Khalil lives with his 4 children and his wife in a small neighbourhood near the Etzion Settlement Block. Khalil is a farmer in the area, tending olive and fruit trees. For generations Khalil and his family have lived in this small neighbourhood where about 35 other people live. His home is humble. It is a two-room house. The washroom does not exist within his house but just outside his front gate there sits an outhouse. His walls and roof have been patched with tin and scrap wood. The oven for cooking is outside in the yard. His home has been unchanged since 1967. Not by choice, but through an order from the Israeli Military.
On the hilltops surrounding Khalil and his family are illegal settlements, Rosh Tzurim and Nevve Danyiell, which are the two oldest that loom above him. Meanwhile outposts can be seen on the surrounding hills. The settlements have 24hour access to water, shopping malls, schools, television, and swimming pools- essentially it is a modern city. If a wall or a roof in the settlement needs fixing, there is no threat of soldiers showing up to arrest anyone. Unlike Khalil’s neighbourhood, where late at night during Roshana the community gathered to rebuild a neighbour’s roof and their water consumption strictly monitored to 10cubic meters per person per month.
Rosh Tzurim and Neve Daniyyel started to be built in 1967, the same year that the military stopped allowing Khalil to alter his home in anyway. Khalil’s home remains frozen in time. For Israeli security reasons, not allowed to alter, build an extension, or fix his leaking roof. On top of the building restrictions, a couple times a month the Israeli military enters the small neighbourhood to search the homes. Often the soldiers come at night and force everyone outside, so they can search inside for any threats to security that might be within their homes.
For security reasons, the children have to travel outside to use the washroom, even in winter when the weather dips to nearly zero. For security reasons Khalil’s wife is required to cook outside with an old wood stove, breathing in smoke on daily basis. For security reasons, the family of 6 lives in a two-room house.
Although Khalil is stuck in a despairing situation, this is not the only land he owns. In fact Khalil and his family own a home in the small village of Artas. A home built recently with television, 4 bedrooms, etc and yet he chooses to live here. Why? Khalil says that if they give this up, then they will be giving up everything. This is his rightful land.
For Khalil, living on his rightful land is a way for him to seek justice. His presence is a form of resistance against the violent encroachment of the settlements. It is a statement holding Israel accountable that they exist on stolen land, on Palestinian land.