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| TARIQ'S ROOM / غرفة طارق|
|(Deutsch:) Tariq Shadid lernte ich über seine Artikel für den Palestine Chronicle kennen. Seine politischen Analysen sind tief und produktiv. Er schreibt auch literarische Texte. Tariq's Room gibt es seit August 2002. Siehe auch die Doc-Jazz-Seite||(English:) To Tariq Shadid I found via his articles for the Palestine Chronicle. His political analyses are deep and productive. He also writes literary texts. Tariq's Room exists since 1 August 2002. Also see the Doc Jazz Page|
A short story by Tariq Shadid
I was running down the hill, in the direction where I was hearing the shots coming from. I couldn't yet see what was at the bottom of the hill, because of the olive trees that were keeping the main road out of sight. I was using them to remain unseen as I made my way down the slope, figuring that once I would have approached the road, I would throw myself down on the ground, to avoid being taken under fire immediately. If I managed to reach that place unseen, our plan would stand a chance of working.
I was only 16 years old, but I felt so much older. I believed that I knew it all, and that I had seen it all. It had, apparently, been the only way for me to stomach the war-stricken history of my life: by granting myself a diploma from the school of hard knocks. If no one was going to give it to me, I myself would be the one to celebrate my graduation from that school right now, and present myself a summa cum laude.
Out of breath, I reached a group of olive trees that were standing relatively close together, accompanied by some rocks, where some huge sabr cactuses were blocking the view to the main road. I heard the sounds of vehicles slowing down, halting and then switching off their engines. I looked through the sabr that I was using for cover, and kept my head low.
Without having meant to get this close this quickly, I realized that I had come up right near the Israeli convoy that was invading our village.
Next to three army jeeps, there were about twelve Israeli soldiers, who had apparently just come out of their vehicles. The raspy, deformed sound of their voices through the walkie-talkies cut through the morning air, as they were reporting the status quo to their superiors, and receiving orders from them. They spread out, as three of them started cautiously running down the road, while two went in the opposite direction. Five soldiers remained near the cars. Two of them walked a few steps in my direction, but stopped and turned around, talking from a distance to the ones left behind.
Suddenly I felt a hand on the back of my neck. I froze.
The hand gripped my neck firmly, but the sound of a suppressed chuckle made me quickly turn my head around and look, only to see the face of Amer grinning at me.
"You scared me to death, man!" I hissed at him, though I was already starting to chuckle as well. We were lying under cover behind the sabr cactus, but it was good to see him here. He was slightly younger than I, though a little taller too, and actually a little overweight. When he smiled, you could always see all of his teeth, and you couldn't help but laugh whenever Amer started making his usually funny remarks. What he was especially good at, was imitating Arab heads of state.
"How many are they?" Amer whispered.
"Seven here, twelve in total."
"What are we going to do? There's only two of us."
"That's what you think." Now it was my turn to grin. Muhammad was with twenty guys who had gone around the other side, and Khalid and Majeed were with a bunch of at least fifty kids and young men, who would confront the army on the main road. A roadblock had already been piled up from tires, parts of car wrecks, bushes, and other kinds of trash, and had been set to fire.
"Look, Amer. I can't explain all the tactics to you here, cause we have to keep as quiet as possible. The only thing you really need to know is that when we hear the whistle, we step back a few meters and use our slings on them."
"Sounds good to me." Amer grinned again.
Suddenly, gunfire erupted from behind the sabr. I thought the shots were being fired at us, so I ducked down instantly, as did Amer. But they were coming from the soldiers who were near their jeeps, and were shooting at something down the road. A few seconds later, accompanied by voices shouting 'Allahu Akbar', a shower of averagely fist-sized stones and pebbles rained down upon them, loudly clattering as some of the stones hit the metal of the jeeps. The soldiers were covering themselves with their see-through shields, and none of them got hurt. But as soon as that salvo of stones had faded away, all of them fired their guns frantically in the direction they were coming from, further down the road.
However, one of them was keeping his cool. He had sat on the hood of one of the jeeps, and had ducked behind it when the stones were coming this way. When the wave of stones had subsided, he leant his elbows on the hood, and aimed a large rifle in the direction where the stones had come from. The gun had a scope on it, and he was moving his head into a position where he could aim best. Then he fired, and fired again.
