Twilight Zone / The Mountain That Was as a Monster

Most of her family went to New York, but Tamam Admeidi is adamant about staying in her home, below the settlement of Yitzhar

Tamam Admeidi is cooking mansaf. Her glance shifts constantly between the burners and the mountain beyond the window. The windowpane is shattered. Through the broken glass one can see the family's olive groves, planted on the mountain slope and extremely well tended. On the summit are the roofs of several homes, hiding behind the ridge. The settlement of Yitzhar.

Admeidi makes the dish of rice and meat in a simmering pressure cooker, from which the steam threatens to erupt any moment in a major blowout. No journalistic metaphor, she really is using a pressure cooker. But her nervous glances toward the mountain remind us that a pressure cooker is a perfect, if hackneyed, metaphor for her situation. Three Fridays ago settlers came down from Yitzhar once again and approached the Admeidis' spacious new home. They threw dozens of stones through the security bars, at the windows, most of which shattered. A few roof tiles also broke. The stones are still there. Only Admeidi was not broken: She says she isn't afraid. Has she considered leaving and joining her husband and two of their sons in Long Island? Admeidi snorts in disdain: "Not a chance. I'll never leave this house."

Admeidi lives with Selina, 11, her youngest daughter, in a beautiful house in east Hawara, the last one facing Yitzhar. Her husband, Mohammed, comes every few months. They built this palace with the profits from his cell phone business in New York. Three stories high, with shiny marble floors, wooden banisters, china cabinets filled with crystal and amazing views - the valley on one side, the mountain on the other. Tamam and Selina live on the top floor. The others are not completed. Each one is 270 meters square. Outside are three dunams (3/4 acre ) of well-tended fruit trees, a tiny rose garden, a (still empty ) decorative fish pond. There are electrically operated metal shutters on the top floor, because of the settlers. Tamam and Selina moved in about four months ago from their longtime home above the main road to Nablus, where settler attacks have greatly increased. After the second attack on the new home, three weeks ago on Thursday, Tamam phoned Mohammed, in Long Island. He said he would come soon.

This is the heart of a disputed area, surrounded by extremist settlements such as Yitzhar and Har Bracha.Under the monstrous "price tag" policy (whereby settlers attack Palestinians in retaliation for Israeli government actions against the settlements ), the residents of Hawara and adjacent villages live in constant fear.

If the Israel Police or the army dare to arrest a settler or destroy a trailer home, rioting settlers will burn the villagers' crops, uproot their trees and set their cars and homes alight. The settlers know that the Israel Defense Forces and the police won't lift a finger against them. So it was that Thursday, after police arrested several Yitzhar residents suspected of assaulting soldiers; they were released soon after. But the settlers promised a "price tag," and so the Admeidi home was attacked late that morning. God of vengeance, indeed.

The files of the B'Tselem field researchers for the area - Atef Abu a-Rub, for the Jenin district, and Salma a-Deb'i, in charge of the Nablus district - are filled with many similar incidents from the past few weeks alone. Some were not reported in the media: Several weeks ago, settlers invaded a home on the outskirts of Kafr Qaddum and uprooted and burned trees surrounding it. Another day, at Tapuah Junction, a car was set on fire, and the next day a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a pickup truck carrying furniture near Al-Attara. The driver, a resident of Sanur, noticed that something had been thrown from a settlers' car as it passed, but kept driving until other drivers signaled him to stop. Only then did he notice that his furniture and his truck were ablaze.

About a month ago, on a Saturday, dozens of settlers threw stones at the home of Bashir Hindi, in the northern part of Burin, across from Har Bracha. One Sunday several weeks ago, dozens of settlers threw objects into a well near Burin. The villagers haven't dared to drink the water since then. Hawara, Burin, Arak Burin, Asira, Jit, Kafr Qaddum, Till, Far'ata - the people of these villages live in terror of the settlers and their accursed "price tag," and nobody comes to their defense.

On Sunday, five weeks ago, Hadi Admeidi sat on a plastic chair at the entrance to his family's home, watching as his mother made mansaf upstairs. Hadi, the youngest son, stayed in Hawara to guard his mother and little sister. At about 11:30 A.M. the previous Thursday, while he was in a taxi on the way to Ramallah, neighbors phoned to tell him that settlers had attacked the house. He told the driver to turn around, and hurried home. When he arrived, about 15 minutes later, he saw the shattered windows. He quickly climbed the mountain in pursuit of the rioters, but saw just one armed man heading toward Yitzhar.

The neighbors said a group of settlers, some masked, some armed, came from the direction of the mountain and threw rocks at the house. They counted 35 stones. On their way back, or perhaps on their way to the house, the settlers also destroyed seven of the family's olive trees. It's not hard to imagine how Tamam, who was alone in the house, felt during the attack. But she, strong and determined, is focused on her mansaf now, and says that nothing scares her.

We enter and ascend the marble staircase. There are shattered windows on every floor, but most are on the top floor, where Tamam and Selina live. This wasn't the first incident. Three weeks earlier settlers approached the house, but soldiers drove them off. What will Tamam do if she sees the settlers approaching for the third time? She says she'll phone her son, or other relatives, as well as the liaison and coordination offices. "Look up, my daughter, to the mountain, the mountain that was as a monster." In his poem Yovav Katz asks: "My mother, are you crying or laughing?" But mother Tamam is neither crying nor laughing. The spring skies are dark, the plum trees down below are swaying in the wind, shaking their still-green fruit. Soon we shall be going, and Tamam shows no signs of fear. She is dictating a special recipe for knafeh, not with the usual cheese, but with almonds and cashews, to the two B'Tselem field researchers who came with us.