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Nabil- A story from 2002

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“… Any way I am OK, Not bad, Still alive.

Do you know that the last one who bomb himself is from Dheisheh. He is 19 years old and he filmed himself before he bombed himself in Jerusalem. He is our friend here. He was very nice guy and smart in the same time.” [Sic]

(Email from Nabil, 18 years old, 15 mars 2002, from a hiding place in the West Bank of Palestine)

 

It was a hot summer day during the summer of 1999  when I first met Nabil. The air was dusty in Dheisheh refugee camp in the West Bank, and we put out some chairs in the sun, blocking a narrow alley and talking about dreams.

He was 15 years of age and had an old key around his neck. The key which was once meant to open a door to a home, to a house which no longer exists; a house in Zakariyya; a village that, along with other 418 villages, was destroyed and depopulated by the Israelis in 1947.

Nabil got his key from his grandfather. The key was not passed to Nabil’s father – it is Nabil’s Generation’s mission to get their families back home. In the meantime, Nabil wished to travel abroad and study IT, so that he could come back and help the Palestinian people in their strive towards a better future through education.

 

An IT dreamer with a key, and me- keyless. A global trotter- born Israeli who ran away refusing military service, refusing oppressing people, refusing to live where lies, sorrow and blood are the song of life.

That was my first visit to Palestine after 10 years of absence from the region. I was coming back in order to make a film about people’s search for a home.

 

It was in Ibdaa, the cultural centre of Dheiseh refugee camp, Nabil found his pride and his hope. The centre served hundreds of children, offering various courses and activities. The children were dancing, writing, sculpturing, playing, chatting…Nabil himself was dancing in a traditional dance group and teaching the children, of his refugee camp, how to use the internet as a mean of connecting with the world and finding out about their own roots and heritage.

The youth in the centre felt positive about themselves and their future. A rare sight in a reality where not much can be taken for granted.

At the time of my visit, the centre was set on fire and the internet server stolen. When I went looking for Nabil he was nowhere to be found. Though it was their own centre, the “usual suspects” were summoned, Nabil, with the rest of the youth, were interrogated by the police.

But the dreams did not die, and the people of the refugee camp rebuilt the centre a few months later.

 

“The soldiers broke opened the doors of Ibdaa Cultural Centre, and positioned snipers on its 4th floor that overlooks the entire camp.”

(email from Nabil, 9 mars 2002)

 

 

The first thing I’ve noticed after 10 years of absence was the Palestinian flag. The Palestinian identity was permitted, which was a very emotional realisation for me. The first intifada, which started 1987, was all about the Palestinian flag. Young children were throwing a flag tied to a stone, at the electricity wires. The flag would entangle around the wires and hang there. Next the army would be marching in the village shooting around and making arrests.

30 more teenagers and myself spent a day under police detention for pinning small budges on our T-shirts; with both the Israeli and Palestinian flags. Another friend got arrested for colouring her post-box in what presumably were the Palestinian colours.

 

But at the summer of 99, a Palestinain flag hang on a improvised stage outside Dheishe. The children from Ibdaa Centre where performing a musical about the freedom of Palestine, and all the people of the refugee camp gathered proudly around, forming half a circle, so that everyone could see. I was a bit in the way, running about with my camera, and young, smiling children throw tiny stoned at me and ran giggling as I pointed the camera at them.

 

“I watch the children play. They make two groups from themselves; one of these groups is the Palestinian youth and the other is the Israeli soldiers.

SUDDENLY!!! The game starts and then they find themselves not in a game, it has suddenly become reality, the truth. Israeli soldiers start to shoot. 

Suddenly there is the sound of the Apache helicopters and the F16s ­ bombing, causing destruction everywhere. It does not matter for them what they are shooting at or what they are bombing.

Some of the children start crying. And the others respond: “You don’t have to cry; you have to defend yourself, your land your family, your friends. You have to struggle ­ for yourself, for Palestine, for a Palestine free from Israelis. Don’t cry; you have to be a man, not a child at this moment.””

