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Occupation- how does it feel?

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Many Palestinians live in uncertainty under the Israeli occupation. Will they be expelled from their homes? When will the next violent settlers attack come? What will happen when they meet soldiers at a checkpoint, at home, or while walking in the street?

A personal story illustrates the situation more than any facts and numbers. Let's stop for a moment and try to understand how it feels to live under constant tension, uncertainty and helplessness.

Itai Feitelson is an activist who spends most of his time in the South Hebron Hills. This is how he describes the life of his Palestinian friend who is facing demolition orders:

"A few days ago, I was traveling with a friend from Umm al-Kheir. It was sunset and he told me: ‘All we have left is football. At the World Cup, I could disconnect every day for a few hours and forget where I was.’ The context was already clear to me, almost every time I meet him, he tells me how all his generation is suffocated.

It doesn't even mean the inability to build for fear of demolitions, or the pastureland has been reduced to almost zero by violent settlers from illegal farms in the vicinity. It refers to something much more basic than that, with all the actual violations of basic rights, we hardly notice - the ability to just rest, wander, breathe air and in the case of many Palestinians - the ability to forget a little that they live under occupation."

“The residents of Umm al-Kheir are refugees from the Negev. After being expelled from their lands during the Nakba, they bought the two hills from the residents of Yatta. They built the village on the hills long before the settlers arrived. In the 1980s, a military base was established near the village. Over time the military base became the Carmel settlement. Little by little and then quickly, it progressed from the theft of a small part of their lands, to partial movement restrictions and recently a kind of forceps movement that blocks them from almost any direction.”

“This is most noticeable in the pastureland, which is an economic base for many of the residents. But the friend I was traveling with is not a shepherd at all, he just needs to get some air. Like him, many others in Umm al-Kheir and the other surrounding communities.”

“Once they could drive less than an hour and reach the cliffs above the Dead Sea, but today the military blocks their way long before, not to mention the confiscation of their cars; Many used to go with some friends to look at the view and drink tea in the old police building in Umm Daraj, but today settlers who took over the building do not allow anyone to approach; This friend would sometimes walk alone, cross the road to the woods in front of Carmel, simply to make himself tea and enjoy the quiet, but today there is no longer a chance that this will happen; Nowadays, there's a good chance that even those who walk from the village and wander towards the intersection on the main road will be expelled by soldiers, just like that, 200 meters from their house.”

“Al-Aqsa is one of the few places within which Palestinians have some peace of mind from the occupation. An opportunity to sit in the sun with friends, play football, study, pray and for a while forget about the police officers who will come back to harass them as soon as they leave the mountain gates. Like all the escape points I mentioned in this post - and much more of them - the progress of Israel's takeover of al-Aqsa is the destruction of one of the last points that Palestinians can breathe in.”

“This freedom that has been taken away from them, has nothing to do with security needs. It is taken because Israel can. This is just another stage in the dehumanization of Palestinians, who do not even have the right to try and forget for a while that they live under occupation.”

"Everyone here is suffocated, my whole generation. Even people who never spoke that way."

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