He gently took my hand. Almost caressed it, wishing to know how I felt. His gaze created intimacy. His eyes were kind. Both his handshake and his eyes were tender, tender but penetrating. I knew, knew immediately that he had experienced something. Something that had affected him deeply.
I had had to climb over the wall from his neighbor. It was partially dismounted. There was no longer a path to the house. Everything was blocked. Directly behind the house, on top of a small hill, was a long house. Israeli flags were draping the windows. I saw a man sitting with an automatic weapon. We looked at each other. He did not seem to like my presence. He was an Israeli settler. He was my host’s neighbor.
Within a few meters; one who tries to steal the land and homes, another who just wants to remain. Stay in the house that had been his family home for so long. The settler with the automatic weapon, on the other hand, had not lived there for very long. They came and went. Many did not stay long.
Hashem had no enemies. But Hashem was hated, hated by the settlers. Right here, they were planning to continue the expansion. Could wait but did not want to wait too long. It was like different groups of criminal settlers were competing against each other. To win meant to be the one who expanded the fastest. But Hashem’s house was in the way.
Hashem’s wife Nisreen welcomes me. While she tells me how they had broken the window last night, Hashem sets the table. Nisreen is carrying a little girl. The family is growing. I see that she is not comfortable talking about last night’s events. It had been a large group. They had been loud. It was the neighbors, up on the hill, just behind the house. They had broken the window and woken up the whole family. She told me with a sad voice that there was no one to call; the Israeli soldiers would not come in the middle of the night to ward off the settlers. They would not come during the day either. They never came.
Her neighbor at the front had also been hit. They did not dare to go outside either. They only had one another and the two families tried to support each other.
We sit at the table. Hashem begins to talk about the destroyed grapevines and olive trees. Nisreen sits beside him. Has her hand on his shoulder. Supporting him. Now the worry is gone. Sometimes she fills in. Adds where Hashem forgets or misses something important. That time they had also come during the night. The family had a few grapevines and olive trees along the path between the house and the wall. One morning they were all cut off. The roots remained as well as the crowns but in between there was a small gap. One can kill in many ways. The settlers use all the means at their disposal.
Some young settler girls came a few nights ago. They rushed toward the house. Shouted ‘whore’ at Nisreen and ‘bastards’ at her children. They screamed like maniacs. For a while, they were on all sides. In the morning, Hashem started clearing up. Washed the walls clean of feces. They had painted Stars of David on the doors. As he cleaned the path leading to the door, with the sawed off olive trees and grapevines on one side, they continued to throw garbage and feces.
When we sit at the table we see a woman and a man, a wife and husband who are so fused together that nothing can come between them. They are committed to each other and for their right to live in their own house. They are very alone where they are sitting. I can see dignity, I can feel dignity. For a moment, I am envious of their inner strength. Not of anything else.
I listen, taking in every word, every movement. There is a calm in the room. We share the bread that Nisreen has just baked. It is warm. Warm like the warmth of being together. There is a constant stream of people to this table. We come from all over the world. It will be a meal that stays within all of us. That transforms.
I think about the crazy people who are allowed to continue doing what they are doing. That a few hundred individuals are protected by thousands of soldiers. It becomes so clear that they should not be here. No settlers, no Israeli soldiers. Large parts of the Israeli project are illegal. Violate normal human relations.
Nor should trees be cut down or burned. We do not like to see feces on doors. Within me, I become deeply sad when I see a Star of David in the wrong place. I do not understand how someone can come up with the idea of painting this particular symbol on a Palestinian home.
For all of us who had the privilege of visiting Hashem and his family, what was going on there and is allowed to continue was incomprehensible. It still continues while country after country intensifies their relations with the occupying power.
More than twenty years ago, apartheid ended in South Africa. We thought, then, that it would never return. We were wrong. In Palestine, apartheid deepens day by day, and virtually all western countries allow it to continue. And on each bullet that is used to oppress and degrade Palestinians, there is an invisible dollar sign. A flow of huge amounts of dollars are transferred to Israeli bank accounts so that the oppression in Hebron and other places can continue.
A few days ago, Hashem was killed. Hashem did not come home and his wife today mourns her beloved husband. His three children, the eldest of whom is 13 years old, do not understand why their father is never coming back.
In the house above theirs, they can hear celebration. Victory songs are being sung while continuing to shout ‘whore’ and ‘bastards’. The soldiers look away. Let the crazy people continue to be crazy. The international community also lets the madmen continue. No obligations are placed on Netanyahu to end the occupation. The criminals are fully protected.
Yesterday, a 73‐year old woman was killed. She was driving her car in Hebron, on her way to lunch. An 11‐second movie is published on the web. An Israeli soldier seems to have had enough. Perhaps he has witnessed far too much of the madness. Nobody knows.
I know that many murderers are on the loose in Hebron. Innocent people are being killed. Sometimes you get killed while driving past some Israeli soldiers, or while opposing the illegal occupation, the ongoing colonization of Palestine, or you are killed while questioning the Israeli oppression, an oppression that has led to apartheid.
Palestinians have been deprived of their human rights. To resist is a crime.