I am Layla Alsheikh from the village of Battir in the Bethlehem governorate. A Muslim Palestinian
Najla Abu Ayash - "Loss and Bereavement Have Been a Part of My Life"
Loss and bereavement have been a part of my life since 1948, when I was five years old and the Israeli occupation forces killed two of my uncles, my father’s brothers, whose deaths he never stopped mourning.
In 1966, after my younger brother successfully finished high school, he went to Germany to continue his studies. After a year, the 1967 occupation war broke and my brother came back from Germany to be with us, but was arrested along with his friends. Their identification cards were confiscated, and they were deported back to Germany, where my brother stayed in exile until 1995, after the Oslo Accords.
Over the years, our home, which is on the main road between Hebron and Jerusalem, was invaded by the Israeli army on a daily basis, to search, destroy and punish. Life in such a reality became unbearable for us. My brother, Maher, who is two years older than I am, was my friend. He would give me a ride on his motorcycle from home to school every day. We had a special bond. Maher was tall, his eyes were blue, and he was handsome.
Almost every day, Maher would suffer from the soldiers who parked outside the house and beat him vigorously. When he was 19, he decided to go abroad, to escape the shameful, humiliating reality. He decided to go to Lebanon and join the Palestinian Resistance, and said that he aspired to change reality, so we will be able to live quietly, peacefully and safely. In 1982, Maher was killed along with five of his friends, when a rocket that was shot from the air struck them, killing them instantly. Identification was only possible through the identification card he carried. To date, his body has not been returned to us, and he doesn’t have a grave we can visit. To this day, my mother mourns the loss of my brother, saying all the time “the loss of a brother breaks the back, but the loss of a son breaks the heart”.
Over the years, 17 people from our family have been killed.
In 2007, I was acquainted with peace activity on the Israeli side. We spoke about suffering, about peace and about the occupation. They asked me to join the Forum, but I refused firmly.
Eight years later, I was again invited to join the Forum, this time by my cousin Osama. He spoke about the Forum’s different activities, that aspire to raise awareness to the Palestinian suffering and an end to the occupation. I agreed to try and participate as a listener in one of the activities, where I was exposed to the stories of four Israeli women who had lost their children in the conflict. Following the meeting, I understood that the pain of mothers is the same everywhere and that no mother wishes for her child to die or accepts this loss. I referred to every mother as a mother, regardless of their affiliation to any country or nationality.
That meeting affected me very deeply, and as a result I decided to join the Forum. As part of my membership, I participate in many activities that aim to stop the injustice and the discrimination our people experience, to end the occupation, and to live in safety, peace and with respect for everyone.
lives in Beit Omar in the Hebron District
Married, mother of four. I have seventeen brothers and sisters.