Rima Merriman, a Palestinian American living in Ramallah, wrote this series, “Portraits of Palestinian Resistance”, telling the stories of the four Palestinians killed and one of the 57 wounded in Ramallah on 24 May 2006, as they struggled to protect a Palestinian activist and political prisoner from an Israeli undercover unit.
Milad Attallah Abu Al-Arayes (19)
Refugee Camps all over the West Bank and Gaza are targets of frequent Israeli attacks. Al-Am’ari Refugee Camp, where Milad was born and where he lived with his family (refugees from Jaffa) until he was killed by the Israelis at the age of 19, is no exception. The Camp is on the outskirts of Ramallah and has seen its share of tragedies. Its approximately 6000 refugees are under siege, increasingly unable to provide for themselves. Al-Am’ari camp boasts of its share of Israeli air and land raids, home demolitions, bombs, as well as “wanted”, imprisoned and martyred men, women and children.
The first words that Milad’s mother Soona (43) spoke to me about her martyred son had to do with his calloused hands. She mentioned them twice in the course of the conversation, pained that, in spite of his enterprising spirit, Milad had recently been working as a bricklayer on a camp job-creation project, marking time until he could re-open the Internet shop he and his uncle had operated from the front room of his home. Milad’s brother Mohammad (16), who is in the eleventh grade and a good science-stream student, took a couple of computer workshops and taught his older brother. But neither one of them knew how to repair the computers when they broke down and so contracted with someone else for their repair.
Milad had gone only through 9th grade. On the morning of his death, his mother recalls making a comment that she later regretted, because it was a reproach. When she learned that he was preparing to go into Ramallah to attend the graduation ceremony of one of his friends from a teachers college, she remarked that had he stayed in school, he too could have had such a graduation ceremony. But Soona consoled herself with the memory of the care she took in preparing his food while he was taking a bath before leaving. He ate eggs, fava beans and tomatoes and he drank some tea. She could not offer him the stuffed vine leaves she was making for dinner, because the dish had yet to be cooked.
At the time of Milad’s death, the Internet shop was closed, because the Camp children who frequented it were sitting for their school examinations, and the Camp Committee had clamped down on such distractions by closing the shop for 20 days. Milad had just bought a toaster, so that he could offer his young clientele, who paid 2 NIS an hour for the use of a computer, sandwiches as well as refreshments. He had decorated the shop with his favorite political posters as well as with martial arts movie icons. At Milad’s funeral, his body in the mosque was surrounded by the Camp children who had frequented his shop.
According to Mohammad, Milad was organized by Fateh but had nevertheless voted for Hamas, feeling disconsolate by the political and economic situation. When he and his friends found themselves in the middle of the Israeli raid in downtown Ramallah on May 24, he got out his gun and shot at two Israeli Jeeps in an attempt to stop them from reaching Al Manarah Circle. An Israeli soldier stopped the Jeep, opened the door to take good aim and shot Milad three times using dom-dom bullets. One shot went through his eye.
In addition to his parents, Milad’s family is made up of one married sister Nida (22) who lives in Amman, Jordan, and who rushed to her brother’s funeral, a married brother, Iyad (21), who has one daughter and who in the Camp, five other siblings, and an aged grandfather (said to be over a hundred years old), who appeared confused about his grandchild’s death. His grandmother, who also lived with them, had died a year ago.
The first person in the family to learn about Milad’s death and to get to the morgue was his aunt, Laila Abu Tata, a teacher in Deir Dibwan. She gathered him in her arms, getting his blood on her headscarf. Milad’s father, a car mechanic currently employed by UNRWA in Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem, heard the news as he was getting off the special bus that takes him back and forth. He ran all the way to the hospital.
Rima Merriman is a Palestinian-American living in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.