Our team recently ventured out of city-base to visit a small West Bank town in the countryside between Hebron and Jerusalem. Here, I was welcomed into the family home of local Palestinian, Ali Ayyad, to hear about his life.
When Ali was younger, he tells us that he traveled all over South America and can speak Portuguese. However, as a Palestinian political activist, involved in resisting the occupation, he has since been arrested and imprisoned numerous times by the Israeli military. He has spent a combined total of ten years of his life in Israeli jails. Ali is not alone. According to the Palestinian human rights group, Adameer: ‘Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967, Israeli forces have arrested more than 800,000 Palestinians’. The majority of these are male – about 40% of Palestinian men in the occupied territories have been arrested, most of these accused of political resistance.
Ali’s other sons, Hansa (22), Ahmed (27) and Mohammed (25) have all spent time in jail. Ali tells us that Ahmed was cuffed on his arrest and then left on the ground for four hours. Mohammad was kicked so hard his appendicitis scar burst. Although all detainees should have access to adequate medical provisions in prison, this was not Mohammed’s experience. After serving his sentence, he was released disabled due to receiving incorrect medication in jail, which had caused damage to his internal organs.
Ali feels that prison puts life on hold so is ‘like a cemetery’. However he also tells us that among Palestinian prisoners there is solidarity and unity. Ali tries to cultivate hope by working with families in his community of Beir Ummar, who have family members in prison. He said 118 people from Beit Ummar are in prison and 60% of them are under 18.