Moving house in Hebron: Mission all but impossible
Since the mid-1990s, the Israeli military has imposed a policy of segregation in the center of Hebron. As part of this policy, major streets in the area have been declared off limits to Palestinians, some entirely and others only to vehicles. One street on which Palestinians are only allowed on foot is a-Sahla Street, which lies south of al-Haram al-Ibrahimi (the Tomb of the Patriarchs). Checkpoints have been placed at either end of the street – Checkpoint 160 at one end and the Pharmacy Checkpoint at the other.
On Friday, 7 July 2017, ‘Abd al-Jaber Hadad (26) was preparing to move with his wife and two children from an apartment they had rented in the neighborhood of Jabal Juhar to a more spacious apartment on a-Sahla Street. The new apartment lies just five meters away from the Pharmacy Checkpoint.
At around midday, ‘Abd al-Jaber went with three cousins – Shadi, Fadi and Nadi Abu Sneineh – to the Pharmacy Checkpoint with a truck loaded with the contents of their apartment. After unloading the furniture, they asked the soldiers to let them through the checkpoint. The soldiers refused and told them to take the furniture through Checkpoint 160, about a kilometer away.
The four men had no choice but to reload the furniture on the truck, and ‘Abd al-Jaber and Shadi drove it to Checkpoint 160.
In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 7 August, ‘Abd al-Jaber described what happened next:
Shadi and I left the light stuff at the Pharmacy Checkpoint for Nadi and Fadi to carry by hand. We drove the truck with the furniture to Checkpoint 160. When we got there, we asked the Border Police officers to let us through but they refused to let the truck pass. We unloaded all the furniture again, which was exhausting because it’s heavy and the day was very hot. Then I went to get Nader a-Rajabi from a-Salaimeh neighborhood, to help me transport the furniture through the checkpoint in his donkey cart.
Meanwhile, Fadi and Nadi carried the lightweight load – cushions, blankets, kitchenware – through the gate at the Pharmacy Checkpoint. An altercation developed between Nadi, 19, and a Border Police officer. Shuruq Hadad, ‘Abd al-Jaber’s wife, was waiting at the new apartment to receive the furniture.
She related what happened in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 7 August:
Checkpoint 160 is about a kilometer from our new apartment. The kids helped carry the furniture, which was very difficult and tiring.
I was our new home, arranging the furniture that my husband and his cousins had managed to bring over, when I heard shouting. I looked out the window and saw Nadi arguing with a Border Police officer. They were shouting and swearing at each other. I also saw my daughter Mayar carry a few cushions and clothes through the turnstile and lay them down on the floor. I saw another Border Police officer pick up the things she’d put down and take them into an electronic inspection in a room at the checkpoint. Nadi and the three police officers there got very angry and shouted at each other.
I was worried that things would deteriorate and ran over to Checkpoint 160 to tell my husband what was happening. He ran back with me to the Pharmacy Checkpoint. Nader a-Rajabi followed us with his cart. Nadi and Fadi were at the checkpoint arguing with the police officers. Two vehicles drove up and several Border Police officers got out, including a commander. They handcuffed Nadi and took him to the police station at al-Haram a-Sharif. We went back to carrying the furniture from Checkpoint 160. The officer at the Pharmacy Checkpoint gave us back the cushions and clothes he’d taken from Mayar.
In the evening, when we finally had everything inside the new house, I discovered that some of our possessions had been broken, the clothes were dirty and some of the furniture was ruined.
At the police station, Nadi fainted. He was taken to ‘Aliyah Hospital in Hebron, where he was diagnosed with fatigue and sent home several hours later.
Israel’s policy of segregation and restricting the movement of Palestinians in central Hebron, coupled with abuse, violence and daily harassment by security forces and settlers, have made life there intolerable for Palestinians. As a result, thousands have moved out of the area. The tight military control and Israel’s policy of segregation gives rise to absurd situations in which even ordinary acts such as moving house is physically and logistically all but impossible, involving massive efforts and damage to property – not to mention the emotional cost of risking confrontation and punishment.