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How This Palestinian Family Is Protecting Itself from Relentless Attacks by Settlers

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The last house in Burin is actually the second-to-last house. At some point fear drove the Suheib family to abandon their home, the very last house, across from the mountain, after dark; only during daylight hours do they dare spend time inside. The home of the Eid family is a few minutes’ walk away, in the direction of the rest of the village. The Eids refuse to give in, to abandon their well-kept house, in the face of the ongoing intimidation by the settlers on the mountain.

“A fine house,” we tell the hosts as we enter.

“Fine, but not safe,” the owner responds with a bitter smile.

A tour of the Eid residence begins with a presentation of the means of defense and early-warning devices the family has installed during the years the settler pogroms have been taking place. As if Israel’s vaunted cyber unit 8200 was transplanted to a Palestinian village just outside Nablus, in the northern West Bank. The father of the family, Bashar Eid, who’s also the self-appointed security coordinator, stops on the stairs leading to the roof to show us the screens displaying the feed from his security cameras. A split screen reveals views of all the exterior angles of the house. This is where the marauders enter, here is their assault route and this is as far as they get. The memory of Eid’s phone is bursting to capacity with hundreds of clips documenting the attacks on the house and its surroundings in recent years.

Eid spends part of his time, during the day and at night, on the roof. It’s his watchtower. From here the houses of the malevolent Givat Ronen outpost, illegally erected in the late 1990s, are visible on the mountain opposite, about a hundred meters to the east, as the crow flies. Not far away is the settlement of Yitzhar.

The roof of the Eids’ house also bristles with security devices: powerful searchlights that illuminate a large area around the house, cameras and an alarm system that he now activates for our benefit – a scary, oscillating air-raid siren. All of this equipment is installed amid water tanks, satellite dishes and clotheslines. Country life.

The view from the roof evokes a spectacular Tuscany-like landscape of hillside olive groves, plowed fields, lush trees. Nine dunams (2.25 acres) of privately owned groves, already partially plundered when Givat Ronen was built and still being targeted, as the Eids’ struggle to remain on their land. Not a year passes without some of the family’s olive trees being torched, and there is no harvest in which members of the family, along with volunteers – some of them Israelis – who arrive to help, aren’t hurt. The harvested crop, too, is looted by settlers. It’s all documented on Eid’s videos.

Now to the windows of the two-story house: iron bars sandwiched between densely knit metal grilles, which are meant to protect the family against the volleys of stones lobbed at them. The front door is fashioned from heavy metal, as is the lock.

This is home-sweet-home for the Eid family: Bashar, 50, a retired Palestinian police officer who spent 25 years in the force, part of it as the bodyguard of then-Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. To supplement his salary, he did home renovations and farmwork for others living in the village. However, he is no longer able to work, since being wounded in one of the settler pogroms. Manal, his wife, is 38. They have three daughters – Zein, 17, Zumrud, 15, and Jena, 14 – smiling and bashful high-school students. It’s Ramadan, everyone’s home. Two small “LOVE” sculptures are perched on the living room cabinet.

They started building their home five years ago, while meanwhile living in another, smaller home in the village. The violence erupted on the very first day, just after the construction workers had left the site. When Eid arrived the next morning, he found smashed bricks and saw that equipment was missing. Hate graffiti in Hebrew was scrawled on the rocks. Burin is a hilly village, located also near the settlement of Yitzhar.

The latest attack on the Eids occurred just over a month ago, the same night as the pogrom in the neighboring town of Hawara.

Givat Ronen, also known as Sneh Yaakov – established in 1999 in memory of a settler who had been killed near there a few years earlier – is a wild outgrowth of the settlement of Har Bracha, to the northwest. If Givat Ronen makes the news, it’s almost always in the wake of its inhabitants’ violence and thuggery.

