I spent the last night in the home and hospitality of Hani Amer; his home is now completely surrounded on four sides by walls built by the Israelis.
Since the 1970’s the town of Mas’ha in north-western West Bank has lost over 7,000,000 square metres to the Israeli colonization of their land. Hani Amer, 53, lives with his wife and six children in a house at the western tip of Mas’ha, adjacent to the Jewish settlement of Elkana. Hani Amer’s story of loss started in 1991, when part of his house was demolished because it was ‘too close to the asphalt’. In 1994 the restaurant he owned was demolished. In 2003 and 2004 his nursery and agricultural shop were confiscated and demolished to make way for the wall.
Refusing to leave his home to accomodate the expanision of the settlement, Hani’s home is now completely enclosed by high barb-wire fencing and a 8 meter high 40 meter long concrete wall 20 meters from the house.
To the north of his house, several fences block him from the Jewish Settlement of Elkana, built in the 1980’s. Hani says the settlers throw rocks at night, frightening his children and keeping his family awake. A shattered solar panel on his roof is evidenced of the attacks, and the soldiers that patrol the wall have banned him from making any repairs to his home.The Elkana settlement seperates many of Mas’ha’s agriculture population from their farming land near ‘Azzun ‘Atma. Hani used to take a donkey 10 minutes work, but must now drive for an hour around the settlement and through two checkpoints to reach his land.
A small yellow “farmers gate” is Hani’s only access to the outside world. When it was first installed, Israeli soldiers monitored the gate at all hours and only allowed Hani in and out during 30-minutes in the morning, midday and night. He’s now been given the key to the gate, but the soldiers change the lock every couple of months, and Hani has to wait to get a new key from them.
Famers from Mas’ha wait at a checkpoint to access and farm their own land. Permits allow them access to their land through the gate during 30-minute windows in the morning, midday, and night.
Hani doesn’t profit much from his crops, but he loves the land and it provides for his family. His wife and children brother help to tend the crops and make the land fruitful.
Hani prepares a meal for his family while sitting on a roof overlooking his land.
Hani says his home is like a prison. Shortly after the wall was erected the soldiers locked the gate for a week while one of Hani’s sons was outside. Friends and neighbors threw food and supplies over the gate to the seperated family to keep them alive. The Israeli’s have threatened his life and the life of his family, as well as offered to pay to move them to Austrailia. Hani says, “It is easy to kill me, but to break my will to stay is impossible.”
From the roof of Hani’s home, he can barely see the buildings of his home town of Mas’ha.
The wall secludes him from his people and his only view is of the luxurious houses of the Elkana settlement.