I was born in Hebron in 1993. I have lived there since then and I still live here today. It is a very beautiful city with many friendly people who love and care about each other. It is also a place where you can find many quality industries, such as the shoe and the glass industries.
The old city of Hebron is also breathtaking. When you walk through it, you get the feeling that you are connected to everything there. Even though it is under occupation, it is still amazing.
The occupation makes Hebron a difficult place to live. There are a lot of restrictions, and we can’t move around freely or do whatever we want. There are quite a few checkpoints in the area, and we are checked by soldiers every time we pass through. It is uncomfortable. It feels as if you are in an open prison.
To say that I am happy in my life would be a lie. I’m not happy, and I never will be until the occupation is over. I know that because of the occupation I will always be late to class because I was stopped at a checkpoint. I will continue to see mothers crying for having lost their sons because of the IDF. I will keep seeing people who lose their houses, and I will never stop seeing so many other kinds of injustice.
The first incident that I remember was when I was seven years old. It was during the Second Intifada. I was so young and naïve—I didn’t understand the conflict or what was happening around me. My older brother, who is now 33 years old, was out with his friends having fun and he didn’t return home. I saw my parents becoming worried about him because the situation really wasn’t safe. They thought that he stayed at his friend’s place. Then, at four in the morning, someone knocked on the door, and when we opened it my brother was standing there, his body covered in blood. He told us that the soldiers caught him when he was walking home at midnight and beat him until they broke his bones. I just gave him a hug and started crying.
Another time, during the last war in Gaza, my 17-year-old brother was coming home from school, and there were clashes on the road between some Palestinian boys and Israeli soldiers. He was shot with a rubber bullet in his hand.
That same summer, my other brother – the one who was beaten in 2000 – was beaten again for not having his ID with him. They broke his hands. I don’t know why they keep beating him – my brother is the most peaceful guy I know!
I once followed a group of settlers who were taking a tour of the old city of Hebron with an Israeli tour guide. This is a tour that takes place every Saturday, specifically for settlers. I didn’t technically follow it, but rather I joined EAPPI [Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel], which follows the group from behind (as we are not allowed to walk beside them or in front of them) to try to avoid any conflicts between the settlers and Palestinians.
The tour guide began by showing the tourists around, telling them stories about the places they would see and visit. When I joined it, I stood next to the corner of a building at one point—meaning that I couldn’t see what was around the corner. When I passed the corner I was faced with a settler pointing his gun at my forehead.
The settler seemed to be in his 30’s, very tall with a beard. I don’t know what he meant with this move, since he didn’t shoot me in the end. He looked very angry, and he didn’t even say sorry or smile to make me feel better. Did he just want to scare me? I wonder, if it had been the presence of the police and the soldiers around him that stopped him from shooting me.
I had never spoken to a settler, until one day when I began speaking to one on Facebook. At the time he said that he hated Arabs and probably wanted us all dead. After having talked to me for a while, he told me how much he liked me, and that I helped change his opinion about Arabs. He turned from hating Arabs to loving them, and that was because of me, which made me happy. It makes me believe that Arabs and settlers could actually like each other; we just need to make other people accept it.
Revenge and Hope
I am a human, and revenge is something inside almost every one of us.
Whenever a war happens, someone gets killed, a child gets arrested, or people are treated badly by the IDF, it makes me lose hope, and it halts all of the good work that I am doing to achieve peace.
But sometimes I would still like to make the other side feel how we feel when their army does certain things to us. Perhaps this would me feel like I was victorious, or that I gained something? And then, I think about it again, and I see how stupid this idea is. And I shouldn’t even be thinking about it.
Everyone reaches a point where he loses hope and says, “I am going to give up and do something drastic.” But if we do anything at all, then it needs to be a good thing and not a silly thing like seeking revenge. The conflict is really complex, and we need strong people to work on solving it with the best solutions and least amount of losses.
I have visited some cities in the West Bank, like Bethlehem and Ramallah, and I have been to Jordan, because I have relatives there. My mother’s family left Palestine during the war of 1967. They can’t come and visit us here, so it’s easier for us to go to them.
But one of my dreams is actually to visit Israel, and this is a dream that I am trying to fulfill. I have lived in Hebron for 22 years, and yet I still have not had the chance to go to Israel. I need a permit to go there, which I applied for twice, but I received a refusal both times saying something along the lines of, “You need a good reason to go to Israel.” Really?! A good reason? I was born here. I don’t need to have a good reason to go to Israel. I should have the right to move freely without waiting for a permit. I don’t want to go and live in Israel, and I’m not a dangerous person. I just want to look around, to visit the mosques and the churches, and to see the beach. I have never been to a beach before.
FutureHebron is my birthplace, but I can’t see myself living here when I'm older. I would rather go to a city like Ramallah or Bethlehem, where I can live more freely. It would be nice if I could get the chance to go abroad to study or to work for a couple of years and then come back, because I love Palestine, and when I have kids I want them to be raised here. It would be nice to teach them how to love their country.