In Hebron, outside a makeshift tent off Ein Sara Street, sits an empty coffin. Inside the tent a group of men gathers, each a father whose son or daughter has been killed by the Israeli military during the last three months. Their motto is: “We need our children.” CPTers have paid several visits to the tent to show their solidarity with these bereaved fathers and their family members.
Obviously their true wish would be to have their children alive and well, but these fathers have been forced to ask for their children’s bodies, so they can bury them. The Israeli authorities have offered to release five of the nineteen bodies they are still holding, but on condition that the funerals of the deceased will be held at night with a limited number of mourners. The parents of these five have refused these conditions and continue to press for the return of all remaining bodies.
As the death toll among Palestinians rises, existing members of the group visit newly bereaved families to offer them support. Some men told CPTers that the Israeli military are likely planning to demolish their homes. In some cases, they said, soldiers have already entered their homes, sometimes during the night, to take measurements. We asked about their wives and surviving children. Some said that their wives cry constantly. The surviving children are frightened, including one little girl who each day has to pass the checkpoint where her older sister was shot dead. “Will they shoot me too?” she asks her father.
Perhaps the saddest individual story shared in the tent is that of Jihad Irsheid. On 25 October 2015 Israeli forces killed his 17-year-old daughter, Dania, at the checkpoint beside the Ibrahimi Mosque as she was making her way home from school. An Israeli spokesman claimed that Dania had a knife, though this is disputed by eyewitness accounts. Then, on 9 December 2015, as he sat with his friends in the tent, Jihad received a call to say that the Israeli military had shot his 24-year-old son Uday during a demonstration in the Ras Al-Jura neighbourhood of Hebron. By the time Jihad reached the hospital Uday was dead. What a horrific price this family has paid for this occupation.
The men in the solidarity tent are dignified and determined. Our hearts go out to them as they carry on their campaign to have their children’s bodies restored to them, so they can honor them – each and every one – with proper funerals.