On the 12th of September at 4:00 pm, my father left our home in at-Tuwani to take his sheep to our land, beside which Israeli settlers have constructed the illegal settlement of Ma’on and the outpost of Havat Ma’on. Before leaving with the sheep, he told me to bring a bottle of water and some coffee and follow him to work, to help tend to the land and plant new trees.
After 15 minutes I followed behind him, along with the water and coffee, and an international activist friend of mine. We reached him and sat down to drink some coffee and water, and then set to work removing stones from the land, and carrying old tires to build a wall around our garden to protect the plants from any animals or settlers that might enter and destroy them.
As we worked, approximately one hundred meters away a Palestinian shepherd grazed his sheep. When I looked up at some point, glancing up at him, I suddenly noticed two settlers coming toward us from Ma’on with sticks in their hands. As they approached, they began throwing stones at the nearby shepherd, frightening him and causing him to run away. Meanwhile, my father, our friend and I stood there watching everything from our garden.
My father’s sheep were far away from us, so my father told me to go to bring them back to protect them. As I went, I noticed a car with three settlers inside approaching my father in addition to the two settlers on foot. I could see that at least one of them had a gun.
I felt a pang of fear for my father, worried that the settlers would attack him next. The next time I looked back, the two settlers who had chased the shepherd away had almost reached my father. I immediately turned around and ran to him, beginning to shout as I saw the settlers begin to strike my father with their bats.
As I got closer, now running as fast as I could and shouting, I realized that they were not normal bats, but bats with nails poking out of them.
When the settler armed with a gun saw me coming to defend my father, he shot into the air to scare me away. I felt my heart stop. Then, he aimed at me with the gun. I felt terrified. We were alone on this hill, the three of us, unarmed, facing five settlers with bats and at least one gun. There was no one else around to help us.
They began swinging their bats at us, striking my father. In an effort to defend us, my father swung his shovel at them, hitting one of the settlers who was attacking him. The settlers began to retreat under the protection of the settlers armed with the gun, and they returned to the Havat Ma’on outpost.
Immediately, we called for the ambulance to take my father to hospital, because his two hands were clearly broken by the settlers during the attack. At the same time, we called Israeli police and military forces to make a report, thinking that the nature of the attack was clear and that the settlers would be arrested.
While we were waiting for the ambulance to come, more settlers arrived in cars, and began to provoke us. Our hearts were still racing from the attack, and I began to feel the weight of the injustice and violence we were facing—not just the immediate threat of deadly violence from the settlers at that moment, but the entire system of military occupation and colonialism that does not allow us to feel safe in our own land and home.
By this time, my father was lying on the ground and the pain I could hear in his voice hurt me too. Despite his pain, thinking of me, my father told me, “Go home now and don’t do anything stupid. The occupation will not hear you and believe our side. They don’t care about the truth.”
Voicing my own feelings, he reminded me that Israeli forces would protect the settlers and allow them to continue to violate our rights and commit violence against us. He was afraid that if I stayed with him, I would be arrested instead of the settlers.
I always listen to my father. Throughout my life, he has shown me how to resist injustice by example. So, feeling my fear and anger burn in my chest, I turned back home and walked to the house. Twenty agonizing minutes later, I began to hear sound bombs and my sisters’ voices alongside my mother’s, shouting against the voices of soldiers. In that moment, I felt torn, unsure of what to do—if I went back to stand with my family, the army would arrest me; if I stayed home like my father told me, I would be painfully useless. I heard my father’s voice in my head, “Go home now and don’t do anything stupid,” and I decided to stay.
While I waited at home, slowly the news began to pour in. The Israeli police and military forces had arrived and prevented my father from being taken to the hospital immediately by the Palestinian ambulance that arrived. In support of this, the settlers slashed the ambulance’s tires, preventing the first responders from leaving with or without my father.
Israeli police then said that my father was under arrest. They brought an Israeli ambulance instead, and took my father, alone and with broken hands, to Soroka hospital in Beer as Seba’ on the other side of the wall.
The soldiers and police also arrested two Palestinian people for no reason other than that they came to my father’s aid. After this, they kicked all of the Palestinians out of our land on the hill, throwing sound bombs and tear gas directly toward them and announcing that it was a closed military zone. According to this announcement, no one, including Israeli settlers, should remain in the area for 24 hours. Despite this, as they used violence to drive all Palestinians down the hill and into at-Tuwani, the military allowed settlers to stay in the area and destroy the trees in the garden we had been working just a short while before.
Still, the Israeli forces weren’t done.
Following the settlers’ orders, and claims that a settler had been “lynched” by dozens of Palestinians they entered at-Tuwani in their army tanks and on foot, throwing sound bombs directly at homes and tear gas between the houses. The tear gas traveled into homes through our windows, leaving all of the residents including many, many children shouting for onions to help mask the smell while they coughed, choked, gagged, and felt tears rain down their faces.
With nothing to do but try to protect ourselves, I began frantically looking for my little brother of 4-years-old, but he was nowhere to be found. I panicked, running in the street to look for him, and found the army instead. They tossed another sound bomb at me, and I turned to hide myself in another family’s tent and cover my head. Watching me hide, they threw another six sound bombs at me. When I was able to escape, I found my brother crying, terrified by what was going on around him. I made sure he was in a safe place.
After an hour of raiding and attacking my village — literally throwing bombs at people who had already been chased into their houses — the Israeli forces seemed to leave the village, but gathered at the main entrance to stop any movement in or out of the village.
By 2:30 am, the army returned to the village, this time forcing residents back inside by throwing sound bombs onto our front doors. They came to my house and detained around 15 people. The rest of us, exhausted but kept awake by the uncertainty of what might come next, sat together.
We made it through the night somehow, and as the sun began to rise we called our lawyer to see what would happen with my father. She told us that he had been moved from the hospital to interrogation and would remain in jail at least until his first court date on Thursday.
When we heard this, a silence fell throughout the house. My mother sat, shocked. Our father would be held in jail and possibly tried in court for being attacked on his own land. Meanwhile, the settlers who attacked us sat free in the outpost next door.
We are living through a catastrophe at this moment, waiting to discover what will happen to my father in a court that does not represent us, does not hold laws created by us, and does not answer to Palestinians.
Meanwhile, we wait for the next attack.
Every day, we face this injustice and apartheid not only from the settlers, soldiers, or police, but from the entire system that uses violence to hurt us, steal our land and imprison us. We cannot stay silent, and we must let the world know what is happening. We need your support now more than ever.