By Returned EA Helen. Helen recently returned to the UK after serving as an EA with EAPPI in Israel and occupied Palestine.
Sundus says life in Tel Rumeida is difficult. “We are in a prison here. There are checkpoints and they will add another two checkpoints so it will be more and more difficult. We can’t see our friends and our friends can’t come here. Also my relatives. No-one can visit here. So it is really difficult for me to be here”.
Checkpoint 56 [Photo: EAPPI/Helen]
In 2003 Sundus’ family moved from Halhul, just outside Hebron, to Tel Rumeida. She was ten years old and attended the nearby Cordoba School. She is now studying at university in Hebron. She stays here for the moment but goes on to say “My family will stay in Tel Rumeida but for me my future is not in Tel Rumeida. In Hebron maybe or outside Palestine but not in Tel Rumeida. My family will stay in Tel Rumeida but my future is not here.”
Tel Rumeida is in the historical centre of the city of Hebron. Under the terms of the 1997 Hebron Protocol, an agreement intended to be temporary, Hebron was divided in to H1 – managed by the Palestinian Authority – and H2. Tel Rumeida is in ‘H2’, which is under Israeli control. The population of H2 consists of approximately 40,000 Palestinians and 500-800 Israelis in four settlements.
Approximately 2,000 Palestinian live in Tel Rumeida and the nearby Al-Shuhada Street. In 2015 the area was declared a Closed Military Zone (CMZ) and while there are reports of this having been lifted in 2016 it remains that only Palestinians registered with the army as residents are allowed through the Israeli-controlled checkpoints to reach their homes. Relatives and friends that live outside the area are not allowed in without special clearance. It is also difficult to get workmen such as electricians and plumbers to visit and white goods like washing machines delivered.
Next door to Sundus lives Nisreen – she moved to Hebron in 1993, when she married Haseem – Sundus’ uncle. She was widowed in October 2015. During clashes in the city between Palestinians and the Israeli military her husband was taken ill with breathing problems and chest pains. Nisreen believes these were exacerbated by the military’s use of tear gas. She explains that the ambulance was delayed, so he was carried to the nearest checkpoint on a makeshift stretcher where he was held up for a further ten minutes. He was pronounced dead in hospital. Nisreen’s relatives from outside the area were not able to visit her to offer their condolences, and her brothers and sisters are still not able to visit her in her home.
Just behind Tel Rumeida, overlooking their houses, is the Ramat Yeshai settlement, which was established in 1984 and approved by the Israeli state in 1998. It is one of four Israeli settlements in Hebron, all of which are illegal under international law.
Ramat Yeshai settlement [Photo: EAPPI/Helen]
Nisreen and Sundus both speak of repeated attacks and harassment from settlers.
Sundus said: “I have been attacked many times physically. I have had stones thrown at me. I got injured because of the stones. I got arrested because of them and I do nothing bad. They attacked us and I was arrested because they attacked me. I was arrested with my brother. My brother was 16, I was 19 we were on the way to my house we saw an Israeli settler car, it’s a minibus, and my brother only knocked on the end of the Israeli settler bus, The Israeli immediately got out of his car and beat my brother and beat me. In that time he also hauled my brother and pushed him into the end of the car. He went to the police station and filed a complaint so they came and arrested us…we spent six hours in the police station.”
But Sundus is optimistic for the future and she has not lost hope. She ended saying: “The view is beautiful. The area is beautiful. What makes the area ugly is the occupation.”
The view from Sundus’ roof. [Photo: EAPPI/Helen]
Helen has now returned from Hebron. You can invite her to speak. Please email email@example.com if you would like to host her.