A Mother’s Story

2 November 2012

Mohammed, Khatab and Raneem had been missing their father while he was away from home. Now that he was home they finally had a rare chance to play games together, talk about the celebration of Eid, what they did at school and to eat a family dinner together. The children could go to bed with smiles on their faces. Their nice dreams abruptly turned into a nightmare.

In the early hours of Tuesday 30th October a contingent of over 100 Israeli soldiers surrounded the house of Waheed Abu Maria in the small farming village of Beit Ommar, south of Bethlehem.

Waheed is an activist who has spent lengthy periods in the past in Israeli prisons for his resistance activities. For many years now he has lived the life of a farmer and has taken part in no activities which could, in any sense, be considered illegal. Nevertheless, he is highly respected in the village for his resolute refusal to bow down to the Occupation.

The soldiers shone spotlights on the house and demanded, through a loudspeaker,”Everyone leave the house!”. Inside were Waheed, his wife, Umm Hamza, and three of their four children, Raneem (14), Mohammad (11) and Khatab(9). Woken by the lights, the shouting and the sound of military vehicles the family feared for their safety. Waheed advised his wife to take their children, still in their pyjamas, and leave the house, while he remained behind. Mohammad, Khatab.

Umm Hamza, her daughter and two sons left the house and were ordered to walk a short distance up the road and sit down in the roadway. The children were both scared and cold because they did not have any time to get properly dressed. They waited in the streets for two hours before being taken to a neighbour’s house. During this time the army continued their demands that Waheed leave the house and, when he refused, commenced to fire automatic weapons at the doors and windows. They also fired several rounds of a bazooka-like weapon in their efforts to breach the door. When this failed they brought in a military bulldozer and commenced to demolish the front of the house.

By now many people from the village had gathered nearby, undeterred by the warning shots and tear gas used by the military in an effort to disperse them. Waheed’s brother Falah (50) arrived on the scene and approached the soldiers, hoping to find a peaceful solution. He was immediately knocked to the ground, handcuffed and detained. He was unarmed and therefore surprised by the fact that the soldiers would attack him. While on the ground he was again attacked, sustaining two broken ribs. By pretending that he had passed out Falah hoped that the soldiers would stop beating him.

After three and a half hours of escalating violence, Umm Hamza, fearful for her husband’s life, beseeched the military to allow her to approach the house and convince Waheed to come out. This they agreed to. She was successful and they left the house hand in hand. Waheed was arrested and taken into detention at the military base in Gush Eztion where he remains at this time.

As yet no one knows what charges will be laid. Umm Hamza and the children have lost their husband and father for a future that could extend from days to months to years. Much of their house lies in ruins, but they have no money for rebuilding. “This is not important. They have destroyed this house twice before and each time we have re-built it”, she says. With the help of friends and neighbours they will do so.

The family told PSP that they are grateful for the support from the local community in Beit Ommar. The solidarity the residents show towards them helps them to stay strong.

The effect on the bewildered children is less certain; they wonder when they will see their father again and find it hard to sleep, even to eat. But they are not alone; the story of Umm Hamza, Raneem, Mohammed and Khatab is repeated week by week throughout the Occupied West Bank.