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Michael and Linda Costa Halabi, Rachel’s Tomb neighborhood

Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 12.11.2011:

Michael: “Even if I would be the last, I will stay here!”

Interview by Sytske van Bruggen, February 2009

“Our family lives in Bethlehem since at least 300 or 400 years,” opens Michael Costa Halabi the conversation. “And there are more than seven generations documented.” His house is along a wide road with many other houses.

Michael, a short man in his fifties, used to work as an accountant. He is married with an Armenian woman. They have one daughter and two sons. Fifteen years ago, another son died of cancer at the age of 17. His sister Linda, of about the same age and not married, lives in her own house nearby. During 38 years she was the head of a primary school.

Suffering during the Intifadas

During the Intifadas, the Costa Halabi family suffered much. Linda’s house was completely destroyed from inside. The whole family used to take refuge in the basement of Michael’s house. In that house, too, much was damaged. A bullet hole in a glass-ceiled painting, on the wall of the living room, is a silent witness.

People shot in front of their house

The houses of Michael and Linda are only a few meters away from the Separation Wall. Both remember well the time before it was built. “Children used to throw stones at the soldiers. Then the soldiers started to attack them.” Michael takes something out of his pocket. When he opens his hand, there turn out to be several rubber bullets in his hand palm, some with a diameter of a centimeter. “They shot them with these bullets, and they also shot tear gas.” In the period 2003 – 2007 no less than five persons were killed in their street.

Olive tree garden hardly accessible

The family possesses three large pieces of land wit olive trees. They are in the area where the Israelis established the Har Homa settlement. Five years ago, the Israelis built a military road from the settlement to Jerusalem. It cuts their land. Michael, Linda and their relatives are in exceptional cases allowed to enter their olive tree garden. “This year, we asked the Red Cross to help us. Finally we got permission to go to our fields. But there were hardly any olives. “Bedouins are allowed to enter these zones. Maybe they picked the olives, or their sheep and goats ate them.”

Despite all these hardships, Michael and his family don’t think of leaving. With a firm voice, Michael declares: “Even if I would be the last person, I will stay here!”

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