She moved into her house 8 years ago. Her front door, which leads out onto Shuhada Street, is welded shut. Like all Palestinians in the city she is not allowed to walk up or down Shuhada ‘apartheid’ Street.
Shuhada Street has been closed to Palestinians since the attacks on Muslim worshippers at the Ibrahimi mosque in 1994. It used to be one of the central economic and cultural streets in the city. It still houses many Palestinian families who must use long, convoluted routes to get to and from their homes. They cannot use their front doors because they lead onto Shuhada Street.
Zleikha told Youth Against Settlements about her own and her elderly mother’s experiences with harassment and attacks during a short spell between 2007-2009 when the road was reopened to Palestinian residents of the street.
In 2006 Youth Against Settlements took the issue of Shuhada Street with its apartheid functioning to Israeli court. They won the case and the judge ordered that residents of the road should be able to freely use their front door to enter the street. A year later residents were issued with permits and were promised security protection by the Israeli military, because they knew their presence would be met with hostile reactions from the settlers who use the road on a daily basis.
However, the promises of security and the assurances of safety for Palestinians were not kept. The first time that Zleikha used the street was in the presence of an international group. She faced hostility from settlers; they tried to block Palestinians from walking on the street and they tried to start fights. Soldiers frequently detained Zleikha between 10 minutes to 1 hour to ‘check’ her permit.
In 2008, once again in the company of internationals, Zleikha was blocked by a settler. She tried to continue giving the tourists a tour of the apartheid system in place in the city, but she was stopped and blocked by the notorious and extremist settler Anat Cohen who called the police. Soldiers and police officers attended the scene quickly and made Zleikha stand at a distance from the international group. She was made to show her permit to be on the street and was told that it did not apply on this stretch of Shuhada Street. Soldiers forced her into a military jeep and drove her back to her house. They said they would not arrest her on this occasion due to her ‘good conduct.’
Not only was Zleikha frequently harassed and denied the right of passage by settlers and soldiers, but the military also failed to keep their promise to protect the Palestinian residents on the street. On one occasion, Zleikha’s elderly mother was kicked and verbally abused by a group of settlers. The military responded by sending her out of the area.
In June 2012 Zleikha’s front door was welded shut. She was not informed. It was a response to an action by Palestinian and international women who were working with locals to reopen Shuhada Street. Protesters had entered the street through Zleikha’s front door. Then doors were broken down in the neighbourhood, including the entrance to Zleikha’s kindergarten. Settlers claimed that Zleikha’s visiting brother was the house owner, and he was then arrested and detained over night despite his health problems. The army then took action to ensure that the door could never be opened again and welded it shut.
Zleikha was able to use Shuhada Street for a total of one year between 2007-2009. She was given a 3 month permit that had to be renewed at the end of this time. There was up to 4 months between each renewal, and in 2009 the police refused to renew the permit again, citing security reasons.