“When you lose a member of the family, you suffer for a long, long time.” These were the words of Hadil’s father, Dr. Salah Hashlamon as he addressed our group of 8 Americans and 2 Palestinian guides in his living room, on October 15, 2016. His 19 year old daughter had been shot dead the year before on September 22 at a Hebron checkpoint.
Hadil was on her way to her volunteer work to help the needy in the Old City of Hebron. She had started the Fall semester of college, but found time to continue this work out of devotion to the task. Being a very devout Muslim, she chose to cover her face except for her eyes. Being a Palestinian woman, she carried a large purse. For these two things she was killed by an Israeli soldier. When the soldier stopped her to search her before letting her pass the checkpoint, Hadil, according to witnesses, asked for a female soldier to do the searching. Whatever the soldier then said to her, she apparently did not understand. That was when he shot her, first in the legs so that she fell to the ground, and then 14 more bullets into her body. Medics were there in 10 minutes, but were not allowed to attend to her for 45 minutes. She died in the hospital.
How do we know that this is what happened? The soldiers claimed Hadil had a knife with which she intended to stab a soldier, and they displayed it on the ground next to her body. But an international observer with the Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAPPI) wrote a detailed account of what he observed on that day, and it was clear that Hadil posed no threat to the soldiers at the checkpoint. In addition, Israeli surveillance cameras also captured the event, and the army would have gladly displayed their video if it proved they were right.
Nevertheless, Dr. Hashlamon’s home was raided at 2:30 a.m. one morning so the army could get the dimensions in order to prepare to demolish the family home as punishment for Hadil’s supposed terrorist intentions. Members of the family were also interrogated as to Hadil’s possibly unstable emotional state that would explain her “attack”. (So far the house still stands, but demolition orders have no expiration date.)
One month after Hadil was killed, an Israeli army officer declared that Hadil had not been a danger to the soldiers.
Dr. Haslamon’s lap was full of papers and photographs showing the extent of Hadil’s injuries and every word that has been said both in and out of court since her death. Two of his adult sons sat near him as he spoke to us. A younger son served us juice and candies, and maybe coffee – I don’t remember. My attention was upon this grieving father, who was making sure his daughter’s life would not be in vain because it would be told outside of his living room and outside of Hebron, Palestine. He has taken the case and others like it to the International Criminal Court office in Ramallah, but he cannot take it outside of the borders of the West Bank because his family has been labeled terrorist and cannot get a visa from Israel.
Hadil was a poet and had been locally recognized for her talent. Dr. Hashlamon read one of her poems which she had written in English. I wish I had a copy, but share these lines that I wrote down:
"The Israelis say we have a problem: we love to die.”
"One word can help others.”
"We have a State waiting for us in the future that will hold us all.”
After an hour it was time for us to leave. I, as tour leader, tried to thank Dr. Hashlamon for his time, which had been requested only that morning. I wondered to myself how Hadil’s brothers felt listening to their father tell of such sadness and injustice once again. I know the father was angry that nothing had come of Hadil’s murder. In fact it had been followed by the deaths of 235* more young Palestinians in similar situations – some actually carrying a knife, but most gunned down by young soldiers following orders: Kill if you feel threatened, let them bleed out on the street, frame them if you can.
Hadil’s story echoes around the world, in our Black, brown and gay communities and wherever native peoples claim their rights or try to protect land and water. I hope Dr. Hashlamon can count on us all to tell Hadil’s story and to stand up for human dignity wherever it is under attack.
*The death toll included 34 Israelis as of September 30, 2016. Ma’an News