Tel Rumeida CPTnet Archives: 21 June 1995, “Living within a ‘security zone'”


When Christian Peacemaker Teams set up in Hebron/ Al-Khalil in the summer of 1995, among its first contacts were the Abu Haikel family, and the struggles of the families living in Tel Rumeida have featured prominently in our releases over the last eighteen years.  Accordingly, to show our readers what this new settlement expansion means, what it means to have more Israeli settlers on Tel Rumeida with more Israeli soldiers to guard them, we will be running releases from our archives on Facebook and our blog in the coming weeks.

June 21, 1995
“Living within a ‘security zone'”

by Wendy Lehman

HEBRON, WEST BANK — Israeli settlers have offered Palestinian Hanni Abu Haikel a Harvard education and $6,000,000 U.S. for his home in Hebron, he said, but he refuses to leave.  “How can I leave the place where my roots are?” he asked.  But Israeli settlers and soldiers have not made it easy to stay.

The Abu Haikel family, Palestinian Hebronites, live next to the Israeli settlement of Tel Rumeida.  To visit them, one must pass through two, sometimes three Israeli checkpoints.  Israeli authorities have often declared their home a “closed military zone” to keep out visitors and guests.

Even relatives are often not allowed to pass through the checkpoint to visit for “security reasons.”  Hannah Abu Haikel, Hanni’s sister, said, “How can we believe in peace when we live in a jail in our home?”

Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) members visited Hannah and her brother Hanni on Friday, June 9.  CPTers passed through the first checkpoint with no problem, but at the second, an Israeli soldier told them they could not enter because it was a “closed military zone.”  Eventually, the soldier relented, searched their bags, and allowed them to visit.

The CPTers planned to stay for a few days to report on the actions of the Abu Haikel’s neighboring settlers.  Palestinians and other Israelis have reported that these settlers often harass Palestinians by throwing eggs, stones, or worse.

Hanni refuses to retaliate with violence.  He advocates and believes in nonviolence.  “The press is my ‘gun’,” said Hanni, “I don’t believe in using weapons.”

Later on that Friday, Hanni went to say his prayers and as he returned, a captain in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) told him that the CPTers would be forced to leave at 6 p.m. because at sundown the Jewish Sabbath would begin.  According to Hanni and most other Palestinian Hebronites, the Israeli settlers in Hebron are more violent than usual on the Sabbath.  “Believe me, I hate Saturdays,” said Hanni.

Settler attacks have been directed at not only Palestinians, but at international guests of the Abu Haikels.  Hanni told of an Australian friend of his who came to visit.  Tel Rumeida settlers threw eggs at his head.  The Australian was so angry he called in the Australian ambassador.  According to Hanni, the IDF would not even let the ambassador pass through the checkpoint to visit Hanni.

The Abu Haikels are also prevented from tending their land or picking olives from their trees.  Israeli authorities have set up several checkpoints around their neighborhood, and in the past, friends would go through their fields to come visit.  Now, the Israeli authorities have a new checkpoint by Hanni’s olive tree fields.  The IDF has threatened to shoot anyone who enters that field, said Hanni.

The CPTers departed at 6 p.m. as ordered because they did not want to make things worse for the Abu Haikels.  As they left, one soldier smiled and said, “Enjoy your stay in the Holy Land.”

The next day, CPTers learned, reporters from CNN attempted to visit the Abu Haikel family and were forbidden to pass through the checkpoint.  Hanni told the reporters, “I’m sure that even if senator Robert Dole came to visit, they would not let him pass.”  He added with a laugh, “If they would let him in, I would give him my house.”

On June 15, security around their home became even tighter.  An Israeli military captain came to Hanni, and began to write down their I.D. and car license numbers.  Hanni asked him why and he told him that he was now living in Israel and no visitors would be allowed to enter without direct permission from the Israeli civil (i.e. military) administration.  How long this order will last is unclear.  Yet with or without the order, said Hanni, “Things are never easy here.”