September 26, 2010
Posted: 1148 GMT
Hanan Sufan welcomes us into her house with open arms. A resident of the West Bank village of Burin, she is accustomed to visitors. Over the years she has welcomed journalists, human rights groups, representatives from the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli military.
All said they would help and all documented her plight. Yet ten years on, she still lives in daily fear of attacks from the nearby Israeli settlement of Yitzhar, a settlement considered radical by many mainstream Israelis.
Her home is nestled in the hills of the West Bank, away from the village. A spot which would have been envied before the settlement arrived. Now it makes her target number one for violent settlers who throw stones at her house and family and even set fire to the house in 2003.
Her daughter has captured many attacks on a video camera given to her by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
While sitting with the family, sipping the customary arabic coffee, it’s hard not to notice the iron gratings that cover every window – we’re told to prevent rocks and Molotov cocktails from flying inside the house. Barbed wire covers the top of the railings around the house to try and prevent people jumping over and there’s a bed on the roof. When I ask why, Sufan tells me it’s for her son who stays the night outside to listen out for an imminent attack.
Sufan tells me her husband died of a stroke in 2003 after seeing the house set on fire by settlers. Even now, she breaks down when she talks about him, saying she wishes she’d lost the house rather than her husband. She calls him the backbone of the family.
Without that backbone Sufan has taken over the role of head of the family and everyone looks to her for guidance. Her two year old grandson Wadee’ becomes distressed when she walks away, preferring to stay within a few meters.
We tried to speak to the settlement spokesman to ask what they are doing to try to stop this persistent violence against the family and the village as a whole, but he declined to comment, citing the Jewish holidays.
It’s no way for a family to live. Never leaving the house unattended for fear of settlers moving in. Never allowing the few sheep they have to roam the land for fear of them being poisoned – Sufan tells me 20 of her sheep were poisoned, now they are all kept in the backyard.Only walking up the hill towards the edge of the settlement to tend her olive trees when her son and many villagers are with her. She says she feels safe with us when we accompany her there as we have a camera and she thinks that will prevent any violence. Mourning 23 olive trees the settlers chopped down in January, she says she felt like she was losing a child as she had tended them so carefully for thirty or forty years.
And repeating her story time and time again to people who want to help but somehow fail to make a difference.