By Hamdan Hureni
I come from the village of Susiya, a Palestinian village located in the south-east of Yatta, inhabited today by 350 people. Susiya is a very beautiful village inhabited by simple people who work hard on their land and graze their sheep in order to secure a decent life for their family.
The people of Susiya are satisfied with this simple life. When they return from a hard day’s work, the men and women eat a warm and loving meal together and sit under the moonlight and stars.
Unfortunately the village of Susiya must also endure black days. Days that destroy all of the wonderful moments we experience here in our village.
In 2001, during a warm, summer evening, Susiya residents woke up to the sound of bulldozers and the Israeli Occupation Soldiers attacking the village, expelling them outside of their homes and beating them to force them out of their houses by force. Once the soldiers removed all of the residents from their homes, bulldozers began demolishing peoples homes- one by one. When they were finished, they didn’t even leave the water wells and the sheep nurseries standing. Nothing remained but the rubble of the houses, and the children and elderly standing in the strong sunlight.
The demolition came after a colonizer from the colony of Susiya, a nearby settlement named after our village, was killed. The Israeli Occupation carried out collective punishment against my village, knowing that the residents of Susiya had nothing to do with the killing of this colonizer.
This day is engraved in my memory. I was an 11 year-old child. Yes, I witnessed the destruction of the village and the brutal arrest and beating of the population. After the demolition, I walked around the village and looked at the rubble and debris that were once people’s homes. The women were crying and the children, overwhelmed by fear, cried silently. Through the tears pouring out of their eyes, the other children looked into my eyes and asked where they were going to sleep that night.
Until that moment, I had not thought about it. But at that moment, standing on top of a destroyed house, I could not move. I sat down because my hands started to shake and I couldn’t hold myself up. I felt the fear sneaking inside me and choking me very slowly. I was trying to scream, and wanted to ask someone to help me stand up again, but my voice didn’t come out. I was screaming without a voice.
Yes, the village was demolished, the children's dreams were destroyed. The Israeli Occupation Forces stole the safety we felt in our warm homes with our families. They stole from every person living in Susiya. After the demolition there were only the elderly, children and women in the village because the men were arrested and taken to an unknown destination. We did not know where they had gone until several days later when they returned from a detention center.
After the demolition of the village, we had to face an even bigger problem, rebuilding the village from scratch. But we are strong here in Susiya. We insisted on finding a way to continue to live by putting up tents, cleaning wells from the rubble, reclaiming caves and bringing water in small tanks to the village on a daily basis. Because of our resilience and hard work, the community of Susiya succeeded in reconstructing the village after such a difficult time. The people of Suisya did not and will not surrender. They will not leave their village because they have nowhere but this village and because it is their home. It is also my home, and I am proud.