(email from Nabil 23 feb 2002)

 

 

Childhood is about dreaming, about experimenting within a safe frame. Dheisheh’s alleys deliver non-of the two. The camp is about 1sqkm big, and has a population of ca 11,000 inhabitants- refugees from different villages in Israel, many of which have never settled down, Never dared to start dreaming. As 82 years old Abu Mohammed, a resident of Dheisheh said to Lawsociety: “I have never accepted to be out of my home…I have always dreamt of and still dream of returning to my village. I was offered to purchase some land here in Betlehem. But this is not my place, my place is Zacharia… If I had the opportunity to return to Zacharia and live in a cave, I would prefer it to this house.” (Abu Mohammed, 82, Mai 2000)

 

But Nabil dared dreaming together with the youth of Ibdaa, of getting education and helping Palestinians to build up a peaceful future. He started by attending the University of BeirZeit.

“I was studying in Beir Zeit University but had to stop because of the condition and the bad situation here. I was study computer and network. But now-a-days I have course in Ramallah, and also planning to leave Palestine, to study out, maybe few weeks or in 2 month I will leave to France, to continue there,” (email from Nabil, 15 Jan 2002)

The course was abruptly stopped and the future plans look further today than ever.

 

“People are bracing themselves for the worst and they expect a massacre to take place.

Now that the army has imposed a curfew, the soldiers are expected to start their house to house searches and rampages. 

…All men ages 14-40 have left the refugee camp. Reports from Tulkarem refugee camp indicate that Israeli soldiers have rounded up all men between the ages of 14-40 and have arrested 400 so far. No one within this age group in Dheisheh is taking any chances. They all left the camp yesterday.”

(Email from Nabil, 9 mars 2002)

 

 

“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because Geography books no longer exist, not only the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose instead of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushuá in the place of Tal as-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

Moshe Dayan, Address the Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa (as quoted in Haáretz newspaper, 4 April 1969)

 

We were told Israel used to be an empty desert with a few foreign troops that were there to kill us all. The Maps on the classroom wall did not mention lines and occupation. This is OUR land. And so we walked her, and learnt to know each and every crick and bird in her. Learnt to love her, her- the motherland.

By the age of two I have heard that I better eat up my porridge or I would not be a good soldier.

At the age of ten I were expelled from school for saying in an English class  “I dream of leaving the country”. The English was correct.

By the age of 13 I were expelled again for saying I would not serve the army. A girl friend was put in jail for talking to a 14 years old Moroccan during a vacation in the USA. “Contact with the enemy” they called it. Another friend was arrested and put on trial for drawing a cartoon where Zionist figures were engaged in sex. He was sternly interrogated, pressed to reveal his non-existing funding and command chain presumably originating in Libya.

At 15 I were attacked by 50 angry men and women which have happen to hear me talking to a friend about Martin Luther King and non-violence.

Questioning the state values is not considered legitimate.

 

Nabil was never able to leave the West Bank and visit Zakariyyeh, but Israeli children can roam the land freely (guarded usually, by armed soldiers). At a class tour during the forth grade we went to Dayr Yassin; what used to be a peaceful Palestinian village on the way to Jerusalem. The book “History of the Hagana” mentions that on 9 April 1948 the troops carried out a massacre “without discriminating among men and women, children and old people”. The New York Times, at the time, reported that ten houses had been blown up in the village and that the attackers blew open doors and threw hand grenades into others. More than half of the 245 victims was women and children.

The teacher told us that the massacre was a result of a misunderstanding on the radio, between the different Jewish troops.  The misunderstanding resulted in an exodus of thousands of frightened Palestinians from their homes, as they saw the Jewish troops approaching. Homes, as we were told, they could not return to because of an “abandoned property law”.

“It was a violent attack. There was a massacre in Deir Yassin, where the entire population – including women and children – were killed. Haganah [the Jewish troops] threatened that they would kill us like the Palestinians in Deir Yassin if we did not leave our homes. They used Deir Yassin to set an example and force many other Palestinians to leave their homes. Haganah also killed people in Zacharia.” (Abu Mohammed, 82, Mai 2000 to Lawsociety)

 

 

Coming back to Palestine after ten years I were hoping to see miracles.I did not.I saw a Palestinian flag.I saw check points, which filled me with the hope that the jewish youth is aware of the true history of the region… but no, the israelis have built a second set of roads, going mostly underground, under the Palestinians. One can travel the occupied territories without seeing a single Palestinian, and perhaps soon there would be none to be seen. First the lies were created, then reality was changed to fit them.

