Home Archive 12/May/2018 12:28 PM

Nights of terror and horror: Palestinian children‘s experience when Israeli soldiers raid their home


Najib Mafarjeh got a chance to hold his children before he was detained. 

By Rasha Hirzallah

RAMALLAH, May 12, 2018 (WAFA) – It was five in the morning when Najib Mafarjeh, 33, his wife, Amanda, and two children, Ibaa, 4, and her brother Baraa, 2, were awaken by strong banging on the door of their home in the Ramallah-area village of Beit Liqya.

“Open the door or we will blow it up if you don’t open it right now,” said the voices coming from outside.

Mafarjeh jumped from his bed, looked out of the window and saw a large heavily-armed Israeli army force and dogs surrounding the house. As he opened the door for them, his wife, Amanda, rushed to her children’s room to comfort them while they were screaming in fear.

The soldiers and dogs barged into the house and the adjacent home of Mafarjeh’s parents and siblings, ordered everyone, except Mafarjeh, out of their homes while they handcuffed and blindfolded Mafarjeh before throwing him into an army jeep and taking him away.

But before the army detained Mafarjeh, he got a chance to hold and hug his children, who clinched on to him refusing to let go and calling on him not to go with the soldiers, according to their mother, Amanda.

“Ibaa and Baraa where frightened and crying,” she said. “Ibaa clinched on to her father and would not let him go, calling on him to stay with them, but after the soldiers took him away, she started to laugh in a hysterical way, while Baraa was scared and crying.”

The soldiers, she said of the horror of that night, barged into the house with the dogs causing the children to scream in fear. She said she tried to comfort her children but the sound of the soldiers moving things around the house, as if they were destroying everything, was even scarier.

The frightening experience of Ibaa and Baraa is what most Palestinian children in the occupied territories go through almost every day when Israeli soldiers break into their family homes in the middle of the night and arrest members of their family, mainly the father.

Rights organizations report daily after midnight Israeli army detention campaigns and raids at homes throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“The arrest of the father in front of his children leaves a very serious psychological impact on the children,” said Sami Snowbar, a psychotherapist and sociologist at the YMCA in Ramallah. “This experience could cause them an immediate shock or aftershock trauma whose symptoms could appear three months after the incident,” he said.

“The children could also suffer from nightmares, constant state of fear, sleep deprivation and could also cause uncontrolled urination during sleep, which is something we saw in many cases of children who watched their father being arrested.”

He said that in one case in a Nablus-area village, a 9-year-old child would refuse to enter the room where his father was arrested.

Snowbar said this experience could cause the child to lose confidence in himself and trust in others as he starts to follow up on news of arrests and watch videos of this in order to relate what the children saw to their own experiences, explaining that different children experience different feelings and behavior after the incident and how they deal with the shock.

He said the children may pretend they are not affected by the incident, but after several sessions with social workers, the symptoms of the aftershock start appearing.

“Arresting a father in front of his children and saying goodbye to him is a very painful experience,” said Snowbar. “The child feels he has lost someone very close to him, someone who provided him with security and protection. It is a feeling equivalent in impact to losing someone in death.”

Snowbar said in the case of Ibaa, she could not handle seeing her father being taken away and for this reason she started to laugh in a hysterical manner in a way to deny that something very sad has just happened.

He said in such cases, the therapists work with children to help them recreate the image of what happened in their mind in order to accept it as normal.

He said that not only children suffer, but also the father who develops concern and worry about his family and children whom he has left behind.


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