In 1943, I was born in the house behind me in Tel Rumeida neighborhood. But now it’s closed. No Palestinians can live in it. Life changed after the closure and became less comfortable. The shops near here were for my sons, the supermarkets and the metal factory. Now it is all closed. 15 people worked in that factory. The military just built a bus station [for Israeli settlers] in front of it. So, if there was any hope of reopening, it’s gone. I have five sons and six daughters—all married except for my youngest daughter. Our family cannot visit us often; it depends on the mood of the soldiers. They closed my house. They closed my shops. They closed my factory. They need us to leave, that’s it. There’s no life here. They’ve took everything. Where is the democracy when my children can’t visit us? They say, “democratic system, democratic system,” but we don’t see that. First the factory, then the shop, then the street. Step by step. They kill us slowly. I’m scared to leave the area, in case something new happens. When the settlers come here, I hear them say “it’s ours.”
- Radi Abu Aisha
In my childhood, my father worked in the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, so we always visited the old city. I studied architectural engineering and moved to Germany after graduation. I finished my masters in Hamburg in resource efficiency in architecture and urban planning. I was interested in learning lessons about energy efficiency from the very old architecture of Hebron. At that time, they did not have emissions. The orientation of the buildings and the harmony with the narrow streets helped. In the winter, we all sit together near the heater which strengthens social relationships. It was nice to share how we live and design in Germany. I have a son. We are friends more than mother and son. He speaks Arabic and German very well. I also learned German––a big thing I did. They say in Germany, “life is too short to learn German!” Every New Year’s Eve, they have fireworks and the country celebrates. I feel I am back in the Second Intifada. It’s the kind of joke that makes the heart bleed. It’s the childhood I remember that no one else there lived. I’m sure I’ll be back to Hebron. People always ask, “why don’t you stay here? You have safety and better economic opportunities.” Palestine is not just a place that one lives in, but that we have in our hearts. We cannot separate ourselves.
- Mays Qawasmi
I study civil engineering. Now I’m taking summer classes and going on trips with my friends and family. I like to read about history and to watch YouTube videos about scientific discoveries. I like to know everything about the world, to hear more than to speak, and to sit with the older people. I don’t like to impose on anyone–we all have different tastes–but the book “So Forgive Me” influenced me the most. In the inside cover my father wrote: “To my son and beloved friend, you must know in life that nothing equals forgiveness.”
- Abd Tartori
I am the manager of the design, decoration, and gifts department in this office. The best part is all of the creativity here and sharing in people’s happy movements when we make things for weddings and parties. This place is teaching me to be more creative. In the future, I’d like to design wooden games for children to encourage their creativity and to take them away from the digital world. I have two little children. I'm here from 8am to 4pm, so they’re in daycare. I like to hug them too much and too tight and to do activities like swimming and karate with them to compensate for not being there the whole day. I don’t think it’s right to feel this way, but I’m their mother. Even if all working women feel this pressure, it’s particularly difficult for Arab women because some see our main job as being at home and criticize others who work. Sometimes when I’m done with work and want to do things with my children I have other societal responsibilities, so I can’t decide our own time as I like.
- Hajar Abu Rmeileh
I've sold tamarind juice for 12 years. I only drink one cup a day. It’s a Syrian tradition, and therefore one of ours from before there were borders. We try to keep the tradition alive. I like interacting with the people– they feel good when they see us. I have two boys and one girl. I don't have any hobbies. I’m working hard to make my children happy and to prevent this future for them.
- Radi Me’Bed
I’ve been a blacksmith for 43 years. I left school to learn in the shop of a famous old man. My parents didn’t know. It the past, you would work with your hands and use fire from coal and old car oil. With technology, it’s cleaner, easier, and more comfortable. In my house even my bed is metal, along with the vanity and the tables. I specialize in fire escapes—up to ten stories tall. Usually you need an engineer, but I can do it on my own. My sons and I have worked at the Polytechnic University, many schools in Ramallah, and made windows, stairs, and doors for the UNRWA refugee camp there. If you go directly to Ramallah from Hebron it takes 45 minutes but the soldiers’ road closures and checkpoints add an extra few hours. We have to wake up at 4am to be there at 7 or 8. It takes energy from you.
- Adel Karaki
When I was young, I would close my eyes and imagine going to the library and seeing books with my name. Now, I’ve written many books and I want to write more. The first book was “How to Read in Two Weeks,” the second “Creative Thinking,” the third about math, and the forth, about improving mental abilities, is in publication. I’ve been a teacher for 17 years. Before, I taught my sisters, brothers, and sons. If you teach Arabic in a suitable way it’s very easy. The school books are difficult. So, I use my own method. I teach students a few letters and make words from these. If you teach the students all the letters at once they will forget them, but if you teach them how to read they will not forget. So, I add just a few letters every lesson and continue. Many students’ families think they can’t learn and are surprised and happy. The students catch my clothes and say, “I can read Miss, let me read.”
- Amal al-Jopehi
I’ve been a mechanic since I was 16. Usually mechanics work with different types of cars, but I work especially with Mercedes, because they are more complicated. They’re strong and good for our mountainous streets. Even though I didn’t go to university, I can fix any problem and understand the computers in the newer cars––even types I haven’t worked with before, because I follow the technology closely. Though Mercedes is German and we are Palestinian, we can fix anything.
- Abed abu Turky
I’m 13 years old. I live in Tel Rumeida neighborhood. I like arm wrestling with my friends. I always win. I usually choose the weak ones and work my way up. The most important part of my day is going to school together with them. I invite them over to my house to see what life is like here. I want the whole world to know about the situation. My neighbors are Israeli settlers. It makes life difficult. Three days ago, the settlers beat my sister. At the same time, the settlers pressed a machine gun against my leg. In any moment, they could have killed me, so I left and circled around so I could stay close to my sister. I’ve been hit before but never had a machine gun so close to shooting me. Now I’m okay. This is life.
- Aysha al-Azzeh
I helped establish a new forum which aims to grow the culture of cleanness and beauty in Hebron. We are a group of scholars who give lectures in schools and universities about how to keep our city clean. We visit mothers at their homes to encourage their children not to throw trash in the street. We also help in cleaning the streets. And, we gave the street cleaners a new name, فرسان النظافة, “the clean knights,” to show value and the importance of their role. I always say, if the mayor takes one month of vacation no one will notice, but if the فارس النظافة takes one week, there will be a real disaster. I think it will take a very long time to change the culture, but I have a long breath.
- Rula Sharawi