For many religious Jews, Shabbat is a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. However, in Hebron, members of the local Palestinian community know all-too-well that Jewish settlers often commit their most violent crimes on Shabbat. Ahmed Hadad, an 11-year-old H2 resident, is one of the most recent victims of this recurring settler violence.
On February 4th, he was assaulted by four rock-wielding settler adults in the olive groves outside his house. Ahmed was rushed to the hospital after sustaining multiple blows to the head and a fractured wrist.
I sat down with the Hadad family this weekend to see how they were coping in the aftermath of the attack. As we shared several cups of tea and coffee, it was clear that the family had not recovered from the trauma of the event.
Ahmed’s mother explained that when the attack occurred at 3pm, she was busy preparing dinner in the kitchen. Ahmed and his brother returned from their game of football, screaming for help, with blood pouring down Ahmed’s face. She immediately knew what was happening.
While settlers continued to barrage the Hadad family home with rocks, Ahmed’s mother and father rushed their frightened children to a neighbor’s house and carried Ahmed out of Hebron’s H2 district [under Israeli military control], to be transported to a nearby hospital. Ahmed’s sister said she recognized one of the settlers, an older man in his 50s. The three other men, she said, were younger, possibly in their late teens or early twenties.
I asked Ahmed how he was feeling. In a timid voice, he said, “I am afraid. I have nightmares about the settlers coming to attack me”. His mother said that since the incident, he has been too scared to play outside the house or return to school.
Since the mid 90’s following the massacre of 29 Muslim worshippers at the hands of Israeli extremist settler Baruch Goldstein, international volunteers have come from around the world to monitor the settler violence and accompany Palestinians living in Hebron’s H2 area. Members of the Tel Rumeida Project (TRP) visited the Hadad family last weekend and are looking for a lawyer to represent the family on a pro bono basis. On Saturdays, the TRP will be assigning two volunteers to monitor the olive groves outside the Hadad home.
The Christian Peacemaker Team also stations its members at key locations throughout H2. Other international organizations, such as Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel and the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, have pulled out of Hebron amidst growing threats related to Danish cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammad.
The Hadad family fears that this international presence will not be enough to prevent another settler attack. Despite contacting the Israeli Police, they have not yet been contacted for a follow-up investigation and do not believe there will be any attempts to catch the four assailants.
This is the harsh reality Palestinians face in H2. Despite Israel’s intelligence and military capabilities, it seems unwilling to take the necessary steps to protect Hebron’s Palestinian residents. They live under a stringent occupation, constant surveillance by the Israeli army and police force and constant threat of settler attacks.
For the Hadad family, they believe it is only a matter of time before they must endure the next assault, the next trip to the hospital and the next test of their physical and psychological strength.