On 7 October, the Israeli occupation forces carried out a violent invasion into the Emad Herbawi yogurt factory on Shallallah Street in the old city of al Khalil/Hebron, terrifying its workers. This building, like many of the buildings in Hebron, is frequently invaded by Israeli soldiers who use the rooftop to surveil the Palestinian population. These rooftop invasions occur regularly, often two or three times per week. At 9:00am on Saturday, 7 October, amidst the increased tensions soldiers violently forced entry into the factory breaking windows and destroying property. Later, at 3:00pm, when workers should have been leaving for their homes, the soldiers barricaded the doors and did not allow the family, including children as young as seven years old, and its 15 employees—five men and ten women—to leave. Some of the women attempted to leave by a back exit but were threatened by the soldiers at gunpoint. The military finally released the workers at 9:00pm but the family were not allowed to leave and had to sleep at the factory. When the soldiers left, they left behind broken windows, a broken refrigeration unit essential to the business, and traumatized workers.
This factory makes yogurt, a process that relies heavily on refrigeration. The soldiers’ senseless destruction of the refrigeration unit, which is essential to the products, has created a significant problem for the business. Meanwhile, workers are afraid to return to work, and the company is now forced to sell their products quickly at a discount due to the lack of refrigeration. It is no wonder that tensions are raised by these daily aggressions from the occupation that impact the lives and livelihood of ordinary businessmen and families. What will be the future impact of such traumatic experiences on the young children present?
This is just one example of the collective punishment the Israeli occupation carries out against innocent families and businesses going about their daily lives. Since the Hamas incursion, the Israeli military has been swift and brutally violent, not only in their horrifying attacks on the civilians of Gaza but throughout the West Bank, where families daily mourn loved ones shot by live fire from US-funded weapons in the hands of the Israeli military.
In al Khalil/Hebron, day-to-day life has ground to a stop where schools and checkpoints are closed, and residents are unable to leave their homes or move about the city. Limited access is given a few hours a day for people to gather supplies. In the Tel Rumeideh district, for instance, there is a curfew. Soldiers allow residents to go out between 2:00pm and 2:30pm and between 6:00pm and 7:00pm. If anyone returns late they face a beating by the soldiers. On 11 October, soldiers beat two youths because they missed the curfew and they were not allowed home that night.
Returning from the factory that day, CPT-Palestine witnessed how one-sided this military repression is. The IOF soldiers challenged CPT presence, objecting to us taking photos of an Israeli settler throwing stones on the Palestinian residents below, but nothing was done to stop the stone throwing. The Palestinian population, who are the victims of 75 years of illegal occupation are the ones who are punished, not the Israeli settlers who provoke conflict.
The next day as we walked along the street near the Herbawi factory the soldiers were again present on the rooftop. They shouted at us, pointing guns, not allowing us to pass by. Earlier that day as we made our way up an alternative route, we passed an elderly disabled lady, laden with heavy shopping bags, forced to take a long and steep alternative route to her home.
These are just some of the frightening and humiliating acts that residents face daily as they try to go about their work and family life. The tension is palpable on the faces of the people we meet. How can this violence not lead to ever more violence? Nonetheless, the people of Hebron impress us with their determined non-violent resistance. At the Emad Herbawi factory the next day, the family, along with their children, were working hard to make up for the workers who feared to return, and were busily packaging their products to keep the factory going.
Every time we visit an open business, despite the empty streets, the shop owners and factory workers show their resistance by refusing to close, refusing to give in. They are determined to hold on to their homes, their livelihoods, and their land.