They had a specially trained sniper on board. From the shouts that were resounding from down the road, where our boys had been throwing stones from, it was obvious that someone had been hit. I was sure someone had already used his mobile phone to call for an ambulance. This was going to get rough, now that the Israelis had brought in a specialist sniper.
Now, it seemed utterly more important that we already, as a group, had a strategy. At that very moment, I decided to improvise on the main plan. We were going to use our position to take out the sniper specifically.
"Amer. Go for that guy." I pointed at the sniper, who had continued shooting. He fired only one shot every two or three minutes, while the gunshots from the rest of the soldiers were rattling every now and then. And he was making casualties, which was something we both felt in the air above us, that was heavy with dust and gun smoke.
I was still waiting for the whistle. Apparently, the damage sustained on our side had been more than expected, since it took quite a while before a second takbir was heard, and another wave of stones was pelted at the Israeli invaders.
Where was the rest of our group? Kareem, Abdallah and Hussain were supposed to be here, too. What was keeping them? Even if the whistle sounded now, our attack would not have half the impact it would have had in their presence.
Another barrage of gunfire, shots fired from at a distance, too. These had to be from the Israelis that had gone ahead down the street. This time, the wave of stones that followed was fiercer, the stones coming in at a higher speed, indicating that the stone-throwers had come nearer. A relatively large stone hit one of the jeeps on the front door, producing a loud thump. One of the soldiers yelled, as a stone that had hit the ground in front of him, bounced up and hit his shinbone with reasonable force. He pulled up his leg and limped around a few times, then quickly jumped on one foot to the backside of one of the jeeps, and threw himself down grabbing the leg that was hurt. One of his comrades approached him, crouching, to check on him.
I was getting nervous. Or perhaps I was just anxious to play my role, waiting for that whistle to sound so I could put one of the stones I had put in the pockets of my jeans in my sling, and fling it onto the head of that sniper. I was good enough with the sling to be able to actually hit him too. He was at a distance of twenty meters away from me, just close enough so the stone would still make a significant impact.
Amer seemed anxious too, the smile gone from his face. He seemed focused, and was waiting with his sling already in his hand, and a stone wrapped in the piece of cloth that formed the centre part of the sling. The two ends of the rope were already firmly in the grip of his right hand; all he needed was a sign, and within seconds a stone would be launched in the direction of the Israeli army.
I decided to prepare my sling too. I put the best stone I had found in the centrepiece. I looked at it: it was a regular piece of white stone, slightly smaller than my fist. One of its edges was almost entirely smooth, which made it almost look like a large egg, with a crustier piece of stone attached to it.
Suddenly, the shrill sound of a whistle.
We jumped up, and, as if we both felt that raising our voices would spoil the strategy, we whispered the Takbir as if it was part of our breathing pattern, inhaling more and more air while we spun our slings around, gaining more speed at every round. A few seconds later, I released one of the strings and swung my sling in the direction of the sniper, following the stone with my eyes as it rocketed away from me.
I was so focused, that time seemed to slow down, and that the stone seemed to be flying to its destiny no faster than a bird to its nest. But I felt the power I had put in that swing, the way the string had pulled out of my hands as I released it, the way I was sure that it was going straight towards its target. As if in slow motion, I saw the sniper look up from his scope right in the direction of the stone, as if he had felt it coming his way, and then instinctively turning his face away in a reflex, a split second before the stone struck against the side of his helmet with a loud noise.
He fell over, his chin hitting the hood of the jeep he had been sniping from, sliding off the hood as his hands turned lame and floppy, and his face disappearing from view as it fell behind the jeep. The rifle slid off the hood of the jeep, loudly clattering as it hit the tarmac.
Shouts from the soldiers, some running towards the sniper. Others turning our way, and trotting in our direction, anxious and nervous.
We had ducked down, immediately after we had thrown the stones, and we both were under the impression that they could not see us, and that they barely knew where this attack had come from. Indeed, they had not spotted us yet, as two soldiers were walking carefully towards the sabr we were hiding behind. Suddenly, one of them, nervous and twitchy, fired his machinegun randomly into the sabr and the bushes around him.
Adrenalin was rushing through our veins. I had not noticed yet, that Amer's stone had apparently done its share of damage, as it seemed another soldier, who was standing near the sniper, was lying on the ground pressing his arms into his own left side, his face expressing pain and anguish.
We had to decide quickly, whether to run away now, or throw a second round of stones first. It would be only moments before they would be near enough to spot us in our hiding place.
