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Hagar Gefen in her own words

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Hagar Gefen, a 71 years old activist is telling:

On the 19th of October, I was part of a group of Israeli activists, volunteers from Italy and quite a few Palestinians that went to harvest olives in one of their olive groves in the area of Kisan. These groves and this land are owned by the people of Kisan.

We gathered in our cars at the entrance of Kisan and from there made a big detour on the stony hilly area around one of the Jewish settlements. We didn't want to drive too close to any of the settlements so we drove as far as we could from the settlements and as near as possible to the olives grove.

After parking down the hill, we quickly started to climb towards the grove because we were eager to start working. On our way up, there were a few, maybe 8, maybe around 10 young settlers, who shouted profanities toward us. I took some photos but we continued climbing.

When we reached the grove we heard the shouting, the crying and the weeping of the Palestinian grove owner who realized that before our arrival, Jewish settlers had destroyed his trees and his olives. Despite that, we started working, doing our best to save the grove.

Around 10 or 15 minutes later, when everyone was occupied picking the remaining olives and watering trees, we saw quite a big crowd of settlers running down from the nearest high hill above us.

Most of us started running down, escaping actually. The Jewish settlers who came closer to the olive grove started to pick very big stones and throw them towards the escaping people. Me and a young woman who came with me started going back. My back was to the main road because I wanted to continue taking photos and do a short film and to see the stones thrown at me and verify they do not land on my head…

The young woman and I thought we would go to the side of the hill, not the same side as the rest of the group had been escaping. We thought we could slowly go down and nobody would be able to see us. I turned my back towards the Jewish settlers and started to go down but they did see me, ran towards me and started to beat me up hard.

At least three young men with clubs beat me and threw stones from zero range at my head. I was helpless. Four of my ribs were broken, creating a hole in my lung. My right hand was broken, my back was hit too near the left shoulder, my head was bleeding (I needed four iron stitches in my head) and I was having trouble breathing. They did not only hit me ruthlessly, but also tore my backpack from my back. The backpack was full of my personal stuff I am using for my activity- notebooks, books, body camera etc…

After they violently took my backpack, I thought they were leaving so I shouted at them- “you stole my bag! You stole my bag!”. I wanted it back. They stopped and went over the content of my bag and started looking for my cell phone because they previously saw I was taking photos. They couldn’t find the phone there because I hid it under my dress so within a few moments they came back to me.

I couldn't move any part of my body. I was sitting like a broken tree on the stones when they violently put their hands under my clothes, found the hidden phone and tore it away from my body. Then they finally went. While climbing back to the settlement, they shouted at me “people like you should be killed” and “people like you shouldn't live in this state”. Another woman from our group who tried to come to my assistance was beaten by the settlers too.

Soon after they left, the young activist who came with me, approached me to check my status and see whether we would be able to crawl down the hill. She quickly realized that although I have survived and can still talk- I can't move at all. She left me a bottle of water and started slowly to crawl down the hill to find a way or a spot and get cellular reception so she can call some help.

I was left alone, beaten and struggling to breath for over an hour. The whole time I was looking toward a certain area from which I was sure someone would come and help me. About an hour and a half later, a small crew of soldiers came to check what was going on and help me. They carried me up to the other side of the hill. With them came a policeman and I immediately gave him my phone number and my id and he could very quickly try, with other policemen or investigators, to locate my cell and bag and the rest of my stuff. I later found out that one of our group members reached the entrance of the settlement while I was beaten and asked two police officers to track my phone, but they refused and did nothing to locate it. A few hours later we understood the policeman who came with the soldiers didn't do anything either.

The soldiers carried me and I was transferred between ambulances that finally took me to Shaarei Tzedek hospital.

Over three weeks have passed and no one was arrested or charged.

While this is my personal story, it is very important for me to emphasize that I am not the only woman that Jewish settlers, with the help of the military and the police, had beaten in the last year or even in the last month. This is not a unique, isolated incident. These types of settler attacks happen on a daily basis, in many cases while the Israeli military watches, protects the attackers and in some cases even joins the settlers in attacking Palestinians and peace activists.

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