By Aparajita Paul:
On the outskirts of Bethlehem, just off the main Jerusalem-Hebron road, sits Camp Aida–a Palestinian refugee camp built by UNRWA in 1967. It’s a small camp, about 2,300 people in all, and from the main road it appears less impoverished than the large camps in Gaza or elsewhere in the West Bank. Within Camp Aida, however, there are the usual telltale signs of a refugee camp: narrow dirt lanes, sewage flowing in open gutters, and small children darting to and fro.
This is where Samaira grew up. She is now 32, has a husband and two children of her own. She lives in a shabby apartment on the outskirts of Gaza.
She is now living a perfect life. She does listen to the sounds of those Israeli tanks rumbling or the marching of the Israeli troops or the occasional sound of a bomb here and there, killing a few, but destroying the lives of many, forever. But now she is used to it. She just prays that her children never go through what she went through in her childhood.
Her suffering is long, painful, and continuous, especially in the last decade where life became very difficult and full of dangers every step of the road. Simply, the human being’s life is unsecured and in danger even inside his own home, especially for them as residents of area “C” which is under full Israeli military control.
During the first Intifada, Samaira was riding her bicycle and going back home. Where Israeli soldiers stopped her and interrogated her. Then they ordered her to climb a high voltage power post and take down a Palestinian flag from the top of that post. She refused to do so because of her incapability of climbing the post and because of the danger the high voltage might impose on her life. At that point all the soldiers started beating her. One of them started pulling her from her hair with her face downward and kept pulling toward their armed vehicle. During that, a sharp object hit her in the left side of her face, causing a deep long cut. She started bleeding and lost a lot of blood which covered her face, head and clothes. The soldiers left her alone on the road side after half an hour of continuous bleeding under a hot sun. Her father then found her at midnight and took her home.
Samaira’s mother was abducted and raped. They were all having breakfast one morning in their one bedroom house in Gaza when it happened. Samaira was 12 then, the eldest out of her three siblings. They come, those beasts in armour, their faces covered with a black cloth, that hungry look on their faces. They knocked on the door. Samaira’s youngest brother opened it. They asked for their father. He wasn’t at home. They entered, pushed the children away, picked up their mother and went off. She struggled, she kicked and punched but to no avail. Samaira stared and stared. Not comprehending what was happening. Her little brother’s and sisters were screaming for their mother. But they had gone, not knowing how many shattered souls they left behind.
Her father? Well he was a member of the Hamas. Having seen what happened to his wife, he joined the Hamas militia. ‘Your father is a terrorist’, is what her friends used to say. ‘He has flouted the will of Allah.’ But then, where was Allah when they took her mother? When they bombed their ancient house in Jerusalem, killing all of her numerous aunts and uncles and all of her millions of cousins? Where was Allah then? Did he go away from Palestine when those animals broke the mosque?
Her father used to come home everyday with more and more wrinkles on his face. Was he growing old? They had been hearing about the troubled times outside. There was going to be a war. But weren’t they already waging a war? A war against those dirty men who took her mother away? A war against Israel? A war against those white officers who her father often abused? A war against life, against survival?
And then one day, he went out in the morning, but never returned. Samaira didn’t even bother to go and look for him because she knew she couldn’t risk the lives of her brother’s and sister’s who were now her responsibility. Thats when the UNRWA officers came. Samaira’s father had said they were bad men. But they seemed pretty nice as they took her and her siblings to their camp.
By that time she knew that their plight as refugees, their poverty, was the result of a great injustice that had been done to Palestinians. The Israelis had come as colonists, forced them out of their villages, and had taken their land. The same Israeli army that she saw every day in front of her camp had committed crimes, whick they could never be forgiven for. Her parents deserved to still be there, living with them, in their village. They all deserved proper education, a proper house, and proper food and water.
This small story, is half fiction, half reality. One wonders about the stories of the future where the Palestinians are left with Hamas sharia-lite or worse, some kind of utterly dysfunctional government which sees every problem as something car bombs and gunfire can solve. Which in and of itself is fine if that’s the destiny they’ve chosen. But who will you blame then?
They, as a matter of fact, all Palestinians deserve to dream. They deserve a life without misery, without suffering, without this half century long ongoing genocide.
And to those who are trying to underestimate the seriousness of the impact of starvation, they should be more careful as the next meal for the starving Palestinian, may be his own flesh and blood.