Humsah, Khirbet Makhul
Najia of Khalat Makhoul was arrested on Monday, October 18, 2021, on the imaginary claim that she had thrown a stone at the car of one of the settler-colonists of the illegal outpost at Umm Zuka. Najia has a 3-month-old baby daughter and another 8 children and she keeps up the entire family household. She resembles a busy bee that does not rest for a single moment, from sunrise until sundown. All day she is busy working at home. I have never seen her even get close to the road, certainly not throwing stones at cars.
At the Binyamin police station, the baby was taken from her, and given to her husband who was not allowed to enter the station and waited all those hours outside, together with activists of the Jordan Valley Coalition who came to support the family. Two hours later, the baby began to cry – she was hungry – and the police refused to let her inside to her mother to be fed. For 5 hours the hungry baby screamed and was not appeased although the activists bought a bottle and milk powder and tried to feed her. The little one is used to being breast fed, and refused. At the Binyamin station, in the meantime, sat mother Najia, shackled hands and feet, heard her daughter’s screams, and wept. Violence – plain and simple.
Temperatures have begun to sink now, the end of October is here. The baby is only 3-months-old, outside. Amir ran to buy her a blanket, which did not suffice. Now, a week later, the baby is still ill and suffers from a harsh cough.
The next night, at midnight, a barrage of stones was hurled at Majia’s house. Settler-colonists from the nearby outpost left their car on the road and silently approached the encampment. Since then she has not slept at night – as if the trauma at the station was not enough, she constantly sees possibilities: after all these guys are crazy, and no one stops them. What if they decide to burn her and her children? It is painful to see this energetic woman so anxious. Nearly not functioning. But when clients arrive to order cheeses, the old Najia appears, assertive, argumentative and getting her prices.
It is the autumn break now (since the Muslim calendar has hardly any holidays, Palestinians celebrate the seasons as in Europe) so the children are home. Their laughter and yells sound a bit louder, making one forget the troubles for a bit.
Yusef went to town – Tamoun – in the central West Bank. He dressed up and sent the children to catch two hens, which he will sell there, and buy food for the family. They have about 50 chickens around the home and inside too, but in the summer they hardly lay more than 4 eggs a day. The family numbers 10 persons…
Rima, wife of Ashraf, the younger brother of Yusef and Burhan, was busy preparing maklouba (a rice dish) without meat. (The shepherd communities hardly ever eat meat, they cannot afford it). She is expected to give birth in ten days, and is having a heavy time. She invited us as guests of honor at her brother’s wedding next week, and naturally for the maklouba she had just made. We refused and said we’d come for the big meal after the baby comes. Rima has a new kitchen, with a stone sideboard and cabinets that close with a curtain. There’s a sink, but no faucet – so a bowl of water helps wash the wishes. The stove, on the other hand, is in terrible shape. There are stones on the floor that hardly provide a steady fire for cooking. Suddenly a strong flame leapt up and onto her shirt, as she was stirring the maklouba pot. What a fright!
The electricity, promised them a month ago, has not arrived. The battery went dead two years ago and ever since they live without electricity, no fridge, no washing machine, and hardly any light. There are connections and light bulbs on the ceiling, but the current is extremely low. Just for lighting.
We met Burhan near Ashraf’s tent. He has aged much lately. His hard life, settler-colonist attacks (a week ago he was pepper strayed in the face by a settler-colonist) and health issues make this dear man, 48-years-old, look much older than he really is. He was on his way to the doctor.
We went to visit his wife and the girls, but Rima’s daughters jumped into our car and refused to get out. So we took them along. That is why we didn’t stay for ‘tea or coffee?’ with Burhan’s wife, whom we were happy to see after her 3-month absence from the valley. There is no milking in the summer and it’s very hot, so she goes with her girls to Tamoun which is higher up in the hills, and Burhan is left to take care of the farm. Since Makhoul was demolished in 2013, Burhan has not slept for a single night outside his tent. The demolition made him hold on to his land all the more strongly.
Everyone is asking for backup batteries and vehicle chargers to charge their phones – two important and valuable products ever since Israel demolished the entire village and its solar panels in November 2020.
Palestine asked me to market almonds for her. Now, at the end of summer, the flock has nothing left to graze (they take the flock out so the animals move around, but there’s nothing left to eat). Barley costs 1,350 a ton. So they buy almonds, peel them and let the sheep and goats eat the peels. They eat the almonds and try to sell them to feed the very poor families. With help from our friends, we bought 30 kilos of almonds from them.
When we arrived, the women and men argued – whose guests would we be. The women won. Gender solidarity… It was fun to sit with them, gossip and yack as women do all over the world. The weather in the afternoon is nice and cool and the atmosphere warm.
During the hour and a half that we spent there, came two very low fly-overs of heavy aircraft (transport or photography), and they made an incredible noise above our heads. I thought how unpleasant it must be to live this way, with such exposed, threatened feeling… Mahmoud, my year-and-a-half old friend who was sleeping when we arrived, woke up with a start from the planes, and all through our visit hid among his mom’s dresses, and only his large eyes looked at me, scared.