All of a sudden, it seemed as if something moved in the bushes behind us. It appeared not to be an animal, but the sounds of the bouncing of a stone through the bushes. I smiled, understanding that these had to be stones thrown from the other side of the road, by the guys Muhammad was with.
The soldiers, who had been approaching us, found themselves being attacked from the back side, and turned around running and shouting. As another Takbir sounded, not very far away and from the other side of the road, another shower of stones came into our direction, causing the Israeli soldiers to seek cover behind their see-through shields.
They were getting really nervous now, firing their guns in the direction the stones came from, five of them slowly moving into the bushes on the opposite side of the road, suspiciously looking around them. Then, one of them shouted something, pointing in some direction, and they all started firing their guns that way. In the meantime, the sound of an ambulance was coming our way, still far away but its noise echoing through the hills.
I looked at Amer. He nodded.
We jumped up again, swinging our slings at the group of soldiers at the other side of the road. They turned around and fired, as we ducked down, already fumbling in our pockets for the next stone. Obviously, we hadn't hit anyone. Then, another shower of stones came from down the road, and shouts were being heard loudly coming from the soldiers' wireless system. Suddenly, they all started running towards their jeeps. Apparently, the sniper had been loaded into one of the vehicles, and the other ones that were hurt were being helped into the jeeps by their mates. While they were obviously retreating, they were firing their machineguns in all directions.
The sound of the ambulance grew in volume, changing its tone as its pitch was being bent by the Doppler effect, and as the jeeps rushed away, it roared past them in the opposite direction, half slipping as two of its wheels lost their grip on the sandy surface next to the tarmac.
I looked at Amer.
A shock ran through my whole system. I had expected him to be crouching only a few meters away from me, looking at the same things I was, but he was lying on the ground. His face was turned away from me, and his hand was laying on his stomach, covered in blood.
"Amer!" Now that the soldiers had gone, I shouted out loud. Just when I had been thrilled at our victory, and just when I had been about to share its glory with my buddy Amer, I had found that this battle, where we succeeded in foiling a small Israeli invasion into our village with stones against modern guns, had ended everything for Amer.
As I cried, and kneeled down beside him, pulling his hand hoping for a reaction, looking at his lifeless face as it was laying on the rocks, I felt the immense pain one feels when losing one of your loved ones. Through my tears, I studied his face, in that very brief moment that felt like an eternity. He had a stern look on his face, his eyes closed, and his brow in a light frown, and it was hard to imagine how that face could have born the radiant smile which I so enjoyed seeing whenever I was in his company.
He was never going to see the end of the revolution, let alone get a chance to live a decent life without the burden of occupation, with the ability to build a future for himself by studying perhaps medicine or law, with the ability to create for himself the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his hard work. Then I thought of his mother, Umm Amer, and how she always tried to keep him at home whenever there was trouble.
Umm Amer, you have finally given the sacrifice that your country and your religion wanted from you: your son is a shaheed. Don't grieve, Umm Amer, your son has been spared the long and tiresome burden of surviving Israeli oppression, which is his first gift from God, and the immediate reward of Heaven which is the second, and greatest gift of all.
Thank you, Umm Amer, for raising a hero, and let us hear the zaghareed from you, let the passion that makes the mixture of utter grief and utter joy, stir the strings of our emotions, and cause us to reaffirm the continuation of the struggle. Our Lord is testing us by making us bear the burden of Zionist occupation, and we will prove that that burden is not too much for us. And the reason for that, is that our drive for the struggle has always been one of necessity, not one of choice. Never did we use violence merely to improve our situation at the cost of others; never did we infringe on another people's territorial integrity. Never did we wage a war of territorial expansion beyond what is rightfully ours, and beyond our lands that have already been ethnically cleansed by the Zionist invaders.
Umm Amer, your son died in the Jihad, not in just any war. Many people wage a war, and call it Jihad, sometimes because they so strongly believe that their cause is just, and sometimes only in order to convince people to join them. But the one main reason why the Palestinian struggle, even when waged by the Christians among us, is a very obvious and unambiguous Jihad, is because it is not a matter of choice. Our religion teaches us to fight only when we have no other choice, and the Palestinian people, indeed, have no other choice. Let us not forget that a war is always a grave wrong, when it is being waged for any other reason than self-defence. And in those rare occasions, when oppression continues and intensifies in spite of having given the peaceful approach chance after chance, and to no avail, it becomes a duty, not a choice.
