Equal human beings

I just spoke with my sister over the telephone. Of course as everybody and always we talked about the situation here. We got into a debate about why it seems so difficult to present the stories behind the headlines and the numbers of casualties when it comes to the Palestinian side of the story in the western media. We did not come to a conclusion, but now I finally do feel motivated to write about the stories I heard in Nablus when I visited the city a couple of days ago.

At first sight, the city center looks the same as before, crowded and full of activity. I did see damaged buildings and a lot of construction work going on. Besides that life seems to continue as if nothing has happened. Only when talking to people it becomes clear that the horrors of the past month are far from forgotten.

‘Soldiers told me to stay in my house,’ says an old woman. ‘That is all! No further warning before they exploded the building next door. The blast was so immense. First I thought my home including me would collapse as well, then I thought I became deaf. Now, I know I am lucky to be alive and that only my home is badly damaged,’ she says. She shows the cracks in the walls, the broken windows, and burned and destroyed furniture. ‘The day after, soldiers did come back to my house to check if we survived the explosion.’ She asks: ‘Why? Why did they explode the building? It was a bakery and empty at that time and they knew it. Why did they not evacuate us as they knew our lives were going to be in danger?’

Two other women, who live at the site where the resistance surrendered, have similar stories. ‘Look here! You see the bullet holes, the damage? Here a missile struck our home. You see what happens when I push against this wall? Yes, it is dangerous to stay inside the house, it could collapse. Where to go? No we have no other choice that to stay here. We, twelve family members, now live in one room downstairs. No, we know that it is not suitable for living, but what to do?’ says the oldest one. Her voice is quivering. I wonder if this is because of her anger and fear or because of her old age.

‘You want to see the place where we had to bury thirteen people temporarily in mass graves?’ asks a son of one of the women. Through the garden and another home we arrive at the mosque, which was turned into a hospital.

‘At one time this was the only functioning clinic in the old city and there were more than seventy injured and twenty martyrs. The died bodies were lying here outside.’ He points a small sort of garden of about ten square meters outside the mosque. I can still see some shoes and other belongings of the people that died here.

‘I am still optimistic about the future,’ says Ala’, whose home was occupied by the Israeli army and turned into a military post, holding the residence hostage. ‘They took the poster on which I wrote my dreams and destroyed my diaries, but we survived and I am sure we will keep doing so in the future.’ Not everybody sees it that way. Basel, a physician, who was used by the Israeli army as a human shield, says, ‘What ever we do, it is used against us. Whatever tactic we tried over the past 54 years, it did not help us and only worsened our situation. Our resistance against the occupation is considered terrorism, and our deaths and injured are just numbers. We have to wait and try to survive until the international community is ready to face and change the double standards it is using and until Israel is willing to consider us as equal human beings.’