Najwa is a 44-year-old Palestinian woman who lives in the Israeli controlled area of Hebron City, known as H2 – an area with a heavy Israeli military presence, and with frequent security operations. In addition, there are five Israeli illegal settlements in the area, protected by the Israeli military and police.
Najwa was born in H2 and her parents and grandparents live here. She lives with her husband, four sons and two daughters – one son and daughter are married, but live in the same area. Despite the occupation and the many issues that have come with it, it was best for Najwa’s family to stay in H2 – where they have property and the security of extended family.
The economic situation in H2 is very critical and Najwa’s husband’s income is minimal. That is why their land plot, just outside Hebron, is so important. It brings in extra income so that her daughters and sons can finish their university education. However, cultivating and keeping the family’s land is not without complications due to the Israeli occupation.
The land is not serviced by electricity or water and their property has been damaged by intruding Israeli soldiers on several occasions. They used to have a water cistern on their land before it was completely demolished by Israeli military.
Najwa lives near Shuhada Street in the Old City – a street the Israelis have completely closed to Palestinians. It used to be the main road for commercial activity, but the Israeli military has forcibly closed all of the shops and has made it into a ghost town, in their efforts to protect the illegal settlers.
Najwa is concerned about her children and their future.
I want my children to be educated and have proper jobs. Two of them failed high school and one of them still has a year to go. I signed one of them up for a computer network course, but the course was halted because there were not enough participants.
Due to the economic situation, many children drop out of school to assist in providing for their family. Najwa explains that children in H2 grow up too fast. Many children end up working in factories in potentially dangerous working environments or they sell things in the streets, including drugs.
“I want things to improve. I want there to be a vocational training program for children so they find a replacement for school [if they are not good at it] and not be forced to work in factories in a hazardous environment”.
Najwa says that H2 has a bad reputation in the rest of Hebron, and in Palestine in general, which really affects the lives of people in H2. According to the Hebron Protocol, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was given the control of civil affairs and services for Palestinians in H2. However, due to the Israeli military control of the area, these services are severely limited because the Israeli military prevents the PA access to the area. The Israeli military does not intervene in civilian matters and only provides security and protection for Israeli settlers.
Najwa feels like no one cares about H2 anymore, and that the discrimination against the area must stop.
“The division [between H1 and H2] is the main reason for the disparity and frustration. H2 is now marginalised and lawless. Criminals are untouchable here. It is a sanctuary for criminals”.
Due to the lack of governance in H2, it has become something of a sanctuary for people who are outside the law, which, combined with the Israeli military presence, makes the area even more insecure.
ActionAid Australia is supporting women in three villages within the broader Hebron Governorate to form women's groups, in which they are learning about their rights and how to claim them. 85 women were trained as community leaders and 19 women were linked with business training through the Northern Hebron Chamber of Commerce.