For three hours on Friday, July 12, from 11 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon, dozens of settlers from Kiryat Arba invaded the land and gardens of the Jaber family – Atta, Rudina and their three children – in al-Baqaa, near Hebron. Accompanied by the Israeli police and led by Malachi Levinger, the son of the violent settlement pioneer Moshe Levinger who himself has been implicated in many attacks on families in the al-Baqaa area, they uprooted his plants and replaced them with their own.
This is not the first time the Jaber family has been terrorized by settlers from Kiryat Arba, who claim his land and that of his neighbors. The family, which had lived on its land for the past 600-700 years, had 400 dunams of agricultural land (100 acres) before the Israeli occupation of 1967. Since then they have lost almost all of it, being left with just 60 dunams, and most of that within the Kiryat Arba settlement and thus off-limits to them.
Settlers damaging Jaber’s garden (Photo: ICAHD)
Over the year they have had their vineyards ripped out and their irrigation systems destroyed; indeed, the entire al-Baqaa, a rich grape- and olive-growing valley, is being dried up by Israel’s refusal to supply it with water or even allow the Palestinian farmers to dig wells or reservoirs for the collection of rainwater.
In August, 1998, the Jaber home was demolished by the Israeli authorities for the first time for lack of building permit, which Israel’s Civil Administration, its military government, refuses to issue to Palestinians. The house rebuilt with help from ICAHD and CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams), but was demolished a second time the next month. In that violent demolition Atta was severely injured and arrested. Nevertheless, the Jaber’s, having nowhere else to go, insisted on rebuilding, and their home still stands, a visible, ever-present act of defiance in the face of the settlers on the next hill.
In January, 2000, hundreds of settlers invaded the Jaber home on a Friday night, staying there under police protection over the Sabbath. In the evening, after prayers and before leaving the home, they smashed and burned it. Although Israeli police and Civil Administration officials were present the whole time and prevented the family from approaching their home – as well as Israeli peace activists who came in solidarity – the settlers were allowed to return to their homes peacefully; none were ever arrested, despite video documentation of the attack.
In 2002 the home of Atta’s brother Jawdi was also demolished. Today 17 people are crammed in Atta and Jawdi’s parents’ home. (Their elderly father died after suffering multiple fractures in a fall as he rushed out to protect his grandchildren who were being stoned by the settlers.) In 2007 the family attempted to build a modest reservoir for catching rainwater; it too was demolished. Jeff Halper of ICAHD was arrested resisting the demolition, recorded on the BBC film “Reservoir Raiders.” (You can watch the trailer here)
In 2010, Kiryat Arba and the Civil Administration put up signs declaring the Jaber property a new neighborhood of the settlement, called Nofei Hebron (“Vistas of Hebron”). Settler attacks intensified, including a night-time invasion in which settlers laid the concrete foundations of a new settlement “outpost.” Jeff Halper of ICAHD and Rabbi Arik Aschermann of Rabbis for Human Rights physically destroyed those foundations once the settlers left. In 2012 Jawdi’s car was burned.
According to ICAHD “settler violence is never investigated and settlers are never arrested, even if the police are on the scene of the crime. The goal: to terrorize the Palestinians to leave their land, which would then be grabbed up by settlers in the name of the State of Israel. If anyone tries to tell you that Israel does not engage in ethnic cleansing or that what it does is for reasons of ‘security,’ take them to the Jaber family.”