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From the field

J.'A. works in Israel without a permit and lives in fear of the police; he prays to get through unscathed every time he undertakes the perilous journey from home to work,

Palestinian workers run through gap in Separation Barrier, southern West Bank. Photo: ‘Ammar ‘Awad, Reuters, 6 July 2013. Click on photo to enlarge
Palestinian workers run through gap in Separation Barrier, southern West Bank. Photo: ‘Ammar ‘Awad, Reuters, 6 July 2013. Click on photo to enlarge

I live in Beit Ula in the Hebron District of the West Bank. I work in construction in the city of Beersheba in Israel. I don’t have a work permit. Once the police caught me and I was sent to prison. I’ve been engaged for over a year but we can’t get married because I have no money. That’s why I decided to enter Israel to work despite not having a permit. I work in very tough conditions and am constantly afraid that the police will arrest me, especially because the legal proceedings from the last time I was caught are not yet over. I know it’s very dangerous, but I have no choice. There are no jobs where I live. I have to work to save money so I can get married and start a family, and also to help my parents and bothers and sisters.

I’ve been away from home for more than two months, and I may stay in Israel another month. In all this time, I haven’t seen my family or my fiancée. I really miss her. I didn’t choose this path. I have no choice.

I go through a hole in the fence of the Separation Barrier by the village of a-Ramadin, which lies on the border with Israel. When I get there, I wait for hours on end and sometimes a whole day until I’m sure it’s safe to cross. Only then do I go through, and I say a prayer while I’m climbing through. I also recite prayers when I’m on the way with the Bedouin driver. He really speeds and I’m terrified they’ll catch us or that we’ll crash. It’s a very dangerous journey and I don’t want to go through it every week. That’s why I stay on the construction site for as long as possible.

I keep hearing about laborers that the police caught near the border. I’ve heard that they shoot at the workers, and some were even killed. I’m anxious not only when I cross the border, but also at work. I keep checking to see if there are any policemen around. I know that they often come to construction sites, looking for illegal Palestinian workers. They come by day and at night. I flee to nearby buildings and hide, waiting for them to leave. At night, I sleep with my eyes open because I’m so nervous and scared.

All I have is a mattress and a blanket. I move from place to place, depending on the security situation. At night, I cover the windows with plastic sheeting because it’s so very cold. I don’t even light a fire, so as not to attract the attention of the police.

I never leave the area of the construction site. I feel like I’m in a prison of my own choosing. I only go from where I work to where I sleep. I prepare food with the other laborers and ask friends with permits to buy me groceries. I prefer to make my own food so I can save money. There are no facilities where I sleep - no toilet, no sink or shower and no electricity. I have no choice. You just have to make do.

Every morning I thank God that I got through another night without being arrested. I keep telling myself that this suffering is my only option.

J.'A., 27, of Beit Ula in the Hebron District is engaged to be married. As he was at his place of work at Israel, he gave his testimony by telephone on 20 April 2015 to Musa Abu Hashhash, B’Tselem field researcher in the Hebron District.