Field trip to Susya : Between Eviction and Adaptation
28th of July 2015 –
Khirbet Susiya is a Palestinian village that existed since the 1830s located in the West Bank of South Hebron Hills. The Palestinians living in Susya are mainly from Yatta, a city facing the hills of Susya.
In 1983, Israeli settlements were established near the village, on almost 2000 dunams of Palestinian land, and a few Palestinian families remained. By 1986, the civil administration of Israel declared the village as an archeological site, and the land was confiscated from the Palestinians by the Israeli army, and were expelled from their land. Palestinian families relocated their tents a few hundred meters away from their village, where the archeological site was declared. Since then, both the Palestinian community who originally lived there and the Israeli settlers are present in the area.
Israelis claim that a synagogue existed in that area between the 5th – 8th centuries, which was later replaced by a mosque. Today, the Israeli government decided to demolish the village and to definitely remove the Palestinians living there, in a petition of the High Court, for historic reasons and archeological sites that they claim belonged to them
At the moment, the Palestinian community represents approximately 300 residents in the village, they earn living out of their own resources: they grow olive trees, produce honey, own shepherds and harvest farms.
Today, after Israel’s High Court decision to demolish the village of Susiya and to evict the Palestinian habitants, the USA immediately warned Israel not to demolish the village, and international attention aroused.
Israel took a step back, and delayed the demolishment due to international pressure, while the Palestinian people of Susiya remain on their land and refuse to leave. International aid, protests and rallies by both Palestinians and leftist Jews took place in Susiya, which luckily brought more attention on media. Despite everything, Israel takes decisions without anyone’s permission, but at the moment, the village’s situation is stable in the sense where they cannot demolish the Palestinians tents because ‘’all eyes’’ are on Israel’s actions.
Though it doesn’t mean that Palestinians aren’t having a hard time. The Settlers living near the village constantly attack the Palestinians in the village, kill their sheep’s, destroy the olive trees, and wreck all the goods that belong to the Palestinians. As one of my advisors Enas said : ‘’Killing a sheep for the Bedouin Palestinians is like taking their treasure, because they live out of this sheep’’. The settlers appear at any moment to these poor people, and might pop at night to scare them and the children.
The Palestinians are facing terror by the settlers and unfortunately got used to it, to a point where it’s not considered an issue anymore.
My trip to Susya
Throughout my internship, together with my coordinators, I attended the field ‘’trip’’ to the village of Susiya to check out the situation, so they could interview people and see the disaster directly.
I personally never heard of Susya until it got mediatized and all over the news, which is ignorant from my part I believe, but at the same time, living in Jerusalem and close to the West bank is enough damage and painful news for me, so it is hard to follow up all the disastrous stories happening across the west bank. But I call for all people especially living in Palestine, to take part and action in cases like these, at least to show solidarity, even if our strength is not enough in front of Israel, standing together is more than enough. It’s a first step.
When one of my advisors Enas asked me if I would like to join them to Susya, I got so excited.
I was mainly excited because I would be able to see what’s happening over the news directly in my eyes on one hand, and on the other hand, I was happy because I knew in advance that it will surprise and affect me, which makes me sound crazy for being pleased about something like this… but seeing the pain in front of your eyes isn’t like hearing about it, and that was the joyful part for me, to be able to see it firsthand, and to be able to do something about it. Life to me means serving others, helping those in need, and this is the way the circle of life should be, as Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist would say in one of his theories, ‘’if you want to receive, you should give, and then give back again, to receive again’’. I believe that every humane on earth is here with a goal, to serve others with good deed, do what he can to be good. Eventually good people, will get their compensation one day or another.
On that same day we were going, some of the leftist members of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) were planning to go as well. I was worried that something could go wrong, like settlers attacking and Israeli soldiers intervening, with a 99.99% chance that bullets could be fired or tear gas. I was worried about myself personally, not be get shot or hurt, as a Palestinian, that honestly doesn’t scare me. I was more worried to witness such chaos because I know that I am sensitive to that; worried about my reactions to it. I am generally not a violent person, who prefers to deal with things rationally, but in cases like these where you see injustice directly, violence and hatred builds itself automatically inside of your system, and all you want to do is act, irrationally.