Umm Amer, the fate of your son was to be a Palestinian, and he lived and died on his own land, defending it. With God's reward of eternal bliss, he has not only passed the test which the rest of us are still in the middle of, but he remains revered and blessed forever among the people on earth who know right from wrong, in the ranks of the shuhada.
I looked closely again at Amer, feeling his cold hand lifeless in mine. His eyebrows twitched, and a soft groan seemed to emerge from his nearly closed mouth.
As the ambulance drove away, rushing Amer to the hospital, followed closely by his father's car driven by his elder brother, that was carrying many of his relatives, I walked down the road towards the roadblock. Parts of it were still burning fiercely.
My body was shaking, my head was spinning with many strong, and sometimes even contradictory emotions. If Amer was going to die, he would be a shaheed. I would be proud of him. I would ask God to bless him, and pray for his family to be able to bear his loss with pride. If it was indeed not his time, and he would live, he would be a live hero, as were all of the boys who had been here with us.
One of them was dead, a boy aged 11 named Riad. Twenty others had been transported to the hospital with gunshot wounds, including Kareem, Abdallah and Hussain. I was going to go over to Riad's house right now, and mourn his passing away, as well as celebrate his martyrdom. An eleven-year old child, killed by Israeli sniper fire. All we were doing was protecting our turf, with what we have to defend ourselves, which is no more than stones.
This is why we become the like the stone, hard and unbreakable, and the stone becomes like us, swift and dedicated. We know the stone cannot liberate us from the Zionists, but it helps us to liberate our spirits. As long as we remain in our country, we will always be able to throw stones: they are part of the landscape of Palestine, and through the stone, the raped land takes revenge on its assaulters through our hands. Every victory we claim, we claim for her, a land that is not only sacred because of the fact that her soil bore the feet of so many prophets of God, but a land whose recent history has elevated its status to that of martyrdom.
Palestine was violated brutally, and continues to undergo this humiliation on a daily basis. But as long as we are resisting, even only by pelting pieces of our land at the Zionist transgressors, we are merely representing our motherland's immune system, and just like the white blood cells who rush into battle at the site of an infection, we will be absorbed into her body if we should perish.
We belong to God, and to him we shall return.
Rest in peace, Amer.
Sabr - Type of cactus found all over the landscape of Palestine
Allahu Akbar - God is Great
Takbir - Shout of 'Allahu Akbar'
Yalla - Come on
Jihad - Struggle, on any level, in the service of God. This can mean a struggle within oneself to overcome one's one earthly desires (the Big Jihad), but also a struggle to defend one's house or country against attackers (the Small Jihad)
Shaheed - Martyr
Shuhada - Plural of 'Shaheed'
A short story by Tariq Shadid
"Come here, you dog!"
My instincts told me to walk towards the soldier immediately. It is the instinct of every creature on this earth to avoid death or injury, and even a person of sound mind tends to follow these instincts immediately, like a Pavlov reaction, unless they are kept in check by a conscious suppression..
I was at an Israeli checkpoint, just outside of Nablus, and an Israeli army soldier was summoning me to come over and stand in front of him, most probably in order to humiliate me, and to deny me permission to cross over to the other side.
In fact, the roadblock was on the road to Tulkarem. I had to get to the hospital there as soon as possible.
Getting through these checkpoints, stationed by Israeli forces all over the Palestinian lands under their occupation, is both risky and uncertain. This time, I had urgent reasons to cross that roadblock. With difficulty, I had arranged for a friend of mine, who is a taxi driver, to await me on the other side. When, he had asked me, will you be there?
Indeed, when? The real question was: will I even succeed in getting there at all?
I had to go see my sister. Nadia, who lived in a village near Tulkarem, because she had married a man who lived there and owned some orange plantations in that region, had suffered a terrible ordeal. She was pregnant of her second child, when her water broke prematurely, at a pregnancy duration of about 7 months. Realizing how difficult it would be to get medical help, she and her husband had waited for a short while, unable to decide what to do. But then Nadia had noticed something was terribly wrong. She could not explain it clearly, but she was suffering terrible pains and felt that her situation was going in the wrong direction. Indeed, she and Ali feared for the life of their unborn child, whose chances of making it alive were slim, to say the least, without proper medical care. They decided to rush to a hospital in the city, driving their car from checkpoint to checkpoint. At the first checkpoint, the one near the village, the soldiers had said to her that it was better if the child didn't live, because it would be another less terrorist to worry about. But they, at least, had let her through.