 

During the ninth of Mars “Over 40 tanks were surrounding the camp, with the helicopters which were bombing the camp and more then 1000 solders they were moving in the camp, they used to destroy the walls of the houses in order to move from house to another…” (Nabil, 20 mars 2002)

8 houses were demolished, 50 badly damaged, Nabil’s sister was shot to death as she was looking out the window and two of his best friends were killed. 800 were arrested, among them Nabil.

While taking a huge risk for his life, he managed to escape and go hiding underground.

 

“To make certain that no one in Dheisheh who is injured will receive medical treatment, the soldiers and tanks surrounded al-Yamama Hospital down the street from Dheisheh yesterday Israeli troops have also dug up the Jerusalem-Hebron Road leading from Dheisheh to Bethlehem to make sure that ambulances can’t reach the camp and that no injured can be transported to hospital.”

(Nabil 9 mars)

 

The head of the Yamama hospital was shoot in the head and killed. Wounded Palestinians are hiding inside the churches of Bethlehem after the Umar Ibn al-Khattab mosque was heavily shelled by tanks. Medical assistance has not been able to reach them due to the presence of Israeli snipers and nearby tanks. Journalists have been arrested. Ambulances en route have been crushed.

 

Last I’ve heard from Nabil was two weeks ago. He was still alive.

Nabil’s mother turned very ill, and risking his life, he sneaked back into the refugee camp trying to get her to the hospital.

“…I call one of my friend he is journalist and when he know that I am in the home he become like crazy cause he sow me there with the Israeli army and he shocked when he know that I skip and when I succeed to skip, he told me don’t move I will come right now to pig you with your mother to the hospital, and after 10 mint  he come to the home with 10 journalist out side of Palestine, they took me and my mother with them and the give me camera to let the Israeli know that I am journalist and finally I succeed to reach the hospital with my mother.”[SIC]

(Nabil, 20 mars 2002)

 

 

Three years of daily exchange of mails, letter and picture with the friends I have made in Palestine, took me in a vortex back into a land of no-childhood, of death, of diminishing hope.

Two weeks of silent is a long time. The area is shelled heavily. Tens are dead. Internet servers and phone networkss are down- It is there my hope still lies.

As for two weeks ago, Nabil was taking care of his ill mother and younger siblings, in a situation of a curfew, of fear, of lack of food, Water, milk, medicine.

His grandfather, who gave him a key and a mission, is dead. I believe that as long as his mother is alive, he would try to do the same- to stay alive.

 

A communication that started with dance and dreams turned into a cry for help. Shuttering ten years of ease of my mind.

Uldi Tironi, do you need a reporter from the frontlines? I am ready.

Ready to go searching for a key tied to a broken dream. Perhaps my own.

 

As I write those last lines it is the evening of the 9th of April. A massacre is taking place, in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, for the second day in a raw. Houses being destroyed upon their inhabitants, mass graves, tens of bodied of all ages rotting in the hot streets, foot walking second time refugees. At that stage the near by Hospitals at Nablus have 70 injured patients, including 14 babies, and ran out of supply, especially oxygen. 10 ambulances ready to evacuate the dead and injured from Jenin to Nablus, and an ICRC oxygen truck came under fire from Israeli soldiers and were stopped. We are yet to know to size of the massacre.

When peace loses its meaning where do we go to next?

 

“They ask us why we explode and bomb ourselves inside Jerusalem or inside, what they call it, their state? Hope one of you knows why?”

(Nabil, 20 mars 2002)

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

“… Any way I am OK, Not bad, Still alive.
Do you know that the last one who bomb himself is from Dheisheh. He is 19 years old and he filmed himself before he bombed himself in Jerusalem. He is our friend here. He was very nice guy and smart in the same time.” [Sic]
(Email from Nabil, 18 years old, 15 mars 2002, from a hiding place in the West Bank of Palestine)

I find myself revisiting this land, of broken dreams, anger and despair and in it I find many old friends whom I dearly love.
How many tears would it take to wake up the sleeping world?
Hourly massacres in Gaza and the cry of beautiful people in the dream to be alive, to have a life – took me back to another reality, far far away 2002. Publishing this version as I found it. The article was first published in 2002 at Rigas Laiks 2 3 4 5 6

 

 

 

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Written by naturesong

July 14, 2014 at 20:01

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