The moment we arrived to Susya, from the car, I immediately saw a little tiny-ish boy trying to drink water from a big barrel that connects the water to the village I’m guessing – (picture to insert).
We went down the car and were directly invited to join the Bedouin women, and other women in solidarity with the people of Susya, under a tent where women were present, along with the women who were with me (advisor, photographer…). There were journalists, people taking photos, two Old Norwegian people with the Norwegian aid and kids everywhere in that particular zone. Women were talking, telling us what was happening, after we had represented ourselves, coming from the office of the Negotiations Affairs Department. And on the other side of the tent, men were sitting, talking to Ashraf, my advisor on their side of the story.
The women there seemed very strong, and fierce, they had anger inside of them from the Israelis trying to demolish the tents and the village, but they were also proud of being able to resist and having attention on them was good for them. After being served coffee from a Bedouin woman, I was observing the tents, the area, the Bedouin life while my advisors were interviewing, and among the Palestinian flag put in the middle of the village, the tents also had graffiti written on them ‘’Free Susya, free Palestine’’ , ‘’We will resist’’ etc. ( insert picture).
There was a beautiful girl with blue eyes, sitting on her mother’s lap, who looked like an angel fallen from the sky, because she was unlike the rest of the people there, who captured my attention and others attention as well. The little boy who was trying to have water when we first arrived, also joined his mother where we were sitting and I was trying to hold him because he was more than adorable, but he was obviously stubbornly strong, and as a Palestinian boy, it is ok to be ‘’macho’’ at this age and ‘’hard to get’’ (smiley)
Minutes after, a group came with a bus, with young women and men who came to show their solidarity from Hebron, and the one I had communication with was a young boy who was almost 14 years old, from Hebron, who directly came to me and asked me where I was from, because I was less ‘’Bedouin like’’, and more of a ‘’city girl’’ whose dressed modernly and was less covered than the rest of the girls in Hebron, he thought I was western, but then I told him I was a Jerusalemite ,and he was so excited, telling me ‘’welcome to the girls of Jerusalem’’, and complementing me. It was delightful.
I stayed on my seat, when he came back with a telescope to show me the settlements facing the village, explaining to me what the settlers do, when they came etc. I was happy that the kid was interested in showing me things and for sharing with me.
I had so little information about that zone, and I was simply asking the kid for answers, and he gave me satisfying answers. He had so much knowledge concerning the issue, and he was so concerned to show me and explain to me as well. Something that didn’t really surprise me, because Palestinian kids tend to be more mature and aware about those things because they unfortunately live under occupation and constant violence with the Israelis, especially in the city of Hebron in the West Bank.
The boy later had to leave, and came and asked me for my phone number and my Facebook, which I knew was some act of flirting from the other older guys with him, but it didn’t bother me at all because he was young and I didn’t take it as bad intention, boys who see girls as more ‘’westernized’’ tend to get excited, and it is my pleasure to show them that I am exactly like them, but dressed differently.
After the boy left, another girl holding a baby came towards me, to show me the baby, the girl was beautiful, Diana, who had green eyes, with a scarf on her head. She was 15 years old. We started talking, she also saw me as more of a ‘’western’’ which bothered me a little bit, because at the end of the day we are both the same, with the both nationality and religion, but this is how the world works I guess. I’m the one who should be more like them, maybe. But the more we talked, the more I asked questions, the more I felt her being more safe and confident towards me. *little anecdote: in my opinion or as a fact, people from west bank, tend to see people from Jerusalem, as either working with Israelis, or are Israelis because of their citizenship or that they have a better life, which is not true*.
Diana was showing me around the village, showing me the shepherds they have that made food, the bees who produce honey, how they make business out of honey, the prices of the chicken and sheep that they get, and the little project of ‘fun land’ she worked on for the kids that had 2 or 3 games. She also told me a lot about the history of Susya, what people suffer every day from the Israeli settlers, how they get attacked at night, and many other stories. She also showed me where the electricity box that connects to the whole village is, and was happy to show me around. She is the daughter of one of the important people in the village, the one in charge. So she basically knows how everything functions in the village, because she works a lot there with her family when she’s not in school. In school, she learns basic things, such as knitting.
