Hebron, Sansana (Meitar Crossing), South Hebron Hills
Have you seen smiling Palestinians?
We came in the early afternoon. There were no laborers at the checkpoint. Normal traffic on Highway 60.
The new neighborhood in the Sham’a settlement is ready to be occupied. From the road it appears new and elegant.
All the entrances to Hebron are open and traffic flows.
We drove to visit the Atta Ja’aberi family. “Where did you disappear to?” they ask happily. “We know it was dangerous for you to come. We’re constantly afraid,” they say. “We go out only if necessary and come right home. Because on the highway  and at the entrance to Hebron the army and police and settlers wander around all night and arrest and shoot. It’s frightening; only last week a young cousin was killed. His car broke down, he went to the gas station at the entrance to Kiryat Arba and they shot and killed him.” Then your media report he was a terrorist. But they shot him for no reason.
Atta, and his brother Yusri, sit with us at the entrance to their home, below the Nofei Mamreh neighborhood. They’re surrounded by their lovely vineyard which is beginning to bud. They say the conflict with Mekorot is continuing. It supplies water once a month to Arab Hebron whose neighborhoods purchase water through a local company. Because of the continuing shortage they laid pipes from the water supply point and were accused of stealing. We have vegetables and vineyards. They don’t supply enough water; of course we have to steal, otherwise everything will dry up, they say. We must dig cisterns and sink wells. They want to dry us out so we’ll give up and leave and they’ll be able to expand Kiryat Arba. But these are our lands, we have a qushan. We were here long before the Jews who arrived after the Six Day War.
Once again the story of the occupation is laid out in all its brutality: the expropriation of land that began in order to build Kiryat Arba in 1968, and which until today has created a constant water shortage. I remember how often the Civil Administration came and destroyed their plastic piping, confiscated the metal pipes and destroyed everything. The entire valley surrounding Hebron is farmland with vineyards and olive groves and vegetable fields that support tens of thousands of people.
We’re in jail, says Atta, don’t we have a right to travel to the sea? To Jerusalem, to Tiberias, like everyone else? Don’t we have a right to travel around the area without fear of arrest and violence? We go from home to work in the fields, a little shopping, and hurry back home and can’t go anywhere.
Have you seen any Palestinians aged 20 or older who are smiling? Have you ever seen one of us smile? There are no smiles; we only suffer, says Atta.
There were court cases regarding Atta’s home on the other side of the road and it had been demolished more than once. Eventually Naomi Betzer, the attorney, fought for him, the court decided in his favor and he rebuilt his home.
In this house, belonging to two of his brothers and his mother, live seventeen people who are trying to survive; they grow vegetables everywhere they can for the family’s consumption.
Of course, they’re not allowed to build an addition. The homes of Nofei Mamreh are just above their heads and they clearly desire to form a contiguous built-up area between it and the other neighborhoods of Kiryat Arba. But the Ja’aberi’s magnificent groves delay the plan, so the war of attrition continues.
What can we say to them, other than be ashamed, and come back again and again to visit them, so they know we care, that there is someone who’ll tell their story? That perhaps the appropriate legal institutions will do them justice?