Mohammed Abu Rajab’s life was never what one might call “average,” but at least he used to be able to use his front door.
Mohammed, 27, grew up in the Hebron’s Old City, surrounded by illegal Israeli settlers. Settlers taking over homes in Hebron is not uncommon, so it came to no surprise to the family when they were delivered a notice in 2012 informing them their family home had been sold to settlers, and they would have to leave.
The Abu Rajab’s took the notice to the Civil Administration, the Israeli body in charge of the occupied West Bank, claiming that the home sale was a forgery.
Settlers said they had bought the home from a member of the Abu Rajab family, but Mohammed and his parents were able to prove that the family member the settlers claimed they bought the house from had no ownership rights to the property.
The Civil Administration sided with the Abu Rajabs, stating that the sale was invalid, but the decision was challenged by an appeals committee and the case is currently being reexamined.
No decision has been made in the appeal, but the Israeli settler family decided not to wait, and forcibly took over the vacant upper floors of the home on July 25.
Far-right Israeli politicians have been vocally supportive of the settler’s takeover of the home, calling for the Israeli family to be allowed to stay.
The Abu Rajab family hopes a petition they made to the Israeli Supreme Court will help them reclaim their home. According to Haaretz, an Israeli Supreme Court Justice ordered that the Israeli state respond to the petition made by the family by August 16, but it is unclear whether authorities will comply with the order.
For now the settlers are under protection from Israeli forces, who are enforcing the ban on Mohammed from using his front door to go home, which they say is a security precaution, even as the settler’s stay in the home is against Israeli law.
“They denied me access from entering my home from the front entrance, and they put barricades in front of the house,” Mohammed explained as he led Mondoweiss through the path he now takes to get inside his home.
Mohammed led us through his parents front door, out their back door, through the backyard and around to the side of the building where there is an alternative entrance to his house.
The settlers that now live above him throw trash down from their window down onto the garden path his takes home. Diapers, bottles and food waste littered the way.
The side entrance where Mohammed now uses to enter his home sits right under an open drain where dirty water is pushed through every few days. Mohammed bought piping to extend on the drain in order for the water to be released away from his entrance, but the settlers refused to allow him to install it.
During Mondoweiss’s visit, a bus full of Israelis arrived at the home and started celebrating in the street in front of the house, under protection of Israeli soldiers.
“They are celebrating, you can see how they are inciting against the Palestinian people and against myself and my family,” he said, watching the celebration through a window.
Mohammed said similar events have been happening frequently ever since the home was taken over, if any of the Palestinian residents react to the display, Israeli soldiers forcibly remove them.
“This harassment didn’t start today, it began a long time ago,” Mohammed explained. “The aim of this type of Israeli harassment and forcible expulsion is just to clear this area from all the Arabs.”
Peace Now, an Israeli anti-Settlement group strongly condemned the settler takeover of the home.
“Thus far, the settlers were unable to prove ownership, and the Palestinians argue that a purchase has not been made. Moreover, the settlers are claiming only partial ownership of the property. Furthermore, even if eventually the settlers will prove their ownership, this does not represent sufficient cause for the establishment of a new settlement in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron,” the statement explained.
“The establishment of a new settlement in [the Abu Rajab’s home] will severely hinder Palestinian freedom of movement and add to the rising tensions in the area.”
The group demanded “the government orders the immediate evacuation of the settlers” who “invaded” the home.
“After their claims of ownership had been denied, the settlers have decided to take the law into their own hands and establish an illegal settlement that might ignite the region. We call upon the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense to follow the law and the Israeli interest and evacuate the trespassers without delay.”