The most serious attack on the house and the family took place in June 2022. Eid was wounded and confined to bed for a time in An-Najah University Hospital in Nablus. A photograph from that period shows him with his arm in a cast and his leg and head bandaged, leaning on a crutch. He was hit by the settlers’ stones and then beaten, in the presence of his daughters and wife, as he lay helpless on the road near his house. In another attack, a settler tried to drag Zumrud, when she was younger, up onto his horse. On one occasion settlers called out to Bashar, “We’ll do to you and your daughters what we did to the Dawabsheh family in Duma” – referring to the firebombing of a Palestinian home in 2015 that claimed three lives.

Every year, Eid says, he loses a few olive trees to arson attacks. His car was also set ablaze a few months ago by settlers, an incident fully documented by the security cameras. The footage shows a settler arriving with a container of fuel, dousing the dilapidated car and then setting it aflame. Burin has a fire truck but the settlers prevented it from reaching the site, Eid adds. He was able to save and repair the car, but it now has plastic sheets instead of windows, which were smashed by the settlers during a more recent rampage. The settlers, he says, wait for the fields near the house to dry out in the summer, then set them ablaze as well.

How many attacks have there been on the house? Bashar isn’t able to cite an exact number. But apart from two, they have all occurred in broad daylight. Weekends are especially prone to violence, he says, noting that the number of raiders fluctuates from one incident to the next. They always descend from the hilltop on foot along the winding trail, wielding clubs and sometimes also guns, and they always attack, smash and burn. There they are in the video clips: Most of them are young, some are masked, frequently they wear white shirts. Oh, welcome the Shabbat Queen!

The girls and Manal wanted to leave long ago, but Bashar won’t hear of it. “This is my home,” he declares, raising his voice. “The settlers have to leave, not me.”

Manal: “Sometimes I tell myself that we need to take the girls and move to my family’s home in Biddya” – a small town not far from Nablus, a few kilometers to the north.

For their part, the girls relate that their friends refuse to visit them at home because of the danger that lurks there. In some of the security clips, the sisters can be heard screaming in terror as an attack proceeds. In others, we hear their father warning them, “Look out, girls, look out!” Their mother relates that when her daughters were little, she turned on earsplitting music during attacks in order to drown out the noise from outside. Sometimes, Manal adds, the girls wake up terrified at night and shout that someone has been knocking on the windows of their room, only to discover that no one is there.

One of the villagers lost an eye during the Eid family’s olive harvest. One video clip shows a settler furiously clubbing an Israeli volunteer who came to help the family with their harvest. Another clip, shot through the grille and bars of a window, is truly frightening. On the night of the pogrom in Hawara in February, settlers descending upon Burin made do with stoning the Eids’ house from a distance, possibly because they were in a hurry to get to Hawara (the West Bank town where hundreds of rampaging settlers torched homes and vehicles and generally wreaked havoc, in revenge for the killing of two Israeli brothers). The Givat Ronen settlers took an especially active part in that attack, where a Palestinian was killed, though no one was arrested, of course.

Asked whether they have ever submitted a complaint to the police, the family responds with utter amazement: “The police? The Israeli police?” We feel as if we’ve asked a really stupid question. The attacks, they stress, are perpetrated under the very eyes of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers who guard Givat Ronen. Usually the soldiers arrive at the scene very late, after the fact, apparently giving the rampagers time to do their thing before evacuating them, Eid says.

The wind lashes and whistles outside, and we get a bit anxious. But the family is calm on Monday this week, when we visit, apparently knowing that their uninvited neighbors are taking part that day in the settlers’ mass march to the empty outpost of Evyatar. Of course, maybe on the way back they’ll pay a courtesy call here. Eid’s dream is to amass enough money to build a wall around the whole house, with entry via a barbed-wire gate. But now that he’s unable to work, he lacks the resources to carry out the plan – his hope is that maybe he’ll find people who will help him.

“We will never surrender,” he asserts – and for good measure sets off the wailing, intimidating siren once more.

Article link:
Article source: Haaretz | Gideon Levy |Apr 15, 2023

2023-10-24 01:28:30.000000

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