Hamas Leader’s Three Sisters Living Quietly in Tel Sheva as Israeli Citizens
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
TEL SHEVA, Israel – Israel regards Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian Arab leader of Hamas, as an enemy of state. But three of his sisters enjoy full Israeli citizenship, having moved 30 years ago to the desert town of Tel Sheva.
Some of their offspring have even served in the Israeli army.
The Daily Telegraph tracked down the Haniyeh sisters,Kholidia,Laila,and Sabah,in a town in southern Israel.That they live in Israel is a closely guarded secret, and nowhere is it guarded more secretly than Tel Sheva, a town inhabited mainly by Israeli Bedouin on the edge of the Negev desert.
“There is no reason to speak to my wife,” Salameh Abu Rukayek, 53, who married Kholidia, said. “It is private business and you are not welcome asking questions about my wife.”
Blind since birth, Mr. Abu Rukayek sat on a thin floor cushion and said he is happy living in Israel.”Our life is normal here and we want it to continue,”he said.
He may have felt discussion of his wife’s family links might jeopardize his relatively comfortable lifestyle.
Bedouins form a small and poor minority in modern Israel, descendants of desert nomads who roamed the Holy Land in ancient times, living in tents and traveling by camel train. Some Bedouin have settled down in towns such as Tel Sheva, and many make a good living, often running transport firms across Israel.
Although they regard themselves as separate from Palestinian Arabs, links between the two communities are nevertheless close. Both share the same Muslim faith.
Another member of the clan, Yousef Abu Ruqia, 50, who works as secretary in the municipal council,explained how the Haniyeh sisters came to Tel Sheva.
“In a small community like ours, there were not enough women to go around, so some of the men would go and look for wives elsewhere,” he said. “The Haniyeh sisters were Palestinians living in Gaza.Back then it was possible for people to visit Gaza easily, so Kholidia was the first to be married and move to Tel Sheva, and then Laila and then Sabah.”
He said he remembered the time, 25 years ago, when their younger brother, Ismail, would come to visit his sisters.
“There was another brother, Khaled, who came here to work laying tiles, and each year, at the holiday after Ramadan, Ismail would come and visit his brother and sisters.”
The issue of Palestinian-Israeli links recently came under close scrutiny from the Israeli supreme court, which was asked to consider the legality of a new law banning Palestinian Arabs from joining their Israeli spouses. The court accepted the state’s argument that security concerns justified keeping couples apart if they married across the divide.