Anonymous, 20 from Bethlehem
Being on this long journey that we call life, we go through many experiences, and there is this one experience, a story by itself, that becomes part of who we are—part of our identity. Growing up, I had an experience that is and will always be part of who I am. I am now twenty-one and still talk about it as if it happened yesterday because I consider it to be an important portrayal of my life as a Palestinian and the lives of every other Palestinians living under occupation. This story is only one of many other stories, which all together reflect the long history of Palestine—a long history of oppression. It is the story of when my house was occupied twice back in 2002.
I remember it was sunset, my mother was cleaning the house and I was playing, when suddenly we heard a hard knock on the door with people shouting “eftakh Bab, eftakh Bab” (Open the door). We opened and it was a group of Israeli soldiers with a tank and armored vehicles coming to take over our house. They came in yelling at us and I got really scared as any eight year old innocent girl would do seeing the enemy this close for the first time in her childhood. They were planning on putting the whole family my two aunts, my uncle with his two sons, and me with my two brothers, my sister, and my parents in my room with no bathroom, no water, no food to eat and not enough space for eleven people to sleep. But my grandmother, god rest her soul, saved the day. My aunt told the soldiers that my grandmother was sick and that we can’t leave her in the house by herself, so they decided to lock us all in my aunt’s two-room house.
Those days were the hardest and longest days of my childhood. Every day was a dreadful experience carried on with tension, terror, and uncertainty. We were three families living in one small house, all our belongings were next door but unreachable and sleeping on the floor was our only choice because all our beds became part of the military defenses and we were only left with my aunts’ three beds. We were out of food and water and the Red Cross was our only source of supplies. I remember them bringing us food and water and putting them in a big basket that we would pull up the balcony. The Israelis damaged everything starting from inside the house to our land outside. They hung blankets on windows to prevent anyone from seeing them, leaving holes in the walls. They even pulled out grape vines to make space for the tank to be put into position, and much more than you can imagine.
My two brothers, two cousins and I were in a constant need to play and to go out, but the soldiers mercilessly kept us locked in, which generated anxiety and nervousness inside each one of us all the time. Day and night the shooting was nonstop. We could hear the Palestinians shooting at the Israelis and the Israelis shooting at the Palestinians, and all that put fear inside of us. In addition to all these events, there was one tragic incident that touched us all deeply and lived inside us day by day. A young mother whose name was Rania was going to buy some milk for her children when a tank that was positioned in front of our house spotted her and shot her to death.
The soldiers then left and we thought the nightmare was over. But we thought wrong. There was another visit. The funny thing is that we were ahead of the game and instead of them “surprising” us, we surprised them. Ohhhh yes! We surprised them. We knew they were coming again. Before they came, my aunt living near the DCO called us and said that she saw Israeli tanks and jeeps going our way. That is when we knew they were paying another “visit”. So we took everything that can be taken, beds, TV, clothes, and moved it to my aunt’s house. When they came in, they were like “whaaat!” However, the nightmare began again—the nonstop shooting, anxiety and fear began again. The worst thing is that this time they didn’t only endanger our lives, and violate our rights, but they offended our religion. The soldiers that came the second time were stricter than the ones before. They were of the “religious” kind. They took all the crosses that were in the house and destroyed them. They broke them, stuffed them between shoes and even peed on them.
The day for them to leave “forever” had come. But of course their departure was as surprising as their arrival. They didn’t leave in a normal way as any normal person would do. No! They had to cause this one more damage. Before leaving, they asked us to stay inside the house. We didn’t know why until we saw the whole glass break into pieces. They exploded a bomb that they had planted in our land the first day they came as a trap for any intruders.