In the small village of Nabi Saleh on the West Bank, a group of Palestinian youth, armed with makeshift slingshots, defiantly launched tear gas canisters back toward Israeli soldiers from a distance of about 300 meters. This act of resistance occurred on August 28, 2015, following the Friday prayer, as part of the routine protests against the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, deemed unlawful under international law. This ongoing struggle intensified when the Jewish settlement of Halamish targeted Nabi Saleh for annexation in 2009, leading to weekly protests.
Water, a vital resource for the residents’ agriculture, was fully controlled by Jewish settlers, denying the people of Nabi Saleh access to it. These protests, predominantly led by the Tamimi family, often escalated into violence, with the villagers responding to tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and ammunition with stones and slingshots. International activists and journalists frequently joined the demonstrations.
Nabi Saleh has been a focal point in opposing Israel’s illegal settlements, and Ahed Tamimi, born on January 31, 2001, into the prominent Tamimi family, emerged as a symbol of the Palestinian resistance. Her father, Bassem Tamimi, an experienced activist, had faced imprisonment for organizing youth to throw stones at Israeli soldiers. Her mother, Nariman Tamimi, also a prominent figure in the struggle, had been arrested multiple times by Israeli authorities. Ahed’s brother, Waed Tamimi, had also been detained.
Ahed’s upbringing was marked by activism, with her family constantly at risk of separation due to frequent Israeli arrests. Facing threats of their house being bulldozed for Jewish settlements, the Tamimi family conducted workshops to educate youth in Nabi Saleh about their legal rights in case of arrest by Israeli forces.
Despite her initial desire for a normal childhood, Ahed found herself involved in protests against the Israeli occupation at a young age. At 11, she confronted Israeli soldiers with her bare fists. Ahed, described as shy and protective of her siblings, possessed strong confidence and determination.
In 2017, Ahed gained international attention after a video showed her slapping an Israeli soldier attempting to enter her home. This incident followed years of arrests and intimidation faced by her family and the Nabi Saleh community. The confrontation escalated, particularly after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, sparking widespread protests among Palestinians.
Three days after the slap incident, Ahed was arrested in a pre-dawn raid, followed by her mother’s arrest for allegedly inciting violence by sharing the video online. The arrest turned Ahed into a global symbol, drawing attention to the broader issue of the detention of Palestinian children. According to Defense for Children International-Palestine, 500 to 700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are detained annually and tried in Israeli military courts.
Ahed faced trial in an Israeli military court, receiving an eight-month prison sentence on charges of assault and incitement. Protests from various quarters led to her release on July 29, 2018, after serving five months. During her imprisonment, Ahed improved her English skills, highlighting the challenges of learning under occupation.
Ahed’s activism did not end with her release. In October 2023, during the Al-Aqsa Storm operation by Palestinian resistance factions, Israeli forces again arrested Ahed at her West Bank home. Accused of incitement and terrorism based on an Instagram post, Ahed was eventually released, along with 29 other Palestinian prisoners, as part of a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.
Ahed Tamimi’s story symbolizes the enduring struggle of the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation. From her early involvement in protests to her imprisonment and continued activism, Ahed stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of those who resist oppression in the face of adversity.