Abu Eisheh Family

Location: Tel Rumeida, in the middle of what is now the Ramat Yashay settlement.
Members of household: 13
Abu Samir, head of the household, and his second wife.
Abu Samir’s son, Taiser, and his wife and children.
Taiser’s eldest son, Mohammad, his wife and daughter.

(Abu Samir has two daughters from his first wife and one daughter from his second second wife who are married and living elsewhere in Hebron. He has two other sons who live elsewhere)

Abu Samir was born in 1935 in the old city. He moved to the site and built his home in Tel Rumeida in 1965 or 67. He cannot remember when exactly, but knows that it was before the occupation. His first wife died after having 3 children, after which he married again. In total he has 6 children, all of whom, except for Taiser, need permission to come to the house. Abu Samir has over 50 grandchildren. Abu Samir also has farmland just outside of Hebron, which 2 of his sons look after. They grow lots of grapes, olives, fig trees, nectarines, tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes, to feed their family.

There were 7 siblings in Abu Samir’s generation. The first 4 were born in the Old City, the last 3 in Beit Hadassah. This was where Abu Samir’s father had a business with Yakob Isra, a Jewish man, keeping sheep and goats. Abu Samir’s father would gather the milk and Yakob Isra would turn it into cheese and other dairy products. Abu Samir remembers the Jews and Muslims living happily together in Beit Hadassah until 1948 when the Jews left to go to Tel Aviv and other places in the new Israeli state. The families have stayed in touch however. They used to visit each other in Jerusalem until 1990 when restrictions on movement between the two places were increased.

When the settlers arrived in Tel Rumeida in 1983, Abu Samir thought the new arrivals would be neighbourly but they started to throw stones, shouting “go to Jordan” and “this land is for us”.

They have countless police reports from incidents of settlers attacking them, including two bullets shot into their home through the front windows. Despite having video footage from their CCTV installed by B’Tselem, there has only ever been one arrest made. This was at some point around 2000. Shalom al-Kobe, a settler from another settlement, broke through the door into their house and fought with Taiser. Taiser went to the hospital and police and Shalom al-Kobe was arrested.  Abu Samir says he does not go to the police station every time something happens because if he did he would be living at the police station, not in his home. Abu Samir has made the most police reports in Hebron. When the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, Ehud Olmert, heard about this, he publicly apologised to the family for the settler violence. Yet this was followed by absolutely no change on the ground. Abu Samir asks, “Who are the terrorists?”

In 1997 the family met Yasser Arafat and told him about the settler violence. He paid for protective wire mesh grill to be fixed to the front of the house and over the courtyard, as well as corrugated iron sheeting. Before then they could not use their living room as stones were always being thrown in, and they would cut their feet on the glass if they entered.

Abu Samir cannot fix his home, despite asking for permission for many years. On the third attempt, permission has recently been granted for the materials to be brought to the house. However, permission has not been given for the workmen to come through, rendering the first permission useless. In contrast, settlers have built new homes right up to the edge of the road, something which is forbidden for Palestinians. The settlers did not originally receive permission to build as the area is believed to be the site of an important grave. However pressure from the political right wing in Israel has succeeded in allowing them to build. The settlers are allowed to build for their large families, but the Palestinians are not.

The land next door to the home belonged to Abu Samir’s father and the family had a brass factory here. About 4 years ago the army forbid the family from opening their factory. At this point Abu Samir and Taiser opened up two clothes shops in H1. They have to go past 4 checkpoints to get from their shop to their home. While the soldier at the checkpoint at the end of their road sees them every day he still asks to see their ID almost every time.

Abu Samir is no longer allowed to bring his car onto the street and when he asked how he was going to bring things to the house, the soldiers told him to buy a donkey. Settlers now use his parking space, and often park right in front of the entrance to the house, making it difficult for the family to get in and out.

Taiser’s son Mohammad and his wife got married in H1. Prior to the wedding, they talked to the Red Cross about getting permission to bring bedroom furniture for him and his wife to the house. When the lorry came to bring the bed, however, the settlers threw stones at it as it was the first Palestinian vehicle on the street in 12 years.

When Abu Samir’s first wife died permission was denied for the car to bring the body right up to the house for the cleaning rituals; they had to carry her body to the house on their shoulders. The army also will not allow ambulances through to the street. When Taiser’s wife was pregnant they applied for permission for the ambulance 1 month before the due date. Yet when she went into labour the ambulance was held for 1 hour before being able to take her to the hospital. She gave birth to twins but one of them died in labour.

Abu Samir is involved in a group of Palestinians who meet with a group from Israel in Beit Jala as a peace making initiative. Being part of this group has enabled him to visit Tel Aviv and other places in the 1948 territories.

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