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Interviews with mothers of martyrs of the AQSA Intifada.

THE AQSA INTIFADA ERUPTED IN September 2000. This uprising was the second of its kind in the recent history of Palestine following the first one in 1987. What characterizes both of these uprisings is the fact that both started out as an act of protest by the Palestinian people against the oppression of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "In its opening phases the current uprising seemed very much like the last one: spontaneous mass demonstrations resulting in clashes between armed Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinian youths; commercial and general strikes; the formation of a broad political coalition (the National and Islamic Forces, or NIF) to provide direction to the revolt to facilitate political coordination; and its rapid expansion from one region to the next." (1)

Many Palestinians lost their lives as a result of confrontations with the IDF; some of these Palestinians were children. As a result, many Israeli and foreign officials blamed the Palestinians for sacrificing their children so that they could win international support. This criticism, I might add, was voiced in the media on several occasions by several individuals from the "west". It was hard for many westerners to understand how Palestinian mothers could sacrifice or push their sons to die for "the cause." "Even more brazen was a widespread outpouring of condemnation of Palestinian parents and the Palestinian leadership for deliberately promoting the killing of Palestinian children in order to embarrass Israel." (2) It was pointed out on several occasions that these mothers were shown on television rejoicing at the death of their sons.

This research is based on interviews with 16 mothers of martyrs from the West Bank. The interviews were conducted during the period of July-September of 2001 and in January and the summer of 2002. The purpose of this study is to shed light on a tragic event that Palestinian mothers face and the way in which this experience molds and shapes their lives. From this study, it will become apparent that those mothers were not passive in regard to protecting

Nahed Habiballah is a graduate student from Jerusalem in the Women's Studies Program at New York University.

their children. It will also be apparent that there are several factors that complicate their role in protecting their children. Most of the mothers that I interviewed admitted that they ventured out to the streets looking for their children and tried several times to prevent their children from going to confrontation areas where the IDF was present. However, patriotism hindered their effort and they themselves were caught between two extremes; on the one hand, they wanted to protect their children and prevent their deaths, but on the other, the Intifada was a quest for freedom and loss of life is possible in such situations. What complicates things even more is the fact that martyrdom has become engrained in the Palestinian culture in the past two decades and mothers have found themselves trapped in a society that provides support for mothers of martyrs while demanding that these mothers become public figures of steadfastness and pride. These mothers are unable to recover from the loss because they are not allowed to grieve for their children. In Islam, martyrs are considered alive in heaven, and pious Muslims should not grieve the loss because unlike the dead, these martyrs obtain the ultimate prize, which is being in heaven in the company of God and his prophets.

Mothers of the martyrs become the ultimate victims in the tragic situation that they find themselves in and are unable to mourn their martyred sons in a culture which believes that martyrs are to be prized and not mourned for. The mothers, pious Muslims, turn to God for comfort and assurance. They need this comfort because it is the only way to affirm that the death of their children was not a waste. Their martyred children are in the presence of God and they are enjoying life, a better kind of life and these mothers should be happy for their children because, although their children are no longer with them, they are happy and alive in heaven.

Religion becomes the tranquilizer: the assurance that their sons did not die for nothing. They died for their country and religion and it is comforting for the mothers who struggle with the pain, loss and the guilt of not being able to do more to protect their children. It seems that it is easier for mothers who have well rooted faith to accept the fate that God has chosen for their children. According to religion, these mothers should be proud of their children because God chooses the purest people to be martyrs because they are the ones who are privileged and worthy of His company.

These interviews indicate several common themes that are shared among these mothers.

MOTHERS OUTRAGED AT BEING ACCUSED OF SENDING THEIR CHILDREN TO DIE

The mothers affirmed that there is no point in blaming the Palestinian parents because they are the victims; if there is somebody to be blamed, it is the Israeli government and the IDF, which uses severe measures against these children, and they do not differentiate between armed Palestinian gunmen and a bunch of children whose only weapon is stones.

PROTECTING THEIR CHILDREN

There are several reasons why these mothers are unable to protect their children. One is the fact that danger is everywhere. There are checkpoints scattered all around residential areas. Many Palestinian children were martyred when they were walking home from school or from a soccer field. They ended up in the middle of a confrontation that led to their death. Another reason for the mothers' inability to protect their children is that these kids become politically aware at an early age. They grow up resenting the Israeli soldiers that are patrolling around their towns and cities. They witness a lot of humiliation to themselves or their families by the IDF. As a result, they are angry and frustrated by the Israeli occupation.