At the second checkpoint, the one near Tulkarem, the soldiers had stopped them and said they could not pass. Ali, my sisters husband, had got out of the car, and had gone mad at one of the soldiers, because the soldier kept telling his wife: "Go home and die with your kid." One of the soldiers had said, jokingly: "We won't let you through because we don't want to be accused of aiding terrorists".
Ali had told him : "You have to let us through. Please, look at my wife. She is dying and so is her baby. She's seven months pregnant. If we go home, the situation will be dangerous for her and my child."
The soldiers would not let them through. One of them, the same one who made the first joke, had said, after walking up to the car and sticking his head through the window on Nadia's side: "Don't worry. It will be over soon. Soon we will have our baby, sweetie. I really enjoyed making it with you."
Ali, at this point, had boiled over with anger, both fearing for his loved ones and unable to endure their humiliation any longer. He had jumped at the soldier's throat, and struck him to the floor, immediately being attacked by the other four soldiers. Courageous as it was outrageous, this situation proved to have been a case of bad judgment by Ali. He was shot in the leg in the scuffle, and the four soldiers had beat him down with their rifle butts. Then, he had been handcuffed and taken away, leaving Nadia behind in the car, who was screaming loudly, but was barely able to move from pain and fear. Two soldiers had dragged him into a nearby truck, in a condition where he was apparently unable to resist, since his body lay limp in the arms of the Israelis as they hauled him up into the back of their truck..
When he had disappeared, Nadia had burst into tears. Desolate. Was Ali dead? How am I going to get to the hospital? Am I going to live? Is my child going to live?
The two remaining soldiers, obviously in their late teens, were standing with their backs turned to her windshield. The setting sun lit the words written on the backpack of the Israeli soldier: "Born to kill".
Born to Kill? Kill the unborn? Is that what you're doing in my country waving your guns at me?
She was crying, and yelling at them all the time, but to no avail. The two soldiers stood in front of her car, at only a few feet of distance, and totally ignored her. She was physically unable to get out of the car, due to the pains she was in because of her pregnancy. She was also stiffened with fear and anxiety, having seen her husband shot and dragged away from the car in front of her. She had cried a lot, and almost yelled her lungs out, to scream out the hopelessness of her situation, the pain and anguish, the fear of death and physical torture.
But their ignoring her had an interesting effect on her. Instead of it feeding her fury, as one would expect her to react, their extreme coldness proved to be infectious. She felt a deep calm come over her, suppressing her pain, and draining energy from the resources of mental power one keeps stored for emergency situations. She thought of God, and how she would always still have Him, even if she lost everything else. And this gave her that extra boost she needed, enough strength and courage to climb over to the drivers seat, sit straight and honk the horn of the car loudly, suddenly and unexpectedly.
The soldiers nearly fell over as they jerked away from the car. When they recovered, they were stupefied for a few seconds. "Look at that Palestinian bitch!" one yelled at the other.
She was looking both of them straight in the eye, one by one.
They sensed her strength and determination, which seemed to puzzle them. Still highly strung and slightly bent over, they were standing there as if they were expecting a sudden attack.
"You think the bitch is gonna try and run us over?"
"You gotta be kidding me man!"
They sounded purely American, judging by their accents. Apparently, they were American Jews, serving their military duties in order to obtain the attached privileges of having served in the Israeli army, before settling in Israel or in one of the settlements.
"Well I got one answer to that."
He pointed his gun at the front of the car and fired five times into the car's front. No bullets hit the windshield, because he was aiming lower, but Nadia did hear the thump of a bullet that had run through the hood of the vehicle and had found its way into the space behind the dashboard.
Nadia had faced them unmoving as well as unmoved, fearless because she had felt that he was not going to shoot her. Not because he didn't have the guts to do it, or because he would feel bad about killing a pregnant woman. Nadia, in her ultimate struggle to save herself and her baby, felt that her self-assuredness was the main reason for the soldier's behaviour, because it frustrated them.. She believed he was merely trying to impress her by firing his gun, only to prove to himself and to her that he could damage things, and that he could easily kill her. But he wouldn't, because she was in control, and forbidding him to do it.
