This week the Israeli occupation forces entered the Umm Al-Khair village in South Hebron Hills, to demolish several homes. I don’t have any words at this point, so I will let Awdah Hathaleen from the Umm Al-Khair community speak to you today:

Imagine at 8 in the morning you receive a message that the demolition forces are close to your home. Then, you receive a call that they have begun to move toward the village. Then, less than three minutes later—what felt like three centuries—you see the Israeli demolition forces entering your village. You see three large bulldozers, Civil Administration vehicles, and dozens of soldiers. 

Here, everyone starts crying and screaming. All the children run to their mothers, who are crying hard too. The mothers run to take what they can out of the homes. Everyone looks and waits to see who remains homeless today.

You see the people running in front of and behind the demolition forces as they pass through the village. The vehicles gather in the middle of the village and stop. All the soldiers get out. Here, all hearts stop from terror and fear. Everyone looks to each other; we try to find words of comfort, but there are none. Our children ask us many questions and we do not answer, because, to be honest, we have no answers. 

The demolition forces advance to one of the oldest tents in the village—the closest structure to the settlement fence, and the tent of the martyr Suleiman Al-Hathlalin who was murdered by the occupation 2.5 years prior. The occupation soldiers stand together in a line to prevent the people from reaching their community tent. They completely destroy it in front of everyone’s eyes. 

At this moment, everyone claims that it is the only tent that will be destroyed. But the suffering continues, and the demolition forces move to the main electricity room in our village. It is destroyed and the occupation is still not satisfied. They continue towards the house of one of the representatives of Umm Al-Khair, a community leader and my cousin. Everyone stands in shock because this house was built 16 years ago, older than many of the buildings in the settlement on the other side of the fence. 

The owner of the house, who is a wonderful friend of everyone, is doing as much as he can. With all his strength he tried to get his belongings out of the house before the demolition. He succeeded in saving some of his possessions, while some remained inside while his house was destroyed above them. Himself, his wife, and their four daughters cried as they watched and from the horror of the sight, many people were crying with them—but we could not do anything. Nobody could.  

Here, for a moment, we all expected that they were finished and would leave now, but the true atrocity became greater than our expectations. The demolition forces continued their way towards one of the largest families in Umm Al-Khair and all their homes were destroyed. All of their homes and everything they owned. The demolition forces finally left after destroying our homes, our hearts, and our dreams. 

Here, our pain begins again. Now, where will these families live? More than 30 people became homeless, most of them children. Can you imagine the scene?

This is exactly what happened in my village Umm Al-Khair, today.  The people in Umm Al-Khair are the most patient people. They have endured too much: the demolition of homes, confiscation of lands, arrests, raids on homes, and most importantly, they watched their leader Hajj Suleiman become martyred 2.5 years ago. Why do those who love peace and justice and those who wish to feel security one day always suffer?

I wish fate had not put us here, but I cannot change that. This day will not be forgotten and will remain stuck in our memories for as long as we live. Remember, we are human beings like you. We have a life we want to live with our families and we have dreams we want to achieve. 

We don’t want to be better than you, but let us be like you and feel equal one day. People here need protection. Do not leave us alone—we are not okay. Please share our words so the world knows, so the occupation does not commit its crimes in secret and the people of Palestine do not suffer in silence. 

– Awdah Hathaleen

Picture of Hannah Redekop

Hannah Redekop

CPT Communications Associate

Send Hannah a note: peacemakers@cpt.org

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