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Daily attacks by settlers on the Abu 'Ayesha family, Tel Rumeida, Hebron

Taysir Abu 'Ayesha,

merchant

Taysir Abu 'Ayesha

I live with my wife and our seven children. Our eldest daughter, Raja, is seventeen. We live on the first floor in a house that lies close to the Ramat Yishai settlement in Tel Rumeida. A road separates us from the settlers' houses. I inherited my apartment. My father lives on the top floor with his wife and children. My father, Raja, and I work in a clothes shop on Bab a-Zawiyya Street.

When the settlement in Tel Rumeida began, there were only caravans. Two years ago, they built a building. Since the beginning of the settlement, my family has suffered from settler violence and harassment. At first, my father tried to treat them like neighbors. He went to their homes on the Sabbath to light candles and bring them grapes, but they assaulted and swore at us. They demanded that we leave our house. My two brothers, Samir and Jamil, left the house because of the settlers' violence. Jamil, 39, left seven years ago. When he left, he had to live in a house that was still under construction. He closed his carpentry shop, which was next to the house, even though he made a good income there, and rented another carpentry shop.

At the beginning of the current intifada, in 2000, the settlers began to attack us more than in the past, and the Israeli army increased the restrictions on movement in the area. One day, the wife of the settler Eitan Fleischman took her car and blocked entry to the street leading to the settlement and our house. She wouldn't move the car until the army closed the roads to Palestinian traffic. The same day, the army closed the roads leading to Tel Rumeida, and they remain closed. Palestinians are forbidden to travel in this area in their cars. We can only go by car to a place two or three hundred meters from our house. I have to carry gas balloons and food on my shoulder from the Bab a-Zawiyya checkpoint on the road that leads up to the house.

In 2000, the settler Noam Federman fired shots from an air rifle at our windows. At first, we thought that it was a regular rifle. When the police came and checked, we learned it was an air gun. The shots pierced holes in the windowpanes. There was a court hearing on the matter, and I was present.

In the first years of the intifada, the army imposed a prolonged curfew on the area, which was interrupted for only short periods. Life for us was almost intolerable. We had to stay at home all the time. On occasion, I fled with some of my children to be with my two brothers, Samir and Jamil, in H-1. Sometimes, we sent the children to their uncle's houses, so they could go to school. They came home to us on weekends.

During the curfew, settlers put some white substance in our well. People from the Red Cross told us that they took water samples and checked them. We don't know the results, but they emptied out the well.

Our family had a factory for melting and casting copper near the entrance to the settlement. About seventeen people worked in the factory. The settlers, among them the wife of Baruch Marzel, filed a complaint with the army, contending that the factory caused smoke pollution and harmed them. In 2002, an order was issued to close the factory. We managed to move a few machines and open a much smaller factory, with three workers, elsewhere.

The most severe attacks took place in the winter of 2002. For example, Shalom Alkoby, Maruch Marzel, and more than ten other settlers broke the side door of the house, entered, beat me and tried to drag me to the road. I grabbed Alkoby by the beard. My father came through the other door with a stick and rescued me. I was hurt in the neck, and the police investigated the matter.

In 2003, my two daughters, Safa and Wafa, got married. We couldn't have the marriage ceremony in the house because of the curfew, since cars couldn't get to our house. We decided to have it at Jamil's and Samir's houses. The curfew was in force, but I managed to sneak my daughters out the back door using a wooden ladder. My father couldn't take part in the ceremony. He didn't want to leave the house unoccupied because he was afraid of what the settlers and army would do. We had to put up a metal-mesh fence around the house to protect against the attacks. Our house is like a cage. The settlers cut the mesh fence more than once. We replaced it with tin panels. We did that also because the windows had been shattered by settlers who threw stones and empty bottles.

One day in 2003, I was walking home with my son Sharif, who was five at the time, and my brother Ibrahim, who was four. A young settler threw hot tea at us, hitting me in the face.

A few times, my daughter Fada has been attacked by stones, beaten and sworn at on her way to school. My father was hit twice in the eye by stones thrown by settlers.

In 2005, my sister Iman, who was then eight, was struck in the head with a stone. On 30 November 2006, Shalom Alkoby tried to run over Fada and Iman when they were on their way to school. He tried that more than once, laughing each time. We complained to the police.

The settlers attack us all the time. They swear at us, throw stones, beat us with clubs, and spray water at us. Everybody in my family has been harmed by these attacks.

About a month ago, at two in the morning, my wife, who was pregnant, started to bleed a lot. We had to go by foot to the 'Aliyah government hospital, about half a kilometer away. We couldn't summon an ambulance that would come to our house. The doctors at the hospital pronounced the fetus dead. If we want an ambulance, we have to coordinate it hours in advance. In most cases, they don't let it through.

We do not suffer only from direct assaults. The restrictions on our movement cause us lots of hardship. Since the beginning of the current intifada, the army has forbidden our relatives to come to our home. It is as if we are living in prison. During the past 'Eid al-Fitr holiday, they didn't let any of my wife's relatives or my father's wife's relatives to reach the house.

Just prior to the 'Eid al-Adha holiday this year, because of our experience on the previous holiday, we spoke with people from the Red Cross and they promised that they would arrange with the Israeli army that our relatives could come to us on the holiday. We gave them the name of our relatives and told all of them that they could come. On the morning of the holiday, our relatives arrived at the Tel Rumeida checkpoint and waited. We spoke with the soldiers and told them that things had been arranged so that our relatives could enter. The soldiers spoke by radio with their base, and they said that we should give them the identity card numbers. We realized it would take lots of time, and they all left and didn't come to our house.

Most soldiers want us to go into the house when there is a confrontation between us and the settlers. Some soldiers identify with us, but they can't do much. They shout at the children throwing stones. The police hear our complaints. We have already filed more than two hundred complaints with the police. Sometimes, we call the police and they don't come. The settlers' attacks go on all the time. The settler children attack us, with the parents encouraging them and standing next to them, because the law doesn't apply to minors. We try to avoid having contact with them. We try not to cross the road, unless we have no choice. The settlers' children play in the road, my children and my small brothers play in the yard behind the house. I bought them pigeons and chickens to take care of rather than go into the road and play opposite the house. In any event, the settlers attack us daily.

Taysir Muhammad Hamed Abu 'Ayesha, 45, married and father of seven, is a merchant and a resident of Hebron . His testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash, at his shop, on 4 January 2007.