The Shoshahla village was built in 1878, 70 years before Israel was founded. In 1967, Israel began forcing out the Palestinians living here. The last residents of Shoshahla left in 1985.
But in 1992, Muhannad Salah did the unthinkable . . . He returned.
Muhannad Salah: “Shoshahla village has 20 homes. No one lives here except for me. Why are people not living here? Because the people are scared.”
Surrounded by six Israeli settlements, Muhannad’s family is constantly under attack.
Muhannad Salah: “This is the Neve Daniel settlement. This is one of the most violent settlements in the West Bank.I am the first person who suffered from their attacks, and I still suffer today from their attacks.The settlers cut down our trees, they burned my house.They do a lot of horrible things…they even put out poisonous food to kill our animals.”
Muhannad and his daughter walk 1 kilometer to their home, passing by the heavily secured settlement along the way.
Sierra Salah: Look, the camera turned around onto us.
Muhammad Salah: Here’s the camera, they even put cameras and security towers… In order to monitor this child, a child!
Their only access to water is a distant spring. Where they take as much as they can for cooking, showering, and using the bathroom. The settlement next to Shoshahla has an unlimited supply of electricity and water.
Muhannad Salah: “I just want to ask you a small question. Isn’t it true, you give water to the flowers and trees…
Settler: What are you doing?
Muhannad Salah: “I just asked for a small water line. For drinking and watering our plants, and for my young daughter…she is all that I have.And until today I swear they (Israel) have given me nothing. What do you think about this?”
In 1995, just 3 years after Muhannad returned to Shoshahla, Israeli and Palestinian leaders signed the Oslo Accords. The agreement divided the West Bank into several administrative divisions. Shoshahla, along with more than 60% of the West Bank, became ‘Area C’. Area C is under full Israeli security and civilian control and Palestinians in the area are banned from building or working on their land without difficult-to-obtain Israeli permits.
Muhannad Salah: “Even inside the house, they (Israel) control us. They will come and say you changed the room, you built something new. Why? Why is it not allowed? We want to live as human beings, we want to sleep, when water leaks through the roof, we want to protect ourselves, when we sleep, we want to cover ourselves.”
With no electricity, 12-year-old Sidra is forced to study under the light of a small kerosene lantern. Under these strenuous living conditions and constant pressures from Israeli forces and settlers, why has the Salah family vowed to stay in Shoshahla?
For Muhannad, the answer is simple: “The reason I’m here is my love of this land.”