Palestinian Family Holds Fast in the Heart of Gaza

Category: World Affairs Topics: Gaza, Occupation, Palestine Views: 1112


In the heart of the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian house right next to a Jewish settlement: the Bashir family refuses to abandon the land of its fathers, even with Israeli soldiers on the floor above.

"They tried occupation, shootings, annoyances, but I didn't leave," Khalil Bashir, a 50-year-old English teacher, says proudly.

A ladder is leant against the wall and camouflage nets cover the uninhabited second floor. A few months ago, Israeli soldiers established a post there to guard the nearby Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the decision was made for security reasons with the Bashirs' agreement.

She also said this presence was "sporadic," arguing that since mid-July the Israeli soldiers only occasionally occupied the second floor of the Bashirs' house.

Since the Palestinian uprising erupted nearly 11 months ago, for the same "security reasons," their orchard with its 170 olive, almond and fig trees was uprooted, and their greenhouses were destroyed.

The grandfather's house was also razed, just like 300 others in the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian center for human rights.

But for the family chief, an intellectual with a passion for history, the love of his land is stronger, even if it means "cohabiting" with the army.

Going upstairs is out of the question, even if it means coping without hot water because the roof tank is broken.

"Some nights, we can hear their steps," says Amira, 16.

"I'm not Rambo, I'm afraid, all the time it is too hard, but the fear of losing my house is stronger than the fear of the Israelis. Leaving means death, so if I die, it makes no difference," says Bashir.

He came close to it in April, when he was injured in the neck by shrapnel while lying in his bed, causing him to spend a week in hospital. He says the shots were fired by Israeli soldiers.

The military post which guards the settlement was set up right beneath his windows, and all the members of the family say they have come under frequent shooting.

Amira displays an impressive collection of cartridge cases, as she points at the bullet-ridden facade and the shattered windows.

The ten members of the clan have their own discipline, imposing their curfew, living huddled together in a single room, united. Bashir has become the symbol of a struggle: "If he goes, it won't be long before we go too," his neighbors say.

"I get my strength from the love of my childhood memories, of my deep rooting in this area, from the fear of the question of my children: why did you leave our house?" says Bashir, who adds: "I don't want to commit the same mistake my people made in 1948," when the state of Israel was founded and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were thrown out of their houses.

He says he is "ready to meet the settlers," his neighbors, who live behind heavily guarded walls. "I'd tell them: please, neighbors, go back to your country. These settlements are of no strategic, economic or security importance, they're time bombs."

"I simply want to live a peaceful life, to give our children a chance to live a peaceful life. Life is short, we've lost too much time," he adds.

Bashir's daughter Amira smiles. "I have a strong belief in peace," she says in the flawless English of a teenager who wants to take on engineering studies in Germany.

"But if it is necessary to stay here forever to keep my home, I will do it."


Catherine Hours writes for AFP.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Gaza, Occupation, Palestine
Views: 1112

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