the fact that the family had no relation whatsoever to the armed attack. Following this operation, Mr. Sharabati and his neighbour were taken to the police station and ordered to sell their homes. He was offered $3 million but refused. Then he was offered an open cheque and a flight to the USA which he once again he refused. Subsequently, for seven days the Sharabati family was forced by soldiers to live in only one room of their house – one room for kitchen, toilet, everything. Zidan says that the Israeli government wants these houses for settlement expansion. Many families were punished similarly at this time. As a result of this harassment, the Sharabati family moved out of their home briefly before deciding that even if they were beaten every morning, afternoon and night, it was best for them to remain in their house. They will never be coaxed out of their home by money. Zidan’s mother adds emphatically that they will never move out.
In 1999, Zidane was in the street just outside the home when soldiers started to beat him. His father, an old man at the time, saw what was happening from the window. As he hurried down the stairs to reach his son he slipped on the stairs. Zidan’s mother then went down to the street, not realising how badly hurt her husband was. When she reached the street, she and her other son were detained and taken to the police station whilst Zidan was taken to the hospital. There was no-one left to help Zidan’s injured father, and he died from his injuries on the stairs. Zidan says that it was the occupation that killed his father.
Due to all the attacks from settlers, B’Tselem (with the permission of the Israeli authorities) placed cameras on the Sharabati house which watched into the house and out on to the street. Yet shortly afterwards, the army invaded the house with a large dog to remove the cameras. Everyone was very afraid. The cameras were removed in response to the demand of settlers. They did not want their aggressions towards the Sharabati family and their home to be exposed and so the settlers had the cameras’ permission revoked. Once the cameras had been removed, the settlers started throwing stones once again and they have since entered into the home many times.
Location: Tel Rumeida, in the middle of what is now the Ramat Yashay settlement.
Members of household: 13
Abu Samir, head of the household, and his second wife.
Abu Samir’s son, Taiser, and his wife and children.
Taiser’s eldest son, Mohammad, his wife and daughter.
(Abu Samir has two daughters from his first wife and one daughter from his second second wife who are married and living elsewhere in Hebron. He has two other sons who live elsewhere)
Abu Samir was born in 1935 in the old city. He moved to the site and built his home in Tel Rumeida in 1965 or 67. He cannot remember when exactly, but knows that it was before the occupation. His first wife died after having 3 children, after which he married again. In total he has 6 children, all of whom, except for Taiser, need permission to come to the house. Abu Samir has over 50 grandchildren. Abu Samir also has farmland just outside of Hebron, which 2 of his sons look after. They grow lots of grapes, olives, fig trees, nectarines, tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes, to feed their family.
There were 7 siblings in Abu Samir’s generation. The first 4 were born in the Old City, the last 3 in Beit Hadassah. This was where Abu Samir’s father had a business with Yakob Isra, a Jewish man, keeping sheep and goats. Abu Samir’s father would gather the milk and Yakob Isra would turn it into cheese and other dairy products. Abu Samir remembers the Jews and Muslims living happily together in Beit Hadassah until 1948 when the Jews left to go to Tel Aviv and other places in the new Israeli state. The families have stayed in touch however. They used to visit each other in Jerusalem until 1990 when restrictions on movement between the two places were increased.
When the settlers arrived in Tel Rumeida in 1983, Abu Samir thought the new arrivals would be neighbourly but they started to throw stones, shouting “go to Jordan” and “this land is for us”.
They have countless police reports from incidents of settlers attacking them, including two bullets shot into their home through the front windows. Despite having video footage from their CCTV installed by B’Tselem, there has only ever been one arrest made. This was at some point around 2000. Shalom al-Kobe, a settler from another settlement, broke through the door into their house and fought with Taiser. Taiser went to the hospital and police and Shalom al-Kobe was arrested. Abu Samir says he does not go to the police station every time something happens because if he did he would be living at the police station, not in his home. Abu Samir has made the most police reports in Hebron. When the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, Ehud Olmert, heard about this, he publicly apologised to the family for the settler violence. Yet this was followed by absolutely no change on the ground. Abu Samir asks, “Who are the terrorists?”
In 1997 the family met Yasser Arafat and told him about the settler violence. He paid for protective wire mesh grill to be fixed to the front of the house and over the courtyard, as well as corrugated iron sheeting. Before then they could not use their living room as stones were always being thrown in, and they would cut their feet on the glass if they entered.
Abu Samir cannot fix his home, despite asking for permission for many years. On the third attempt, permission has recently been granted for the materials to be brought to the house. However, permission has not been given for the workmen to come through, rendering the first permission useless. In contrast, settlers have built new homes right up to the edge of the road, something which is forbidden for Palestinians. The settlers did not originally receive permission to build as the area is believed to be the site of an important grave. However pressure from the political right wing in Israel has succeeded in allowing them to build. The settlers are allowed to build for their large families, but the Palestinians are not.
