Sparrows successfully break through Gilboa prison “bird checkpoints,” writes Ameer Makhoul

Gilboa prison, screenshot from video by PadresHana’s, June 2012

Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian civil society leader from Haifa and frequent contributor to The Electronic Intifada, is held in Gilboa Prison. Ameer has been sentenced by Israel to nine years based on a coerced confession. I regularly send postcards to Ameer as a token of solidarity. This summer I sent him a postcard with photo’s of birds in our neighborhood. I glued a feather I had found on one of my walks in the fields on the postcard. Today, I received Ameer’s response to my cards.

I always knew how much amazing and creative you are, but the bird feather is over creativity. The feather came two day after the second light house. [AN: I have sent my first lighthouse postcard in 2010. Ameer wrote a beautiful letter in response.] Both are very inspiring and provoke writing. I don’t know why, but I used not to like the birds who came daily to the prison square. The birds are called “dwairy” [house sparrows] which live around buildings and houses. They made a few nests in the roof of the prison square. Several Palestinian political prisoners are very friendly with [the birds.]

Two to three months ago, the prison authorities suddenly decided to close up all the small grates in the roof, but to keep them available to be opened in case of emergency. The prison workers spent about five hours to block the way for the birds to come in the prison square. (The grates are kept available to open for the oppression mission of throwing teargas bombs through them at the prisoners.)

So, after a lot of work in the morning next day dozens of birds came through to the square. I felt very happy for how they found their way in spite of all the emergency acts and all the “birds checkpoints.” It is very inspiring. From that day I became very friendly with the the birds. Each day at 5.30 am I prepare small pieces of bread and throw them through the grate of the cell gate to the square. I stop asking myself what the birds are looking for in prison!! They have all the space in the sky and on the land. The feather you sent me on the postcard is very touchable and very touching.

House Sparrows


You can also send postcards to Ameer Makhoul, Gilboa Prison, Department 2, 10900 Gilboa, Israel.




You can imprison the body, but never the mind. Very nice story. Being kind to birds/wildlife is an extension of ones treatment of other human beings.


Birds know no borders. Once upon a time, Israelis and Palestinians displayed this slogan on the same T-shirt, which I saw Palestinian friends in Beit Jala wearing proudly. What we need is a bird revolt !

Adri Nieuwhof

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Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in the Netherlands and former anti-apartheid activist at the Holland Committee on Southern Africa. Twitter: @steketeh