Hajj Khalil Nawaja’ah, Wadi Jheish
We meet Hajj Khalil Nawaja’ah, 72 years old, and his wife, Hajji Tamam, 69 years old, on a beautiful winter day. Hajj Khalil and Hajjeh Tamam have 12 adult children—7 sons and 5 daughters, all of them married. One of their sons died. Three of their sons live alongside them with their families in Wadi Jheish, and today the community numbers 6 households and about 60 people. Hajj Khalil and Hajji Tamam have a small herd of about 20 sheep. Hajji Tamam prepares yogurt and butter for their own use.
2010, upgrade in 2013
hybrid micro-grid (1 turbine, 8 solar panels), 2 H2O systems
Since when have you lived here, in this location?
Before ’48 we lived in al-Qaryatayn [just a few kilometers from Wadi Jheish, on what became the Green Line]. In ‘48 we had to leave there, and we settled in Susya. In 1967 we were expelled from Susya because the Israelis said we were sitting on an archeological site. After that we went to Yatta, and in 1985 we moved to Wadi Jheish, because our land is here. This is my parents’ land. Life was easier and simpler then, there were no restrictions. We were married in 1964, when we still lived in Susya. I worked as a laborer in Aqaba [Jordan]. I would work there for about 40 days at a time and then return home to Susya.
One of the biggest difficulties Hajj Khalil and his family face is harassment from nearby Jewish settlers. The other major issue is the threat of home demolitions.
In 1995 the settlers started coming to the area with their herds. They would let them graze on our agricultural land. They would ruin everything that we had planted, which led to confrontations. In 2008, I think it was, four masked settlers came, they beat my wife and me. She was taken to Soroka Hospital [in Israel] and was in a coma for four days. To this day she has a scar on her face from this incident. I was hit on the head and had to be treated at ‘Aliya Hospital in Hebron.The first demolition happened in 1990, the Israeli Civil Administration came and destroyed one of our caves. In 2012 there was another demolition, and in August 2016, during the month of Ramadan, the ICA came and destroyed another house. Another fear I have is that our simple homes will be destroyed and blown away by the winter storms.
The ruins of a home, the one demolished by the ICA during Ramadan a year and a half earlier, are strewn like an open wound less than 100 meters from where we sit.
What is one good thing that has happened in the past 10 years?
The best thing that has happened to us in the past 10 years is the electricity. Life became easier, especially for the women in all their household work—doing laundry, making the dairy products, carrying water… Even the sheep have gotten used to the electricity. When the lights go out, they start making noises!”
Of all the places you’ve lived in your life, which do you like the best?
Of all the places, Wadi Jheish is the best and most comfortable, despite the settlers who harm us and limit our movement and security. In Yatta there is no quiet, there are no open spaces, everything is crowded. When you are on your own land with your own property, you feel good.”