MPT’s fall team took the short walk to the houses at the upper edge of Huwwara. The Palestinians in this area live only about 400 yards for the edge of Yitzhar. We were fortunate to meet Muhammad, a Palestinian with American citizenship and his brother. Muhammad spends part of the year in New York where he and two of sons run an electronics business. Part of his family spends the entire year in this fabulous house. Muhammad said, “Yitzhar is built on the highest point in the West Bank. I believe my house is the highest Palestinian house in the West Bank. But this proximity can be problematic." The family readily talked to us, they have had troubles with settlers throughout the years and are used to being an object of attention for journalists and human right activists alike. We were told that they had had no problems with the settlement till the year of 2008. As a matter of fact up to just ten years ago the family used to have a picnic at Salman al-Farsi’s reserve, an important site for Muslims that is located on land controlled by Yitzhar. But more recently radical settlers came to live there and visiting the reserve became impossible. The first clashes between the settlers and the local Palestinians that took place close to Muhammad’s house happened in May 2008. About 15 teenaged settlers came down the hill and were engaged in a stone fight with Palestinians. Soldiers stood aside as observers and did not interfere, we were told. The settlers claimed that the attack was in response to Palestinians from Huwwara having thrown stones at a settler’s car earlier that day. Twenty days after this incident the windows of the family’s house were broken by 13 Yitzhar settlers. Olive trees above their house were damaged too. Soldiers were reported to have taken no action one more time.
On February 3, 2011, Muhammad’s wife and daughter were watching TV in the evening when they had their windows all broken again. Muhammad was in Nablus during that time, he heard about the attack and headed straight home. At the Huwwara checkpoint he showed his American passport to the soldiers and two military vehicles followed him home. They arrived to find out that it was not only his house and family who got attacked. Six Molotov cocktails had been thrown into his brother’s house located right next door. Most of the bottles were thrown on the first floor that was burned as a result. One of them hit the window frame of the second floor of the house where the children and their mother were sleeping at that time. Luckily it didn’t go through the window. The wife reports that the settlers were gone by the time her husband and the soldiers arrived and the soldiers refused to believe settlers had anything to do with the incident at first. Eventually though the family did receive significant protection from the army. Soldiers guarded the home for a number of days. Neighbors suggest that Muhammad’s American citizenship was the cause for that.
During a talk with Muhammad’s wife she shared that at the present time she leaves the house on very rare occasions and worries that another settler attack could take place when there’s nobody home. She does not fear them though and keeps on hoping that their house might be a safe enough place one day for her whole family to be united in it again.