The land next door to the home belonged to Abu Samir’s father and the family had a brass factory here. About 4 years ago the army forbid the family from opening their factory. At this point Abu Samir and Taiser opened up two clothes shops in H1. They have to go past 4 checkpoints to get from their shop to their home. While the soldier at the checkpoint at the end of their road sees them every day he still asks to see their ID almost every time.
Abu Samir is no longer allowed to bring his car onto the street and when he asked how he was going to bring things to the house, the soldiers told him to buy a donkey. Settlers now use his parking space, and often park right in front of the entrance to the house, making it difficult for the family to get in and out.
Taiser’s son Mohammad and his wife got married in H1. Prior to the wedding, they talked to the Red Cross about getting permission to bring bedroom furniture for him and his wife to the house. When the lorry came to bring the bed, however, the settlers threw stones at it as it was the first Palestinian vehicle on the street in 12 years.
When Abu Samir’s first wife died permission was denied for the car to bring the body right up to the house for the cleaning rituals; they had to carry her body to the house on their shoulders. The army also will not allow ambulances through to the street. When Taiser’s wife was pregnant they applied for permission for the ambulance 1 month before the due date. Yet when she went into labour the ambulance was held for 1 hour before being able to take her to the hospital. She gave birth to twins but one of them died in labour.
Abu Samir is involved in a group of Palestinians who meet with a group from Israel in Beit Jala as a peace making initiative. Being part of this group has enabled him to visit Tel Aviv and other places in the 1948 territories.
Location: Shuhada Street
Members of household: 3
Jamila, mother, 50 years old. Retired, formely worked in Kindergarten
Abed, son, 20. Studies English Literature at Hebron University, H1.
Israa, daughter, 16. At school in H1
(first daughter, 18, married and living in H1 with husband and child)
The house is over 200 years old, dating from the Ottoman period. The house has been in the family for generations. Their home is surrounded by settlers who throw stones and dirty water at the house, and who have come into the building many times. These attacks usually come from children under 12 who are not considered legally responsible and therefore cannot be held accountable by the Israeli police, but older settlers are involved as well. A neighbouring Palestinian house which is now empty is frequently invaded by settlers who use the building as a base from which to attack the Salayme family home. A few months ago, settlers broke into this neighbouring house and threw rocks into the family’s yard. As is often the case, this happened during the night so that the attackers’ identity remained concealed and the Israeli police therefore refused to take action on the case. Since the Israeli police will not protect the family, the TIPH and Hebron Rehabilitation Committee resorted to placing a grill ceiling over the yard and barbed wire around the entrance to the neighbouring house. They have also needed to make the dividing wall higher to protect themselves from these attacks. Yet when asked if they have ever considered leaving their home, the answer was an emphatic “no”- the home belonged to their father and previous generations and should remain in their family for future generations.
They suffer from water supply problems, especially in the Summer. Whilst there is no problem with the main electricity supply, the settlers often used to cut the electricity wires and water pipes to the house, forcing the family to set new wires inside the walls.
Jamila is divorced from the children’s father who now lives in H1 where he has a tailor’s shop. He used to have two shops in H2, both on Shuhada Street, but since 1994 it became difficult to keep them open because of their location. Both shops have been permanently closed under military order since 2006. This has put them in a difficult financial situation. Jamila and her children rely on financial support from Jamila’s family and the children’s father.
Abed tells of the curfew during the 2nd Intifada. He and his father would have to sneak out the back of the house and up the hill to get to the market. They were shot at by soldiers. He was only eight years old but was not allowed to go to his school because of the curfew. His school was in H1 and so his classmates were still able to continue classes.
Jamila says that they are used to the situation in H2. In H1, she says, people live very differently. People in H1 don’t care or think about the people who live in H2, although they wouldn’t accept such living conditions for themselves. For people living in H2, though, the occupation has become normal. Abed adds that as children they grew up thinking that this isolation, even from people in the same city, is normal. Jamila can’t stand it when she goes to H1 and sees how little people there care about the situation, so she comes back to H2 and accepts being there more readily. Several men that have come to visit their home to propose to her daughter have run away, too scared to be in H2 – they neither want nor need people who are scared, she says. Israa does not want to marry someone from H1 – she wants to go abroad.
Jamila has lived there for over 25 years and there have been countless attacks on the house – stones, fires, arson, and also on her ex-husband’s shop. The settlers can do whatever they want. One month ago a teenage settler came into their hallway and threw stones which broke glass. She went to a soldier to complain, asking why they weren’t doing anything. She “touched” the boy to indicate to the soldier who had been throwing the stones, and she was subsequently arrested and charged 1000 shekels (which B’Tselem paid).
One year ago, during Ramadan, soldiers threw soundbombs into the house and then entered wearing masks and war paint. Jamila, screaming with anger, collapsed in the house.
The family agree that they don’t think the situation will get better, but they hope it will.