I woke up this morning very tired. I could not get any sleep until 5 a.m. At 3 a.m Saleh, my husband, woke up complaining with a severe headache. I was checking my mail and writing my messages. I could not sleep after hearing the news from Jenin camp, and hearing the SOS calls of some of the fighters left in the camp. I checked Saleh’s blood pressure, it was so high (200/110), I could not believe my eyes! He has never complained of high blood pressure, it is rather I who am on treatment for hypertension for the last four years. I checked again and it was no better. He wanted to take my medication, but it is too strong and I know that if he starts taking them, he must not stop. I decided to call 101 emergency to see what they can do to help him.
“Do you have army tanks in your street?” asked the voice on the other end. I said “Yes from time to time they pass by.” “Then, sorry,” he continuted, “We cannot do anything. If we come, we have to have a permit and that will take hours—if they accept to give it. If we come without a permit, they will stop us, strip us of all our clothes, and make us wait until who knows when.” I said “Okay, but at least tell me if he can take my medication.”
He asked a doctor nearby and said “Okay, just give him half of your dose.” I did, but Saleh was still feeling so tired. I told him, “It is Palestin-itis again!”, making a sardonic commentary on the chronic diseases many Palestinians suffer from at an early age: diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks and irritable bowel syndrome. We don’t understand how it is that we suffer from such diseases while we are living in a “peaceful heaven.”
A phone call from Salwa, my gynecologist, awakens me from a nap. She told me that a neighbor in their area was ‘visited’ by the army and someone must stay in my brother-in-law’s house, otherwise they might break into it and make their usual mess. She also told me that she is still giving directions for pregnant women to help them deliver on their own while at home. She said the latest case was a woman from Bethlehem. She began to miscarry and was bleeding from 11p.m till 6.a.m, she collapsed twice until her husband risked his life and held her in his arms, taking her to the hospital telling her “We will live together or die together.” But, luckily he arrived safely to the hospital although the whole city is under curfew. He was detained briefly then was let go.
Then I got another phone call from Amal telling me that she heard in the Israeli radio (we have no Palestinian radio whether for the Palestinian Authority or local stations. Since the beginning of the re-occupation, all are controlled by the army and most have been destroyed), that they will lift the curfew from 12-4 p.m. I felt immediately reluctant to go out, every time I go out I meet people who tell me their stories and I come back with a grieving heart. She said “We will go and do a sit in at al Manara, if we can manage and if people are not overwhelmed by their shopping.”
I left my house, I met Mahmoud, 20 years old, our neighbor, whose parents are blind. He has a sister younger than him. He was ‘visited’ by the army, and he was beaten a lot and very much humiliated. They took him as a human shield to the next-door neighbor where he was beaten again, the soldier wants to entertain himself, he said. He stole from my pocket 70 Israeli shekels ($14US) and threatened me, “If you say anything to the officer, I will put a bullet in your head, you know you are all terrorists and no one will check it, I know your face, your name and if the officer hears anything I would know that it was you, don’t forget that!” But he was so happy that they did not arrest him and let him go.
I left Mahmoud and went with Suad to see if we can get some fresh vegetables. We had to go to Ramallah’s industrial zone. We found plenty of fresh vegetables, mostly Israeli and some from the Jordan valley. All the roads were full of trenches and torn apart. Suad wanted to buy some chicken. Nora, her dog, is not eating almost anything, she likes chicken necks, which have become quite rare since the re-occupation. To our luck we fell on some fresh chicken so we bought some for us, and for Nora, too. We came back to my house, where we met Nabil and Vanoush, and heard more stories about people who had been ‘visited’ by the army.
Dr. George was visited two days ago at 2a.m, even their dog Granda did not hear them coming. She barked when they entered the house. They asked him to open his bag. Ah, he had forgotten the secret code to open it, the soldier insisted that he has to open it, but he just could not remember due to stress. Dr. George said “It is a funny thing, what could a doctor hide in such a bag!” He was about to be beaten, how could he dare tell the soldier it is funny, but his Russian wife and Granda came to his help. Then Abu Ghazi, the little boy who used to work in my brother-in-law’s shop, got out of his house when the army asked all men from 15 to 55 to show up. They kept him in the Moghtaribin school in al Bireh for nearly three days, with no food, and under the rain, they were all wet and shivering. Taken to ‘Ofera’ military compound, again left three days under the rain, they were fed for the first time after 4 days. The menu? For every 7, one cup of yogurt and for every 5, one tomato. The fourth day they were taken inside the compound and left in a corridor to freeze under cold air conditioning while they were wet for a whole day. Then came the story, or rather the tragedy, of I.T, this I will keep it for my next letter. I still cry when I remember it.
These stories do not stop, some times we laugh and other times we cry, till my daughter Sireen arrives, very pale, very shocked. She hugged me and cried. I was terrified and I said to myself, “I knew it, I knew that I will hear more sad stories.”
“Jad was found,” she said, “but dead.” I could not believe it, this is Jad Khalif, my son Maher’s friend of only 23 years, who lost his father in 97 when a military jeep smashed into him in his village Azzoun, near Nablus. Jad joined the Palestinian police in 1996, in the anti-drugs section, that sweet, nice young man!
Maher insisted on him spending the night in our house. We know that he has no family in Ramallah, but he was shy and insisted to leave, if he had not gone, he would still be with us safe and alive. The gruesome details come: Jad was shot after the last call he gave my son Maher, a bullet in his head, how and where nobody knows, the group with him do not know what happened to him, but everybody thought that he was arrested with them. But for all Palestinian detainees, nobody knows or can even know, once arrested, where they are taken and for how long, The Red Cross does not even know and it goes without saying that we have to wait 15 days before hearing any news, unless some people are released and have some information on the person we are looking for.
Mofaz, the chief of the Israeli army, activated military order 1500, which forbids any Palestinian detainee from seeing a lawyer or receiving any visitors for 18 days, but we were at least relieved to know that his group of 40 were arrested. Jad was found stripped of his clothes, except his underwear, in one of Ramallah’s streets in a pool of his own blood with his clothes beside him with one of his boots missing. He was lying in the Ramallah hospital morgue the last 11 days, nobody recognized him. His, along with another 3 corpses, have no family in Ramallah. Since five days, Maher and I were calling the Red Cross to give us any information about him, then two days ago, some friends of his were told by the Red Cross that he was arrested but was injured. We felt happy that he was safe, we tried to find out the name of the hospital he was in. I wrote all of you, especially my Israeli friends, to ask if any one knows his whereabouts, but to no avail.
Some people advised my son and his friends to go check the morgue, just in case. “No,” they said, “we checked the morgue of Sheikh Zayed hospital (part of Ramallah hospital) and he was not there.” They had been advised to check the morgue of Ramallah hospital itself. My son saw his green jacket and the blue shirt he lent to Jad the last time he was in our house. He was cold. The jacket and the shirt were all full of blood, but he realized immediately that it is Jad, his dear friend. Dead.
Suad, Sireen, and myself again in Ramallah hospital: “Please Suad, don’t step on the mass grave! It is just here,” I said. We saw Maher coming out of the morgue and we all collapsed. “We told his mother,” said Maher, “But she does not want to believe us. We had to ask a photographer to take a picture of him to send it to her, but the problem now is how are we going to send him to his village while we are under curfew and taking the road to Nablus is like Mission Impossible?”
I leave a message with Dr. Mustapha Bargouthi, asking him if there is a way to send him back to his mother after he spent 11 days as an unidentified corpse. To this hour, we don’t know yet what to do, maybe an angel will come tomorrow morning to take his body back to his home and to his mother.