Faiz Abu Hamadiah of Hebron in the West Bank says he has been receiving death threats over the past few days, ever since he gave shelter to five American Jewish tourists who entered the city in their car and were attacked by a Palestinian mob.
In an interview with Channel 2 aired Sunday evening, Hamadiah said people threatened to “burn his house down, or cut off his head” in the wake of the incident Thusday.
The 51-year-old was characterized by the interviewer as “a hero.” But he brushed off the praise, saying, “I’m not a hero; this is what every person should have done. I did it because I’m a human being. With all my heart, I’m a man of peace.”
The five Americans, yeshiva students, were attacked after they took a wrong turn in the city while en route to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, an ancient holy site revered by both Jews and Muslims. Two of the students, residents of Brooklyn, New York, were injured when Palestinian assailants attacked their car with rocks and firebombs.
The five were whisked away by Hamadiah, who let them hide in his house until Israel security forces arrived to extract them.
According to Sunday’s report, it took the Israeli forces more than an hour to arrive.
Hamadiah showed the interviewer a machete that he “keeps by the door,” and said he was prepared to use it against anyone who attempted to enter his home to harm the students, even at the risk of endangering his own life, he said.
“I was afraid… that men in ski masks would come and give us trouble. [But I knew I would defend them], even if it risked my life and the lives of my children,” Hamadiah said.
“This is my worldview,” he explained. “Either you are human, or you don’t do it and then you aren’t human.”
Hebron is divided between a small population of settlers and a larger population of Palestinians, who control most of the city.
Hamadiah had initially dismissed concerns that he would be branded a “collaborator” by his neighbors. “I did the right thing,” he said on Thursday. “We need to live here together.”
Footage released Friday showed Israel Defense Forces soldiers extracting the students from Hebron. The grainy video showed the five, dressed in traditional ultra-Orthodox garb, being instructed by the soldiers to thank Hamadiah for rescuing them.
One of the men, with clearly visible bloodstains on his shirt, could be seen blowing a kiss in the Palestinian man’s direction.