The family isn't seeking revenge, says a relative of 36-year-old Jawaher Abu Rahmah, who died Saturday after she inhaled tear gas at a protest in the West Bank village of Bil'in. What they want is an end to the occupation and their land back.
"For me, as relative, her death - a martyred death – at the hands of the Israeli occupation, is an honor for me,” says Abu Nidar Abu Rahmah, Jawaher's uncle. Her brother, Bassem, was killed in April 2009 by a tear gas canister fired during a demonstration in the same village.
“No one from the army has called us to apologize," he says. "There is no communication between us and the army. Even when Bassem was hit, we spoke to the army and asked them to send help, and they never did."
Jawaher had been working in recent years with her younger brother and sister as tailors in Ramallah, says Mohammed Al Khatib, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the village. After Bassem was killed, most of the responsibility for bringing in an income fell on her shoulders.
The father of the family, who had been employed in construction in Israel until diabetes prevented him from working, died six years ago after battling cancer. The family’s impoverished state meant that seven children - five boys and two girls - cut short their high school education and went out to work. The two youngest sons studied at a boarding school in Bethlehem.
Now family matriarch Subhiyeh has four sons and one daughter left. One of her sons, Ashraf, was shot in the leg at close range by an Israel Defense Forces soldier in 2008, after he was arrested and tied, handcuffed and blindfolded, to an IDF jeep. The soldier who shot him maintained that he was acting on the orders of his commander, Omri Burberg.
Part of the land owned by the family is now used for homes from the settlement of Modi’in Illit. Another part is behind the West Bank separation fence, they expect to get a few dunam back when Israel changes the route of the fence in accordance with a High Court order.
The whole family currently lives in a three-room house. At the time of his death, Bassem had just laid the foundations for a house he intended to build for the entire family. Khatib says that the last thing the women in the village heard Jawaher say was how much she was looking forward to moving into their new home.
“Our family believes in Allah,” says Abu Nidar, “they know and I know that the occupation army has made us all into targets. We are not surprised by anything that happens. Now the family is not seeking vengeance, we just hope that our girl will go to heaven. Jawaher’s mother said she doesn’t want revenge. Allah will avenge us.”
“We have no problem will the people of Israel. We have a problem with the army and the occupation," he says. "We know that our land will be returned to us even if someone is killed every day. We say this to [Benjamin] Netanyahu: The demonstrations here will not end until we get our land back. We believe in a popular struggle, a non-violent struggle. We don’t want a violent struggle.”