Dear friends and anyone else interested:
Khirbet a-Duqaiqah is a Bedouin village in the very southern tip of the West Bank, close to the Arad valley. Its first inhabitants were refugees from the Arad region, expelled in 1948. Duqaiqah is situated close to the area defined by the Occupation authorities “firing zone 918” and in spite of not being included in it, it is destined for demolition (Check: http://www.btselem.org/south_hebron_hills/duqaiqah ). Massive demolitions have already taken place in the village in the past.
We, of the Villages Group, heard of Duqaiqah, its misery and hardship, and of handicapped Muhammad who lives there. We had refrained from going there since even without frequenting Duqaiqah, we find it hard to nourish and deepen the personal ties we have created for the past 12 years with inhabitants of numerous villages throughout the South Hebron Hills. Still, Gideon Levy’s article took us there (see: http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/twilight-zone/.premium-1.541901).
We met Muhammad, a handsome man with a broad, inviting smile and eyes brimming with wisdom. Muhammad cannot move his legs and hands, only his head. We saw how he is supported by his mother, sisters and several of his brothers, the harsh conditions of his life and the total absence of professional rehabilitative treatment which should be extended by the welfare systems. The Israeli occupation does not offer such services – that would mean following the Geneva Convention that stipulates that the occupier is responsible for the welfare, health, mobility and other basic civil rights of its occupied. As for the Palestinian Authority, the inhabitants of the South Hebron Hills are a backyard, particularly the Bedouins among them. Welfare organizations have not found Muhammad eligible for their services for some reason or other.
We asked Muhammad how he passes his day. He smiled, embarrassed, and said he does nothing. We asked him what would make him happy. Muhammad answered us as if he had waited for a long time for such a question: “reading”, he said with clarity.
In one of our next visits we brought him a mechanism that enables one to turn pages with one’s head, as well as books on various topics in Arabic, at his request, for at the village the only books available are religious ones.
His eyes shined happily.
From one visit to the next our connection to him deepened, along with our mutual trust.
In our last meeting we asked him how we could help more. Muhammad was a bit embarrassed but agreed to share with us his stressful inability to move outside his home and isolated village, and his will to contribute productively to the livelihood and existence of his family. Muhammad has chosen to formulate his difficulties and desires in a detailed letter, presenting his life-story and pointing out the real possibility he sees for improvement in his state under circumstances that so greatly limit his state of health.
Below please find Mohammad’s appeal, which financially comes down to helping him purchase a used car costing approximately 5000 US Dollars. Anyone interested in helping Mohammad fulfill this request, is invited to write us to the Villages Group at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the name of Allah the merciful,
the prayer and blessing of Muhammad-
Dear honorable Mrs. Erella and Dr. Ehud and Mr. Danny,
I send you this letter, detailing the story of my life since I was born to this world until this present moment.
I am a Bedouin of the tribe of Al-Ka’abneh. Its lands lie from north of the city of Arad to east of Yatta town, south of the city of Hebron. The members of my tribe make their living growing sheep and goats. When I was born, my family lived in a goat-hair tent. Then we moved into homes built of concrete blocs and tin sheets, since the Civil Administration in the Occupied Territories prohibits permanent construction on this land, as anyone visiting with us can see. We suffer the harshest living conditions and we need to improve or crowded living conditions in structures that would protect us from the heat of the summer and the cold of winter.
My personal story: My name is Muhammad Suleiman Al-Ka’abneh, of the village of Khirbet a-Duqaiqah. I am 45 years old. Since the age of four I have suffered from a serious disease, to the point that I could no longer stand on my own feet and walk. My father began to seek treatment in clinics and hospitals. Most of the time he carried out his searches on foot, for distances exceeding 25 kilometers, as there is no public transportation from our place of residence to the town of Yatta. He was already over 70 years-old. Transportation was scant and sometimes non-existent. Father suffered bitterly until we finally received a doctor’s referral to a government hospital in Ramallah, where I was hospitalized for a whole month, at the end of which I seemed to have recovered. I could walk again and move freely. I thought it was all over then, that I had recovered and the disease would no longer strike. I went back to school until the 7th grade. Then I left school because of our economic conditions, to help my father who had two wives and a large family of 21. I began to work in farming for some years, until I reached the age of 18. At the end of 1987 I began to sense a certain heaviness in my legs and my condition worsened with the years. Father and I resumed our search for treatment at various hospitals such as Al-Mukassad in Jerusalem, and Al-Mutala. We were referred to Hadassah En Kerem in Jerusalem, where one of my legs was operated to extract a muscle tissue sample. After extensive testing the doctors informed me that I was suffering from an incurable muscle-degenerative disease. Since then, 1991, my health deteriorated daily. I could hardly walk. My father, who had cared for me devotedly and gave me anything I needed and wanted, died a short while later. After his death I lost all hope for help and a chance to survive in this life. My brothers married one by one and created families of their own. Due to our harsh economic conditions, each looked after their own family and its livelihood. I remained alone and seated without any possibility of moving my body, neither my hands nor my legs. I have been living with my 75-year old mother ever since. She is the one who helps me eat, dress and wash. In my distress I began to think how to get myself out of my hopeless situation. I reached a solution that helped exist and get out of the home: one of my brothers had a driving license. I looked for a way of making a respectable livelihood so I decided with my brother to sell and buy sheep and goats. We bought a car together and traded in this field for 4 years. I began to feel better about myself. On one hand I would get away from home, sit in the car and see people. On the other hand I would work and make some money we could live on. All this ended in 2004: one day my brother drove off to get food and in one of the nearby villages he drove on a dirt road, since Palestinian vehicles were forbidden to travel the paved roads. Suddenly an Israeli army recon unit blocked him, took him out of his car and took the car to Kefar Etzyon settlement, confiscating it, claiming he was inside a closed military zone where military maneuvers were taking place. We could not pay the fine needed to release the vehicle and it stayed impounded by the army. From here on I lost all hope. Again I lost all human contact and the source of my livelihood. My life has become more and more difficult, for I cannot afford to purchase another vehicle and live as decently as others do. I wish to be a socially active person and help others who need aid, but this is my destiny and fate. I appeal to humanity and to good-hearted people who would help me as much as they can, for we were born human to build this world. God bless you all, God bless the person who helped me write this letter (I cannot write by myself), and all who would help send it further.
Muhammad Suleiman Al-Ka’abneh
Born December 31, 1968