South Hebron Hills, Tue 5.7.11, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
We devoted this tour to the small enclave within the area of the Beit Yattir settlement.
Route 317 leads to the Beit Yattir checkpoint – Beit Yattir’s official name is “Metzudat Yehuda.”
From the road you can see Sussia expanding down the hill. Yehudit says that on her side she can see that many new single-family homes have been built. The checkpoint itself is deserted. We go through, and Beit Yattir is on our right.
Advertisements read, “An open window to Hebron.”
In the midst of the settlement, fenced in on three sides, accessible from the road, two Palestinian families live on two separate plots. One has a windmill, and that’s the one we go to. Our host, Muhammad Gabata, suffers harassment by the settlers around him, is treated badly and discriminated against. He says that he had better relations with the army than with the current civilian security personnel. He has difficulty bringing enough food for his flock through the checkpoint in a truck because of the limitations imposed there. That’s a problem for him. The same is true with respect to the water tanker: he’s not allowed to bring enough water for the large family with 70 members. That’s why he’d rather make a long detour and not go through the checkpoint, but it takes him a long time (and gas is also expensive today). He’s leased land on the other side of the separation fence, but a local settler is making his life miserable, attacking him and his children when they graze their sheep, and rocks thrown by the settlers even broke the arm of Osama, his 7-year-old son. That settler – Danny Shemen – says that the area on which Muhhamad is trying to grow wheat lies west of the Green Line [even though it doesn’t]. In the past they stole part of his crop. He complained to the Hebron police, and apparently some legal procedure is proceeding very slowly. Getting to court creates real financial problems for him.
His ten children and those of others in the area go through the checkpoint twice a day on their way to school and back home. Sometimes the inspections take a long time. All of them have to show up together, hand over their permits for inspection, their schoolbags, sometimes they’re searched in the building off to the side. It frightens the little children, and is very problematic for the girls, some of whom are 10 and 14 years old.
Muhammad says that, at the beginning, they got along with the residents of Beit Yattir, until they began invading their lands and taking them over. His Hebrew is impressive. He learned on his own.
Muhammad expresses the hope that all of us, as human beings, will live together, respecting each other. He asks whether it’s possible for Machsom Watch to be at the checkpoint during the next school year when the children cross.