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From the field

A family forced to leave her house in H2 area in Hebron

Na'imah Ahmad, 55

Na'imah Ahmad

I live with my husband and five of my children in a rented place on Ras a-Jura, in H-1. We pay rent of 1,300 Jordanian dinars a years. Two of my daughters study at university. My son Firas, 23, studied mechanical engineering and is presently unemployed. Bashar, 26, is a computer engineer. He started work not long ago. Taysir, 18, is in school. My husband works as a guard in al-Haram a-Ibrahimi [Tomb of the Patriarchs] and earns 900 shekels a month in the framework of the unemployment program. I have a son who is studying and working in the US , and another son, 'Abd a-Razaq, who is married and lives in his own home.

At the end of May 2006, we moved into our current dwelling. Before that, we had rented a place in the Old City of Hebron, in H-2, where we paid rent of 280 dinars a year. The house was close to the entrance to the Avraham Avinu settlement, opposite the Waqf's offices. Prior to the intifada, six families lived in the building. We lived on the fourth floor.

We lived there for twenty-two years. While there, I gave birth to three children, and my other children grew up there. We had problems there because the Israeli army used our roof as a lookout and because of our proximity to the settlers. Despite that, it was OK. The big children and I knew how to manage. Once, the settlers beat 'Abd a-Razaq and afterwards he was imprisoned on charges the settlers made up. When Bashar was sixteen, he was arrested for a dispute he had with a soldier.

When the present intifada began, the situation deteriorated. The settlers' and soldiers' attacks increased. The army imposed more stringent restrictions on the area. Every day, the settlers threw stones at our windows. They destroyed the electricity meters, threw garbage into the entrance to the building, and beat our sons. More than once, they tried to break into our place and assault us. They assaulted us almost every day. Besides, the army imposed a curfew for many weeks and fired at Palestinian houses arbitrarily. Our water tanks were destroyed as a result.

In the summer of 2001, we had to leave the apartment. We could no longer stand the assaults and the hardship. We rented a place in al-Kawaz at a rent of 1,400 dinars a year. We lived there for eight months. Then we moved back to the apartment in the Old City because my husband stopped working and we had almost no money. We saw that, while we were away, settlers had broken into the apartment, stole things, and destroyed everything that was there. I filed a complaint with the Israeli police. We lived there even though the settlers continued to attack us and despite the curfew. Later, the area was declared a closed military area. There was a checkpoint at the entrance to the building, and to pass we needed an identity card. After each attack on Israelis, they took out their vengeance on us and imposed a harsh curfew. To continue at school, my sons and daughters had to go and live with their grandfather in H-1.

Three years ago, my daughter Hanaa, who is now twenty-one, was scheduled to take her final exams at high school. The day of her English exam, soldiers blocked the way and said it was forbidden to pass. I argued with the soldiers for more than an hour, and finally managed to convince them to let her leave the building so she could get to school. She arrived at school about an hour after the test had begun. She failed the exam.

Almost nobody remains in the neighborhood, only two families and us. Most of the neighbors left to go to H-1. We lived in isolation, like in prison. Despite the suffering, our poor financial situation made it impossible for us to move. Later, the settlers took control of the Waqf building [the settlers were subsequently removed, by court order, and the building is now closed]. They torched the places that were vacated in the neighborhood. The situation got worse, and the army increased the restrictions and supervision. I was close to having a mental breakdown. The settlers started to go on the roof of the Waqf building and throw stones at us. We felt more isolated than ever before. We were frightened and felt we were in a dangerous situation, and that things were getting more and more complicated. It was impossible for us to continue living in the apartment.

In late May 2006, despite the pain in doing so, we decided to move. We rented a place in Ras a-Jura, in H-1. It wasn't easy to move. We had to carry furniture on our shoulders through the checkpoint and the iron revolving door. They didn't let anybody help us, and by law, it was forbidden to bring a moving van into the area. We dragged our things and furniture through the market, a distance of about 300 meters. It took us three days to move everything.

Our life here is much easier. Our fears and worries are gone. I feel that my children are safe. I also feel free. Guests who haven't visited us in years come by. In the other place, prior coordination was required for visitors to come to our home. Now it is easy for me to do the shopping, without being searched and delayed. The car comes right up to the entrance of the building. Everything is easier.

The aggression of the settlers and the army is past history [for us]. Safety is the most important thing. I feel as if Allah had mercy on me by moving me from that area, although I miss the old house. I lived there half my life. All our memories are from there. Once, I went there with my daughters. They stood facing the building and cried.

I pray that Allah will let us return, but how is that possible if the settlers are still there? It was impossible to live there. Better to live in a tent than in a house surrounded by the army and settlers.

Na'imah Muhammad Na'im Nu'man Sayyed Ahmad, 52, marreid and mother of seven, is a homemaker and a resident of Hebron . Her testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash at her new home on 18 December 2006.