10 September 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
On Sunday 9th September, Hashem Azzeh walked down the street outside his house for the first time in years.
Hashem lives with his artist wife Nasreen and their four children (14, 9, 4 and 2 years old) on a hillside in the Tel Rumeida district of Hebron. The street outside Hashem’s house is barred to Palestinians and overseas visitors, with an army checkpoint at the end of the street to enforce the ban. To reach their house, the family have to go via a treacherous back route, clambering over walls and around other properties on the way.
Despite all the harassment and violence, Hashem remains determined to stay in his house, and today said he wanted ‘an adventure’. Hashem and five ISM volunteers from the UK, Italy and the USA clambered up from the house to the street, then walked the 200 or so metres to the checkpoint at the end of the street. The Israeli soldier at the checkpoint appeared astonished to see Hashem and international volunteers come along the street from the ‘wrong’ direction and immediately started radioing for back-up. When the soldier asked Hashem why he was walking on the street, Hashem replied, ‘I am walking to my house’.
Hashem’s family have faced years of harassment from residents of the illegal Israeli settlement on the hillside just above their house. The settlement happens to be home to some of the most fanatical settlers in Hebron, including American-born extremist Baruch Marzel.
Over the years, Hashem’s family have faced attacks on their property by settlers, with Israeli soldiers standing alongside doing nothing to intervene. Settlers have also poisoned his water supply, and killed his olive trees, fruit trees and vines. When Hashem installed his own water tank, the settlers shot it full of holes in yet another attack.
As well as attacks on their property, the family have faced regular physical violence. Hashem’s nephew had his teeth knocked out by rocks, and his brother was also smashed in the face with rock and suffered damage to his teeth and nose. Nasreen has had two miscarriages. An ISM activist, 77 year old Australian academic Mary Baxter, also faced violence in the past, when accompanying Hashem’s children to school in 2005. She and the children were attacked, and Mary had four bones in her back broken and is now disabled as a result.
Ben is a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed)