Gideon Levy

What It Must Be Like to Watch Your Dying Teenage Daughter Being Cursed by Bystanders

The clip showing the curses hurled at a Palestinian girl who was shot after stabbing an Israeli soldier will turn any stomach; her family watched it too

A poster of Nouf Iqab Enfeat, who was shot dead by Israeli troops after stabbing a soldier, Yabad, West Bank, June 2017.
Alex Levac

A sense of being resigned to fate shrouds the home of Nouf Iqab Enfeat, the 15-year-old girl who was shot a week ago Thursday at the Mevo Dotan checkpoint in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers, who then stood by – as did Israeli civilians as well – and watched her die without lifting a finger, without proffering medical aid. Some bystanders cursed her viciously.

If the members of her family are seething with emotional turmoil, they won’t show it to Israelis. If they are outraged or crave vengeance, they will keep those feelings hidden from the uninvited Israelis who came to their home this week. The bereaved father and his five sons, Nouf’s brothers, all speak Hebrew, which they picked up during many years of working in Israel. But it’s obvious that a conversation with an Israeli at this time and under these circumstances is awkward for them. They did all they could to hide their feelings, to answer every question as curtly as possible and divulge as little as possible.

All the members of the family have seen the despicable video clip of the soldiers and settlers standing around their dying daughter/sister and cursing her. Not one soldier made an effort to stop the horrific ritual, and no one approached the dying girl. But the family will not say a word about what they saw in the clip. Nor about the 15-year-old girl, who had stabbed and lightly injured a soldier, and who was killed as she fled, when she no longer endangered anyone. The sons of the Enfeat family are tough; their father is a bit softer, but he too heeds his sons’ advice not to say too much.

Israeli soldiers curse wounded Palestinian assailant as she writhes in pain on ground

People in their town of Yabad, near Jenin, which is known for its militancy, told us that the family was in shock. No one expected this to happen. Just a month ago, Nouf, who was in the 10th grade, visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City for the first time, on a school trip. Here’s her photo in front of the Dome of the Rock; here she's praying inside the mosque. The visit apparently made a profound impression on her. Another resident of Yabad, not her family, shows us the photos.

The Palestinian prisoners’ 40-day hunger strike also resonated powerfully in Nouf, say townsfolk who knew her. But nothing could prepare the family for the tragedy that befell them on June 1.

That morning, Nouf told her mother that one of her legs hurt, and asked if she could travel to school by shared taxi. As far as is known, she never got there. She was supposed to receive her final report card that day. A field researcher for the B’Tselem rights group, Abdulkarim Sadi, notes that exam days and report card days are a disturbing time for some students, and that knife attacks have been perpetrated on them as tension among the students runs high. But the principal and staff of Nouf’s school in Yabad were stunned by the event because she was a good pupil. In any event, Nouf left her house never to return.

The Enfeats are descendants of refugees from the village of Wadi al-Hawarith, not far from Hadera in central Israel, on whose land Moshav Geulei Teiman (Redemption of Yemen) now stands. The father of the family, Aqab, 57, worked for years as a farmhand for a member of the moshav; you can hear a hint of a Yemenite accent in his Hebrew. Aqab, who worked with flowers, describes his duties in Hebrew: “Plowing, hoeing, picking, washing and wrapping in cellophane” the flowers, which were then “placed in a carton and sent to Europe.”

Grieving father Aqab Enfeat and one of his sons at home in the West Bank town of Yabad, June 2017.
Alex Levac

Everyone in the family is dark-skinned. They’re religious but not fanatic, and Nouf was the same. In recent years she “grew stronger in faith,” her siblings say. Some of them have unusual names, like Nouf herself; some of them asked that their names not be mentioned. Two served time in Israeli prisons, but for relatively brief periods – Yusuf did 13 months, Abed two years – for relatively minor security offenses.

Aqab was still sleeping when Nouf left the house Thursday morning. It’s Ramadan month, and many people get up late. Along with the five sons he has four other daughters now. The family was very poor until the brothers grew up and started to work in Israel. Now their home, at the far end of town, is well tended. When we visited, on Monday, the mourning period was not yet over; the women of the family grieved over Nouf in a separate room.

She was a good student and she had no problems of any kind, her father says. All she wanted was to do well in school and become stronger in her faith, her brothers say. So what happened to her last week? “God have mercy on her. More we will not say.” Still, why did she do it? “That we will leave with her,” one of the brothers says cryptically.

The Mevo Dotan checkpoint is about two kilometers from their home. Nouf went there and stabbed a soldier, wounding him lightly. She then made a run for it, but was shot with live fire in her upper body as she ran. She collapsed on the road.

At about 10 A.M., “Captain Aziz” from the Shin Bet security service called Aqab and asked him to come immediately to the Bartaa checkpoint for questioning. He added that Nouf had been wounded when she tried to stab a soldier at the Mevo Dotan checkpoint. Aqab had no idea what he was talking about. He hurried to the interrogation facility, where he was held until the evening. The interrogators sought more information about his daughter; they told him she had been taken to Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center in Hadera in serious condition. They also asked Yusuf, one of Nouf’s brothers, to come to the interrogation site; Aqab would not be released until his son arrived. Yusuf came from his place of work in Israel.

At dawn the next day, the family’s lawyer called to inform them that Nouf had succumbed to her wounds. Unusually, Israel returned the body quickly to the family, on Friday evening, via the Salem checkpoint. The funeral took place at midday Saturday in the Yabad cemetery.

Why is it that they returned the body? Aqab: “Her soul was elevated. That is why they returned her body to us. Do you understand what an elevated soul is? Close to God. That is why they returned her.”

One of the drawings left behind by Nouf Iqab Enfeat, a 15-year-old girl shot dead by Israeli soldiers.
Alex Levac

Closeness to God is only one possible explanation for the quick return of the body. The other, of course, is the appalling video from the incident, which was uploaded on the social networks and stirred a certain amount of shock, even in Israel.

The clip shows a group of soldiers in brown boots and at least one settler, in sandals and shorts, circling around Nouf, who is lying on the ground, dying. Invectives are being hurled at her: “I hope you die, daughter of a whore,” “Cunt of your mother,” “Let her die, let her be fucked,” “Die, suffer, you kabha” (“whore” in Arabic). Throughout, Nouf is groaning and moaning, writhing in agony. None of the soldiers approaches her, no one silences the onslaught of curses.

It’s an unbearable sight.

“What everyone saw, we also saw,” one of the brothers says coolly now. “The whole world saw the video.”

What did you feel when you saw it? “What you felt, I felt – and what I felt is here, inside me.”

What do you feel now? The father: “It happens. What can you do? If the bullet leaves the rifle there’s no way to bring it back. Do I bring back souls? Me? The person is dead. He cannot be brought back.”

In reply to a query from Haaretz, the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman’s Office stated: “On Thursday, June 1, a female terrorist infiltrated the settlement of Mevo Dotan, and perpetrated a stabbing attack, during which one IDF soldier was injured; shots were fired at her in order to remove any threat to him or others, soldiers and civilians, in the area. After a preliminary investigation, it emerges that accusations that the soldiers who were filmed used derogatory language are not correct. The clip was shot by a civilian and the curses heard in it did not come from the soldiers, as the article claims. Similarly, as opposed to what is claimed here, immediately after the attack officers and IDF medical teams arrived, cordoned off the area and provided first aid to the terrorist, after which she was evacuated by Magen David Adom to the hospital. There is a discrepancy between the events as they occurred on the ground and the description the writer chose to give.”

After her death, Nouf’s family found a few drawings left between the pages of her notebooks. A local resident photographed them with his cellphone and showed them to us in his home. Using a red pen, Nouf drew an Israeli tank with a boy standing in front of it, defiantly holding a Palestinian flag. The boy is small, the flag is tiny, the tank is big. Above the tank she wrote, “Palestine, land of honor,” and below, “The strike of honor” (referring to the prisoners’ hunger strike).

Another drawing by Nouf shows a dove with a rose in its mouth. There’s also one of a rose with the caption, “Rose of the Al-Aqsa martyrs.” Nouf also drew tears, with a pencil, and wrote that they were tears of children.