The questions were just too big. So I started to lie to her.
I started my day normally. I got the family’s breakfast. I got ready to go to school. I put my headscarf on, got my phone and my bag. When I got to the top of the hill, I saw the military vehicles and realized that they had closed off the area. I couldn’t go to school because of the barriers. When I saw the bulldozers, I ran back to the house. I wasn’t aware of time passing. It was as though time stood still. I imagined seeing our house demolished, seeing the rooms fall in. Then my three-year-old daughter, Sadin, started asking questions: “Why are the army here? Why do they have to destroy those houses? Why do those people have to move?” I couldn’t answer her. The questions were just too big. So I started to lie to her. I told her the army had made a mistake. I told her, “They don’t hate us, they’re just pretending.” I don’t know whether Sadin believed me, but at least she calmed down. One of the other children in the village was so traumatised that he didn’t speak for days after the bulldozers came, so I think that I was probably right to try to protect Sadin.
When the army came to demolish the homes of my neighbors I couldn’t watch. All I could do was cry. And at that specific moment, I hated. I hated everyone there. The soldiers, the civil administration, the bulldozer drivers… I wanted them not to exist.
I don’t want to be relocated, I am afraid. This threat from the Israeli government and the civil administration to move us to other places is very dangerous. I’m also afraid of the Palestinian community. If we find ourselves annexed onto an existing Palestinian village or town, we will pay dearly for it. The people there will have jobs, but we will have nothing. Bedouin are farming people, and if you move us, we lose our land, our animals and our grazing areas. We will lose everything and be thrown into a place where nothing belongs to us. We are already poor, but this will make our suffering much worse than before. It will be catastrophic for the community. I don’t even want to think about it. I want to stay here.
My husband, Eid, is an artist and a lot of his works are replicas of the machinery of occupation. It is not easy for me to see those replicas. He is always saying that it is important to distinguish between the man and the machine. He says that he wants to use his art to make people see that we have to hold people to account, not machines. He says that it’s important to realize that machines can be used for good, that they can build as well as destroy. I wish I could see things this way, but I can’t. To me, the bulldozers look like scorpions – they are yellow and they have a giant arm which is made to hurt and destroy. If my husband builds another bulldozer I may just break it.
Na’ama Hathelin is a school teacher from the Bedouin community in Umm al-Kheir in the occupied West Bank. She is married to the artist Eid Hathelin, with whom she has three children, Sadin, Lin and Jury. Na’ama witnessed the demolition of two of the houses in her village. Since then there have been many more demolitions in Umm al-Khair. This interview was conducted on 8th September 2011.