She later took me to the rest of her family, where her mother, sister, and grandmother and other elder women were, who were being interviewed by Enas, Tamara and Tanya, the journalist. She also showed me her room, where she sleeps. I felt like it was an organized field trip, but it wasn’t.
When I was sitting on the floor waiting for my advisors to interview, Diana’s sister Dalia who was 6 years old and her brother were ‘’checking me’’ out and were shy to talk to me, then I started to talk to them and they suddenly had full confidence to speak and show me around as well, show me what they do such as bracelets, their accessories. While sitting, Diala saw the little medal of the Tour Eiffel on my bag and asked me what it was, so I told her, and gave it to her and told her that I hope she will be able to go and see it from close one day. I gave it to her, hoping in some way that I will give her a hope to have a dream to go to the Eiffel Tower in Paris one day and to want to live and dream of something big for the future when she grows up, to think larger, to know that everything is possible, when Israelis constantly shut down their dreams down with the endless occupation these little kids experience so soon.
I heard some of the things the old woman was telling Tanya in the interview, but I didn’t really listen. All I saw and listened to were the kid’s words, their point of view on the situation, how they live and what they feel. This trip, showed me that I am better with kids, than with older people, that I feel more comfortable with the kids, because I know that they see things and say the truth, unlike older people who tend to “spice” things up, or lie, or make things up, not that I am saying that it is the case in Susya, no matter how they spice things up, it is not hard to believe what they say, because we can see it in our eyes, and Israeli’s actions are certainly not new to us. It is all unfortunate reality.
But when I say this, I’m saying it from a side, that maybe only I feel, that these people are happy about the attention they got, which is of course normal, everyone who lives under threat in Palestine should get international attention not only Susya, but Susya was one of the lucky ones, which is of course good for them. But something in me felt some sort of ‘’acting’’, that I didn’t see in the kids as much as in the elder people (3ayshin el dor). These people are definitely not acting, I am not at all hinting to that, the misery they live in is real, and it is happening, it is fact. But I guess this is how everyone is, and I cannot blame my people for anything, because if they are anything at all, it is because of the acts of aggression that they face by the Israelis everyday… the older woman was talking about being attacked almost every night at 2 or 3 am, the olive trees that they destroyed, not knowing when they could be attacked, that it could happen at any moment and they are always ‘’prepared’’ for it, which is more like ‘’used’’ to it, because they are the occupied ones and have no real power except for their faith and resistance.
My advisors left to do some final things, and I continued my field trip with Dania and Dalia, who sold me a box of pure honey that I was more than happy to buy, who took me to their aunts, were I saw the little blue-eyed angel, and her sister who had green eyes again, playing around, asking me so many questions, cute questions, while the mother looked at me as if I were an alien, but I didn’t really give attention to that at the moment. All I wanted to do, is be able to talk to the kids, have fun with them, and assure them that they will be okay. A little girl then came called me and told me that my group wanted to leave, so I said my goodbyes to the girls, guaranteeing them that I will come see them again, when Dania and I exchanged numbers so we could communicate, and she asked me to come again 3 days after for a protest that was happening. I unfortunately didn’t go, but wishing that I could go take a glimpse of Susya again, and to see the beautiful kids again, carrying gifts and things that they will like.
This trip marked me, the people and the girls I will never forget, especially with such beautiful eyes that are hard to forget. I will always pray for them to have a better life, a safer life, the way they want. The little boy trying to drink water that I tried to catch again before I left will always be part of my memory. And I am glad I got to witness what was happening to these people, I was glad to be able to be part of it and participate in their pain, and mainly to show solidarity.
I pray for these people wherever I go. I pray that these people won’t get their homes demolished or get evicted from their homeland that belongs to them, that is their basic right, as the Israeli settlers keep eating Palestinian land and hurting people who have their right not only to exist but to live on their land that has been theirs for decades as the Israeli Supreme court takes final decisions about wrecking people’s spirit and homes. While the international community stands against these war crimes and condemns them, yet, they don’t seem to have enough impact on Israel’s crucial decisions.
We got back into the car, as our trip to Susya took an end, and as I was recalculating everything that had happened in my head, and couldn’t wait to share what I saw with my mother and family, asking my mother to take me again there and to go see the girls again.