By Rula Halaiqa via Fatima Patel
Until and unless there is recognition of and respect for Palestinian humanity and their inherent rights as an occupied people deserving of self determination, the bloodshed and violence will continue. Without any accountability mechanism to persuade Israel to take this approach in negotiations, the way forward remains murky. In the meantime, analysts and journalists can do their part by treating Palestinians as actual human beings, deserving of safety and security, whose lives have value. The more we hear about Palestinians from Palestinians themselves, the better. Rula Halaiqa a young journalist in her late twenties reports direct from the city of Hebron in West Bank on what it’s like to be a Palestinian living in terror. Today, with about 250,000 people Hebron is the largest Palestinian city and the commercial capital of the West Bank. It’s a commotion of ramshackle commerce as its population generates about 30 percent of the West Bank’s economy. Just about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem, it’s a rewarding place to visit. Hebron is an ancient city with archaeological finds going back some 5,000 years. And for thousands of years it’s been a city of great religious importance. In the hierarchy of holy religious cities, Hebron makes the top four for both Jews and Muslims. While the old town thrives with commerce, there is a palpable unease that makes just being here stressful. That’s because Hebron is the site of the Tomb of Abraham — the great prophet and the epic father of both the Arab and Jewish people. Hebron is holy for Jews, Muslims, and Christians and that’s why sharing it peaceably is a challenge. Hebron is full of rich Arab culture and heritage, except for a small community of a few hundred determined Zionist Jews who live mostly on the high ground in the town centre. While it’s not an easy place to live, we are all driven by our strong faith, believing it’s important not to abandon the burial site of our patriarch. Sightseeing in Hebron is joyful and sad at the same time. Our markets are a festival of commerce, but checkpoints, security fences, and industrial-strength turnstiles are a way of life here. Walking down Hebron’s boarded-up “ghost street” is not enjoyable. Jewish settlers are quickly outnumbering Palestinians as pro-Israel political art decorates shuttered buildings, which divides our two communities. Having born and bred here, there is still no sense of comfort, as nothing is within our control, from the basic necessities of water, food, to gas and electricity. We Muslims are not allowed to befriend any Jewish people and vice versa. It is frowned upon by both sides. The tensions in Hebron have escalated since the start of Operation protective Edge. We feel helpless as our friends and relatives in Gaza live in such hostile conditions. Although, we are only 60 kilometres in distance, the blockades and Israeli army have made the distance unbearably mountainous. Since temperamental ceasefire injured civilians have been moved to our local Hebron hospital. I visit the hospital daily, as my father is also there due to suffering from stroke.Our lives are already impacted with the fear of death being on our doorstep which could take any one of us at any second so visiting hospitals makes it more real. After spending many grim days with my dad there, the intensity of my grief and sorrow increases as people from my beloved Gaza are ushered in for emergency treatment. Al Ahli Hospital in Hebron is a very small hospital with just basic treatment facilities and doctors with knowledge of basic illnesses. The presence of the wounded from Gaza is immediately felt as the usual grim corridors is crossed by the fragrant smells of medicine a smell which is also mixed with the feeling of pain. As I approach the treatment rooms of the hospital, I see rooms being overcrowded with the injured. My heart sinks and cries aloud inside as I gain a glimpse of the injured. Beautiful faces smothered with the blackness of the atrocious bomb attacks. As I look closely I feel the ground almost disappearing beneath me as I notice a family lying on hospital beds with amputated legs. Ms Khalil is the mother, without a tear on her face, she looks on at her husband, whose legs are also amputated and oh Lord so have the legs of their three year old son. The horrific descriptions of her daughter’s burns all over her body continue my scream inside. I cry out to my spiritual being and feel broken as I feel I have failed my own test. What do I tell her? How do I console her? So many have been displaced,what future is there for them? Is there a future? Continuous sleepless nights overcome me, as I try to find a solution to help my people, constantly wondering how the family who have lost their ability to walk will live. Medical resources are getting lower to the extent that there isn’t even medicine for pain relief. There is no breeze in the sky, there is no comfort, there is no spirit of life, there is no breath and it seems there is no humanity left. Can anyone hear me and my people?