"Do you want to kill a pregnant woman?" Nadia had yelled, stopping between sentences to regain her breath, as the excruciating pains were ripping her body apart. "Don't you think that would make your government look bad? Let me through! I am starting the car, and if you want to shoot, shoot, but I am going to the nearest hospital! The hospital in Tulkarem is my only chance!"
She started the car.
The soldiers seemed to jerk a little in surprise.
"She's gonna go through, Chaim".
"She isn't going anywhere if I kill her."
"Come on, man. This is becoming kind of like one of those 'incidents'. Calm down, Chaim. This is exactly the type of story they blow up in the newspapers."
"Trouble? What the hell are you talking about, man."
As if his friend had forgotten that even the guy who shot 11-year old Muhammed Al Durra, a murder which was aired across every network in the world for days in a row, barely suffered any trouble from his superiors, let alone any punishment worth mentioning.
"Trouble? If we want to shoot the bitch, we shoot the bitch. It's as simple as that."
She pressed the pedals and made the motor roar loudly, as if warning them that they should move away from the front of the car, or risk being hit by it. She felt a tough, painful jerk cut through her body. My baby! She hit the gas.
The soldiers jumped aside, both surprised and frustrated. As the tires screeched and the car bolted away, and made its passage wildly around the barricades in a slalom kind of movement, with clouds of dust being whipped up in its tracks, they both just stood there in apathy, still wondering whether it was a good thing or a bad thing that they had lost control of the situation.
The other two soldiers, who had jumped out of the truck where they kept Ali, ran towards the barricades. One of them shouted: "Hey, what are you guys doing. She's getting away!"
The other, clearly a highly trained soldier, judging by his cat-like moves and swift, stealthy action, made straight for the barricades to get a closer aim, and fired two shots at the car. The rear window was instantly shattered, but it was unclear whether the second bullet hit a target at all, because the car just kept on driving and disappeared out of sight. Apparently, not one of the soldiers felt like getting into a jeep or truck and going after her.
They just shrugged their shoulders and walked towards the truck, their arms over each others shoulders, like a football team heading for the locker rooms after the game.
I had to get to Tulkarem today. This had all happened yesterday evening, and I had only heard about it today. My friend here in Nablus has a portable phone, and my family call me on his phone whenever they need me for something urgent. They had called this morning, and I had been busy finding a driver to take me to Tulkarem ever since.
"Come over here, you dog!"
Like I said, I had followed my instincts, and I had made three steps towards the soldier already. My main objective was to see Nadia. Reportedly, she was alive, but things were unsure about the baby. They said she had arrived at the hospital with a bullet wound to the shoulder, and that the baby was delivered by a caesarean section, but no news was available about the condition of my new little nephew or niece.
Walk over? Or not? These thoughts were suddenly going through my mind, as I had approached him only a few meters.
Who is calling who a dog here? The dog that barks the loudest when you as much as scratch it?
I stopped. I felt strangely calm and self-assured.
"Are you the one I am supposed to be talking to? Or should I talk to one of your superiors?"
I was surprised to hear these words coming from my mouth, because I had not realized that I had been thinking out loud, directing my anger directly at the soldier who was calling me his dog. If this man didn't polish up his act, he would get a taste of Palestinian fury. No one would stop me from seeing my sister, and I meant to see her that very same day.
I resumed walking, slowly, towards the Israeli soldier, looking him straight in the eye.
"The only thing that matters, is that I am your superior", the soldier said. He had a grim face, he looked like a veteran, in his forties. He had greyish hair curling down from under his beret, and grim and carved features, like a man who has been through a lot in his life.
He had said it in a natural way, like words that one has used repeatedly, almost in the automated way one uses punch-lines, or popular sayings. How many Palestinians before me had he been telling that to?
I was near him now, and spoke, my blood boiling.
"I am not your dog. I am Maher Atiyyeh, and I am requesting to pass through these barricades to see my sister, who is in the hospital in Tulkarem."
The man stood in front of me, a few inches taller than myself. He was staring at me with piercing blue-grey eyes, trying to dominate me with his function and his appearance. He was in full attire, hung with all kinds of weapons and ammunition, and he held his Uzi machinegun constantly pointed in my direction.
'Here is my ID-card. I have no record of problems, now please let me through so I can see my sister. It's urgent."
The man took my card, and looked at it, comparing the photograph to the man in front of him. All he was looking at was a picture of me, in plain clothes, dressed like the average student of Al Najah university. He said:
"What's wrong with your sister? Why do you need to see her? Did she blow herself up in the middle of a shopping mall? Not much left of her to see, I would think."
