We had our Ramadan Iftar meal at my grandmother’s house in Beit Hanina yesterday– an East Jerusalem neighborhood – and after we were done we drank some tea and watched some Ramadan TV series and then it was time to leave.
I’ve started reading a book called “The Book Thief” during my last semester at university, but stopped because I got too caught up on my studying, and only recently I resumed it. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s a Holocaust book that is narrated by death itself, so it gives us quiet an extraordinary perspective on the whole “event”. It was painful to read, too many deaths, too much inhumanity and degradation of human life, and too much hatred and loathing towards humans. Not far from the situation we’re in today.
But reading that book while witnessing and living the recent events of the brutal murder of Muhammad Abu Khdier –after he was burnt alive by Israeli settlers- and the series of clashes that happened afterwards, made the book a whole lot harder to read and finish than it already was. But I had to get it over with.
I finished the last few pages, filled with so much death like the rest of the book, while we were in our car heading back to our house. My mother decided to try and go through Shu’fat – Muhammad’s hometown and where there have been clashes since the day he was murdered and it has been completely closed by the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces)- in order to get at least a glimpse of what has been going on for the past few, but very long, days.
When we got to the entrance, like the rest of people there, we stopped the car automatically. A group of people, over 20 or 30, were standing at the entrance merely watching and observing alongside us the passengers safely sitting in our cars. We only watched.
From afar, we could see lights in the sky moving back and forth with banging sounds and burnt smells filling the air. They were a range of sound-bombs and light-bombs, in addition to bullets and gas canisters that we could clearly smell. But that was all there was to it, us watching from a distance.
The sad part was, while the clashes were happening; only three soldiers were guarding the entrance.
1,2, and 3.
Which means, if only ten of us stood up to them, picked up our rocks and used them we would be able to at least stop them from “guarding” the entrance and we’d be able to go in to support the mourning family of Abu Khdeir, but we didn’t.
You want to call that violence or unnecessary set of actions or terrorist act or whatever it is they call it these days, be my guest. For once I’d welcome such naming, because for the first time it was clear to me. “Peaceful” actions are not the answer, not anymore. Not when there are young kids being tortured and burnt to death.
My stomach used to cringe and my throat would burn every time I hear a little 13 year old kid on TV saying he’s joining the clashes because he wants to die for freedom, for Palestine, and that they’re here so they’d become martyrs, just like Muhammad. But if anything, these little kids know more about life than we do.
It’s been almost 70 years since the Holocaust has happened, and nothing’s has changed. Humanity has learnt nothing.
Proof: the same people who were subjected to being burnt alive based on their ethnicity and religion committed the same monstrous crime based on the same reasons towards other people.
The estimated number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust varied but settled on almost 6 million human beings. How many more do we need to learn our lesson? Some more thousands? Some more millions?
Done. Then what? Nothing.
And that’s the result these 13-year-old kids yearning to die have reached, and they’re right. We’re on this constant struggle to humanize ourselves, to portray ourselves in certain images and roles, as heroes, as powerful mothers, as revolutionists, and most importantly as humans. And how do we do that? By dying. The only way for a Palestinian to look human is to look and be dead, and these little kids –whether knowingly or not- know this and implement it on daily bases.
Because other than that, they’re not really living anyway. On the “normal daily” life, these kids were always subjected to death or detention by Israeli forces, the brutal murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir was what made this fact more subtle and visible to them and to us.
On daily bases kids in Gaza are subjected to random Rocket Raids over their houses. I have a friend there that I know I should check upon after every raid but it freaks the hell out of me to do so. What if I don’t get a response? And what if I do but someone she knows is missing? And for how long will she handle it? She’s survived two wars, two massacres, how will I or she know if she’ll survive the third?
And my heart died a hundred times just writing these words that I’m afraid after I’ve uttered them it might make room for them to become true, but not saying them out loud won’t make the fear of them coming true any less.
All of these murders with the smell of death everywhere prove how lifeless the situation is already, and it calls us to at least pick up our rocks. And if death was the inevitable then so be it, because these rocks will only bring us closer to the fact we’ve been running from ever since we were born anyway. That life under occupation isn’t life. It’s barely surviving and surviving isn’t living. Resisting, on the other hand, is. Fighting back, picking up the rock is.
The entire ride back home, after finishing “The Book Thief” and measuring down the weight of its words and clarity of the world that it has provided, all I was left with was the repetition of these words over and over and over again in my head; “Why didn’t I pick up those rocks?”
But I’m a coward. I hide behind my words, but deep down I know – or at least hope- this cowardice won’t last long and there will be a time when words won’t be enough for me anymore. When words won’t save my life like they did for “the book thief”, but they’ll be the reason I’ll be set free.
Till then, the repeated desire won’t leave my mind of the fact that I should have picked up that rock. Because to exist is not to resist, but to take action is.
"During Shu'fat uprising after Muhammad's murder"