Five days after his death, the family and friends of Ihsan Abu-Sitta are still in shock. The Palestinian worker died in Tel Aviv after his boss tossed him to the side of the road when he was injured at work; he was left to bleed to death.
People came from all over the occupied West Bank, the Negev Desert and Jaffa to attend his funeral in Askar refugee camp on the outskirts of Nablus. Amira Hass, writing in Haaretz newspaper, said that family and friends from Gaza are still waiting for permits from the Israelis to allow them to travel to pay their respects.
According to Hass, people cannot believe the manner in which Abu-Sitta was left to die. “It is painful,” said Ziad Abu-Sitta, a relative of the dead man. “The employer didn’t even call an ambulance.”
The fifty-seven year old did not heed his family’s advice to stop working in Israel for the simple reason that the daily wage he earned was three times what one of his three married sons made working in Nablus. “His desire to provide for our large family overshadowed the challenges he faced while entering Israel without a permit,” said Abu-Sitta’s youngest son, Hassan. “These included the constant fear of being caught by the police and spending days without work and away from his family, which he visited once every two or three weeks.”
Many of his family members who have worked or still work in Israel can’t believe that this happened. “Israelis collect stray cats off the streets and give them homes,” they told Haaretz, “so it is hard to believe how they did that to Ihsan.”
When an ambulance was eventually called and Abu-Sitta was taken to Sourasky Medical Centre, one of the nurses went through the contacts on his mobile phone and called one at random. The number turned out to be one of his relatives from Jaffa, who contacted another relative who finally contacted the family in Askar camp. That was at about 5:30 pm on Monday, September 16; it was only through the Israeli media that the family heard about what had happened.
Abu-Sitta did not talk much about his job, as he was facing difficulties in finding an employer assigned by the Israeli employment office, in the context of the limit of Palestinian workers set by the Israeli government. As such, he was forced to live between temporary jobs here and there. His wife Suad, his three sons and four daughters did not know where and how he left the West Bank without a permit to go to work in Israel. They do not know how long he worked for his final employer who tossed him, while injured, onto the side of the road; according to Haaretz, though, they do know that the callous man was called “Ravi”. During Ramadan, Abu-Sitta got a one month permit from 8am-10pm in order to visit his family, and he used it to stay in Israel and work.
Ihsan Abu-Sitta’s family was among the 1,100 families expelled from their village of Al-Saqiya during the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948. His parents worked in the village of Jaftalk in the Jordan Valley as farm labourers, and spent their time between the village and the refugee camp.
As his family grew, Ihsan added extra floors to his house in Askar Camp. Six years ago, he underwent an angioplasty, but that did not stop him from going to work in Israel. The last time he spent 5 days at home with his children and grandchildren was during the Jewish New Year. According to Hassan, he had started working in Israel 25 years ago and until the second Intifada he had obtained permits to work for a contractor from Netanya; his sister, Raja’a, said he started working when he was 16 years old for the Mekorot Company.
Amira Hass visited the bereaved family’s home and found out that Ihsan had wanted to give Hassan an education; the young man left his education in order to work and bring some money into the family home.
The dead man’s mother, said Hass, is 75 year old Fatima. As she sits on the side of her bed with great sadness in her eyes, she still does not know that her son was left to bleed to death by the side of the road. Hassan insists that the family will spare her that terrible final detail.