He seemed very amused with his joke, judging from the self-satisfied grin that accompanied his words. I chose to ignore his ignorance.
"She has had a baby, under very difficult circumstances".
"Well that's good news then. You mean another filthy Arab has been delivered into this beautiful world ?" He spat on the floor, only inches away from my feet. As his spit hit the tarmac, that was covered with loose grains of sand, a few spats of juice and dust landed on my shoes.
He chuckled, then drew his face back into that grim expression he needed to put on when trying to be authoritative. "No need to hurry over there, you can go tomorrow or the day after tomorrow to congratulate her. No need to disturb the peace over this. Go home."
I had kept my cool so far, not showing any emotion, let alone reacting to his insults. But the fact that he had obviously made up his mind to humiliate me, was making it hard to restrain my anger. I ended up hissing my words rather than shouting them out:
"You aren't serious, are you? My sister is in the hospital, man, and I don't even know if her baby is alive or not. How do I know if it's good news or not? I have to go see her."
For a second it seemed as if the soldier softened up a little, but he quickly regained his previous attitude. "Go home, you damn goy. You're not going to see your sister today. Damn you, you stupid Arab, do you have a permit from the local checkpoint, the soldiers that are posted near the city, to make this trip?"
What in the world was he talking about? Where did he come up with this one from? Had he just sucked that out of his little finger, to get rid of me?
"What document is that? I have never heard of it."
"Of course you haven't, wise guy. Look at me, calling you a wise guy, you Palestinian pig. You don't know shit, and you don't know about the permits cause they were just issued yesterday. Starting yesterday, and for an unknown term, you have to get a permit from them to cross this checkpoint. This measure is a present from your terrorists, the ones you are so proud of when they kill Jews. They brought this upon you, go home and say thank you to them for this. And I won't let you through without the permit, and that's final."
Blaming our people for their atrocious collective punishments? Incredible how resilient they are in trying to make us blame each other, preferably stirring up a civil war, believing it will actually work, someday.
One thing was for sure: it wasn't working now, not a chance, you Nazi.
The racism in that soldier's attitude, his utter disrespect for anyone who was not Jewish, the Jewish supremacist visions of Zionism, were all acted out through his attitude. Incredible how people can be taught to see a whole world full of other people around them, and by definition consider them not fully human, since they, in their view, are not the ones who were chosen by God.
I was looking at the soldier's face unbelievingly. How intractable it is, incomprehensible, that you actually believe you are any different from me, more human, or belonging to a higher species of homo sapiens. Incredible.
I was running out of patience with the soldier, who was looking at me in the same way a cat looks at a mouse it has clutched between its paws, and is trying to decide whether to enjoy the game a little longer, or just kill it right away. But I did not feel like I was a mouse.
Humiliation can indeed be, and often is in this harsh world, exercised on a human being. If the difference in power is obvious and overwhelming, it will probably unwillingly be accepted by that human being. But it is an illusion to expect, that enduring this and many other humiliations, that have been going on for fifty years, will last for ever. In the end, when there is little energy left, a human being will eventually break free, and invest his last bit of energy into battle, a battle of all or nothing. Anything but keeping up the wait, a humiliating wait full of anguish, pain and loss of life, that has come to the point of consuming more energy than resistance does. And that is not a matter of patience: it is a matter of hope.
Resistance. Now. Here.
"You will let me through."
The soldier sneered. "Not a chance. Go home and relax. Your sister will be fine."
Will be fine? He doesn't even know what the situation is. He doesn't even care that he doesn't know, either. He is willing to pass judgment on another human being without questioning that human being, with utter disregard of that person's humanity. It would mean nothing to him to let me through, and his not letting me through is merely an expression of the fact that he feels like showing off who's in control.
I saw, through the heaps of sand and chunks of concrete that made the roadblock , the white car of my friend Kamel appear into view. Two soldiers approached his car.
"Look, there is my friend Kamel. Ask him why he is here. He is here to pick me up. He will tell you about my sister and everything, and you will see why this is so urgent."
The grey soldier looked at me unbelievingly.
"Do you think I give a shit about your little petty affairs and businesses? What I care about, is that I am the law around here, and I decide what happens to you, to Kamel and to anybody of your low-life people that I choose to. Understand? Now once you understand that, namely that I am the law here, then maybe, maybe we can communicate."
