A few years ago, the Khatib family from the village of Hizma found itself living on the Israeli side of the West Bank security fence, separated from the rest of the village's residents.
The family, numbering 24 people, was unwillingly made part of the Jewish Givat Ze'ev neighborhood due to the fact that its land was situated along the fence's route, and since then it has been subject to continuous harassment.
To visit their hundreds of relatives and friends living just a few hundred meters away in Hizma, located on the northern outskirts of the capital, members of the Khatib family must pass through a nearby checkpoint, thus crossing from area C (under full Israeli control) to the Palestinian Authority. However, family members are forbidden from moving freely within Pisgat Ze'ev, and are in essence "prisoners inside their own home." According to them, any family member found outside the family compound will be sent to jail by Israeli authorities.
"For a few years now we have been separated from our village and surroundings; we have unwillingly become residents of Pisgat Ze'ev," said Kifach Khatib, the mother. The 70-year-old woman told Ynet that despite the hardships, the family has tried to maintain its lifestyle.
"The fact that we have been turned into settlers does not mean that we gave up on our way of life," she said, "We continue to raise chickens and sheep for a living."
However, the family claims that the past few months have seen an increase in the level of harassment on the part of the Israeli authorities. The Jerusalem Municipality demanded that the family get rid of its chickens, sheep and goats and dismantle an arbor that served as a coop.
"The arbor has existed for years. This is how we've always lived, but now the municipality has warned us that if we do not take it down we'll be slapped with a fine of at least NIS 30,000 (about $7,500)," Kifach Khatib told Ynet.
More harassments. Khatib family home (Photo: Silva Yusim)
The family was forced to dismantle the arbor and move the chickens and sheep to neighbors on the Palestinian side of the security barrier.
"A month ago settlers stole my best goat, and from time to time we have to cross over to the other side of the fence to feed our animals. Our Palestinian neighbors cannot raise the animals themselves - I don’t know what to do," the mother said.
On top of all the other problems the Khatib family is dealing with, two of its daughters are suffering from a genetic neurological disease, and one of them is confined to a wheelchair.
Independent humanitarian activist Salva Yusim, who met the Khatib family in east Jerusalem, told Ynet "the family is relying on distant relatives and acquaintances for food and medicine, but the sick girls are not getting any medical attention."
The mother added that friends who wish to visit the family on the Israeli side are delayed at the IDF checkpoint for hours.
"My son was in an accident a few days ago and the soldiers refused to allow his aunts to pass; after a few hours they called and asked that we come to the checkpoint to pick up the gifts they had brought for us. We face the same problem anytime there is a change of guard at the checkpoint. The new soldiers and officers manning the checkpoint don’t know us - to them we are residents of the (Palestinian territories)," Kifach Khatib said.
The IDF's Coordination and Liaison Authority said in response to the grievances that "we are familiar with the complexity of the Khatib family's situation. Despite the fact that the family resides in an area that is under the Jerusalem Municipality's jurisdiction, the Liaison Authority and Civil Administration are making every effort to help the family maintain a normal lifestyle and stay directly connected to Hizma.
"To this end, relatives and nurses for the daughters have been authorized to pass through the checkpoint despite the fact that it is not intended for the use of pedestrians."
Anat Shalev contributed to this report