For the Is’efan family, home is a warzone

Encroaching illegal Israeli settlements mean that daily life for Palestinian families has become unbearable in the face of extreme settler violence
stones and garbage litter the rooftop of a house.
The family shows CPT the stones that litter their rooftop, thrown at them by settlers.

A Home is a place where a person feels comfortable, calm, and safe, and a place that provides peace and privacy. It is the place where family gathers, the place where a person can find refuge to rest. But for the Is’efan family, their home is nothing like this. 

The Is’efan family lives along the apartheid wall of the Kiryat Arba settlement which leads to the synagogue. On a daily basis, they are under attack from violent settlers in the area. “Here, we live in daily horror, we do not know if we have to stay inside the house to stay safe, or stay outside the house so we can be aware of any movement of the settlers and prepare for an attack,” said Om Saqer Ise’fan, the mother of the family. “And when the national situation is not good, we expect more violence.”  

Imagine yourself living in a space where you are unable to sleep because you are vulnerable, or if you do manage to sleep you might be woken up by a dangerous threat: a fire in your house, or an injury to you or your family. Every day you have the same fear, worry, and responsibility to save your house, family, and save yourself at the same time. You have to keep your eyes open, always trying to predict what might happen.               

“Sometimes we take shifts so we can get some sleep, but there are some horrible nights where we sleep less so we can manage to stay alive and protect our children,” Om Saqer continued. “We make sure we have fire extinguishers because settlers throw Molotov cocktails at our land next to the house.”

“A few years ago, an Israeli settler was shooting directly into our house. My husband went outside to try to scare him, but he continued shooting at him; he was lucky to escape.”        

Not only is their physical safety in danger, but the volatile nature of their location prohibits having a social life, a deep cultural practice and essential for their mental and emotional health. Om Saqer noted that “relatives and friends don’t feel safe visiting the area as there are a lot of checkpoints you have to pass and a road full of extremist settlers. So we try to grow plants to have fun and try to pass the time as best we can.”  

These stories are part of the Ise’fan family’s reality and what they face every day.  Despite the pain and the trouble they face daily, they have a hope that everything will be better in the future. Their only crime is that they were born within this racist system that punishes the oppressed. They practice steadfastness as part of life, this makes them stronger, and connects them to the land. You can see in their eyes how they love life—when I see them I always remember the words of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, “We love life whenever we can.”          

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