I looked at him defiantly, unwilling to accept this subjugation.
"You are just a human being, and so am I. What have we done to deserve being treated like this? Why can't my sister have a baby in a hospital, and why is it a problem if I want to see her?"
The man smiled, and then burst into laughter.
"Look here, kid. The bottom line is: I decide what happens. And the simple reason for that is that you are just another Palestinian. No one in the world cares what happens to you. I could kill you, your brother, your father, your sister, and no world media would make any fuss of it. My authorities would not punish me. Therefore, what you should understand, kid, is that your life is very, very cheap in my eyes. So get on your knees, and kiss my shoes, and maybe I will let you through. But the first thing I want to see, is the right attitude. Behave like you should, dog."
The reality of his words, about how much power he had over me, was having its effect, but there was no way I could kneel down and kiss this soldier's shoes. There was just no way. Not even to see my sister.
I considered many things at that moment. I considered attacking the soldier and making a run to Kamel's car, but that would have meant our death. They would have emptied their guns on us. Then the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN headlines would have read something like "Israeli Army Has Foiled a Terrorist Operation and Killed Two Militants." Somehow, it seemed like a solution. The death of a martyr, the pride of my people.
The only problem would be, that the ones happiest to see me die, where the heavily armed soldiers at this checkpoint. Perhaps none of them had killed a Palestinian yet, and perhaps one of them would feel that this was his time for his initiation into the ranks of the proud Israeli soldiers who had been able to add notches to their rifles. Surviving, and making it, even a tiny success at anything at all, would hurt them more.
"Let me through. Let me through, I have to see my sister."
I walked slowly closer to the soldier, staring him straight into his eyes. "Let me through".
"Kiss my shoes, I told you". His voice sounded more like a bark when he said this.
The tension was building up, and I felt it slowly evolving into physical aggression. Suddenly I felt something heavy hit the right side of my head, and a sharp pain shot through my face. I had been hit with the butt of his gun, and I fell down, seeing stars and flashes, and barely anything else.
I crawled up, dizzy and recovering from the blow. Apparently some sharp edge of the gun had scarred the right side of my neck, because I felt warm blood running down from that side of my body. I fell down again, and flipped around on my back as I hit the ground. I still could barely see anything, and the world around me slowly faded away.
I squeezed my eyelids. Seeing only darkness, I was squeezing them to see if that would somehow change the view. Then slowly, colours appeared in the dark, that shaped into images, and I slowly became aware of where I was.
White. Lots of white, although undoubtedly not as white as it once had been. People wearing white, too. Lots of people around me. Lots of noise, pounding in my ear, every sound resounding like the echoes in the hills around Nablus, but now hurting the head and deafening the ear.
Then, I saw a face overlooking me. Gradually, the features became recognizable, and I realized I was looking at Nadia, my sister, and that I was in a hospital.
She was calling my name.
"Yes I am here. I just can't see very well, but it's improving. Are you alright?"
My sister hugged me, and a new, sharp pain made me aware of the scar I had, six inches long, from right behind the rim of my jaw, down across my collarbone. The rifle butt had obviously lacerated my jugular vein.
"Alhamdulillah you are OK. I was so worried about you when they told me you were going to come. But I never expected them to do this to you." Her eyes went moist when she said this, feeling a part of my pain, as I was again feeling a part of her pain in the dreadful things she had suffered.
"Tell me, I have to know."
"I'm ok , my shoulders hurts a little, but since the operation it is feeling slightly better. And the other operation …" She burst into tears again.
"Tell me, Nadia, tell me please. Did the baby live?"
She couldn't stop crying, but as she cried, being unable to speak, she was shaking her head slowly. I understood what she meant, and I cried with her, which sent a painful reminder of the fact that I had a cerebral concussion, burning through my head.
"I need to know one thing more, Nadia, and then I'm going to have to rest, cause even keeping my eyes open hurts my head."
"You mean Ali," she said through her tears.
I nodded, afraid to ask. I had always appreciated Ali though I did not see him often, because he was an honest, hard-working man, and I knew he looked after my sister well. She totally adored him, and he was worthy of it.
"Nobody knows." Tears were pouring down her cheeks. "He was alive when I last saw him. I think."
Goy - Non-Jew, in the Hebrew language
Alhamdulillah - Thank God