***image2***Aisha is an old woman in her 70’s. Her sharp face bears out the history of Palestine and Palestinians, from disaster to resistance. When you see her you are reminded of a Roman olive tree tied to the land with its roots deep into the soil. She talks with determination and conviction, recounting her community’s struggle against the Apartheid Wall and Occupation.



“We are not frightened from them. They have to get used to the idea that this land is our land and we are not leaving it. We will not run away from them even if they forbid us to reach the land. I’m not leaving my land.”



Aisha has provided the backbone of her the family for many years. She lives with her son and his family, a total of 17 people. Between them they shared an 18 dunum plot in the west Ramallah village of Budrus. Despite the modest size of the family’s land, they relied upon it for their livelihoods. Now that land has been isolated by the construction of the Apartheid Wall and the family have been cut off from their source of living,



With obvious pain Aisha describes how the land was destroyed for the Wall. “Seventy trees were uprooted from my land to be replaced by concrete.” Due to her son’s illness, Aisha has worked this land for years in order to provide for her grandchildren. The produce was a major source of revenue for the family. With the arrival of the Wall came the removal of this income and has brought about the reliance of the family on external aid. She notes: “The wall destroyed our land and source of living, now we live under aid and are at the mercy of the donor sources.”



A family destroyed by the Wall



The land, the trees and Aisha’s family were all one active unit totally destroyed by the Wall. The olive trees were planted and raised with Aisha and were like a mother, sister and daughter for her. Then the Occupation bulldozers came to uproot them.



“When I was a child I used to plant these trees. We used to hold water over our heads to reach the plants and water them. These trees are like my children. From these olives we produced oil to cover all our needs. We used to make 6 or 7 boxes of washing soup from this oil so we didn’t buy from market. We used to plant tomato, eggplant, wheat and zucchini between the olives. We used to produce a lot and sell them. This was the main income for us to live.”



A beautiful artistic view



The mountains, nature, animals grazing, pasture land and the shepherds depicted the beauty of the area which Aisha fondly recalls. Now the Wall and Occupation have destroyed this Palestinian existence on their lands.



“We used to plant and farm our land. I kept sheep. I used to take them and feed them in the mountains. Now, they are driving me crazy with their Walls and checkpoints. They keep telling me “go there” or “come here”, “how old are you”, “where are you going?” and endless questions. There are no more places to take my sheep to. I had to sell them because I can’t feed them. I almost cannot feed myself now. And most of my village also got rid of their sheep. This wall is really choking us. Our land is less than 3 km away from our home but we are not allowed to reach it and not even allowed to come closer than 30 meters from the wall. We are living in a big jail. Now roads to the village from the west are blocked and from the south and to Ramallah (the district center). Do the people think that the Palestinians in jails are the only prisoners? We are prisoners but in our villages and homes. We used to go to the open areas and collect different types of za’ater, zotoman and akoob (all wild herbs used in food). Now we cannot even collect hay or pieces of wood to start up fire in our ovens that we always used. Now I can’t even get heat in winter.”



Yet, under this adversity, Aisha revealed a determination and resilience to protect her land. This old woman forced the Occupation bulldozers to stop. Her strength and conviction made the Occupation soldiers retreat in front of her.



“One day the Occupation came and started putting signs on the olive trees. We knew that it means they are preparing to uproot them. When they came at night, the whole village woke up and ran to the lands and forced the bulldozers to stop. Doesn’t the proverb say that everybody needs to die in the end? We found half the trees uprooted and I found myself jumping on a bulldozer. The bulldozer driver jumped out and ran far away from it. What did they expect? If they came to kill us, we will wait in front of them and sure enough every one of us will die. All the village united, from the youngest to the eldest, men and women, gathered on the lands and managed to stop them for four months continuously. Now they come with a huge number of soldiers and they use sticks to beat us badly. Until now parts of my body are still hurting me.”



Collective punishment and brutal attacks



The Occupation, since the beginning, punishes the Palestinian mother for bringing new life to Palestine. Aisha states how “until now the signs of beating are covering my body and there is pain especially in my foot. I remember once I tried to pull a child from their hands. The soldier beat me with his military helmet in my face. All my face was bleeding. They indiscriminately arrest all the youth that defend their land. They used to take the youth, detain them and beat them badly before letting them go. All the women of the village used to gather and try to pull these youth out of their hands. Last time, I was going to a funeral when a guy started shouting and calling for help. I ran as fast as I could to him with another group of women to free him from their hands. I found him tied next to the soldiers. So I tried to pull him while the rest of women where fighting the soldiers. At some point, the soldiers noticed me and ran to me and beat me in my feet with their boots and then again with a stick in my face. I went to the doctor after to check my face. The doctor told me that my bones couldn’t handle another beating. Simply that means I will sustain serious injuries from another beating. But what does the doctor want me to do?! We are the mothers of Palestine and there is nothing else we can do. Does he want me to watch them take our children and do nothing about it? I will never allow them. I am not afraid of them.”



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