MOTHERS FACING A DILEMMA

These mothers face a dilemma as a result of the conflicting situation that they are put in as a result of being Palestinian mothers. Should they be patriotic and raise their children with the idea of fighting for their country and never surrendering to occupation, even if the price is the death of their children?

CONSOLATION

As a result of the tragic event of losing a child, these mothers turn to religion for consolation and comfort. After the first stage, which is the loss of a child, a new stage comes along, which is reality and the rationalization of the loss. For most of these mothers, this is when religion comes into play. Almost all the women give their martyred son the image of a bridegroom who is on his wedding day and that God is waiting to welcome him in heaven. That is the reason behind the lallulations; these martyrs are offered to God as bridegrooms whom He will take care of and award the prizes that He has promised them. Lallulations are not a celebration as much as they are a declaration of pride and honor.

The following are the shared experiences of the mothers as mothers of martyrs:

SOCIETAL PRESSURE

All the women were pressured by the same society that gave them support. On the one hand, these mothers welcomed the support system that was perfected during the Intifada years (the first as well as the second), yet this same support is the support that often chokes them. These mothers are mothers who lost their children; the pain of losing a child is the same whether he is a martyr or not. It is true that they console themselves by saying that their sons are martyrs and they are in a better place with their God. However, the pain is the same. The mothers need to grieve the death of their sons; they need to vent their emotions in order to sustain their own sanity.

IDEALIZING THE MARTYRED SON

All the mothers emphasized that their martyred son was the better child: he was the best looking, the smartest, the most compassionate and loving of all the siblings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INJURIES

All the mothers described the way in which their sons were shot in detail. It is amazing how these mothers went into detail on the effect that the bullets had caused on their children's bodies.

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THESE MOTHERS

I think the differences between the mothers are evident in the way in which they express their sorrow. Some are stronger than others, and in the beginning it was hard to detect any sign of sadness. The mothers who mentioned religion and faith in God constantly throughout the interview had a better grip over themselves. It took them a longer time to break down, and when they did, it was in small sobs. The following are two interviews selected from the 16 interviews that I conducted with the mothers of the martyrs from the West Bank from September 2001 through January 2002.
 Mother D: Area: Refugee camp in the outskirts of Ramallah
 Age: 17 years old. Was shot Siblings: two brothers 8 and 16, and
 seven sisters.


--Interviewer: Would you like to talk about the way your son was martyred?

--Mother: It was a Friday and he was shot on the checkpoint on the road between Jerusalem and Ramallah. His father and I went to AI-Aqsa mosque to pray, it was the 27th of Ramadan [fasting month]. We left early. His father woke him up that morning and asked him not to leave the house; he urged him to stay at home and take care of his sisters. His father begged him to stay at home because he said that it might be dangerous to go out of the house because of the tension especially when it is a Friday and usually there are a lot of confrontations between the Palestinian youths and the Israeli soldiers. We planned on staying till later that evening when we received a phone call saying that we should go back home. They said that our son was injured and when we asked them where he received the injury, they refused to say. They only stressed the fact that we should go to the hospital.

We rushed to the hospital and as we reached the camp we heard the call from the minaret announcing that our son was martyred. You know how difficult it is to get back from Jerusalem to the camp in this current situation, we hurried back and we received the news, just like that. That is enough for a person to break down. I insisted to go to the hospital but they said there is no need and that the youths are bringing him back home. I persisted and threatened by crying and shouting so they took me to Ramallah. We found out in Ramallah that he was not martyred yet and that the doctors are still operating on him. I still do not understand why his uncle signed the paper that confirmed his death. He was lying there in the hospital for 15 minutes; they opened his brains and he had 15 stitches in his skull. All this with the assumption that the boy had been martyred. I do not know what they had done to him, another doctor came and they left my son lying there for 15 minutes. Why haven't they done their utmost, they should have tried and tried till the end.

--Interviewer: Was he still breathing?

--Mother: They tried to perform a blood transfusion and his body rejected it. Another doctor came and he checked his pupils and found out that there is still life in my son. The doctor told them to try again and they performed a blood transfusion and his body needed nine units. They left him there in this hospital for two days and then they sent him to be treated in Jordan. He was martyred after six months in the hospital in Jordan. The first month, his brain was falling out of his head, actually, for almost three months his brain was falling off. Of course, it was Ramadan; I left with him to Jordan. The Israeli soldiers did not allow my husband to pass the borders so he went back to the camp. I got there at 9:30 at night, all by myself. My son's medical situation deteriorated again. [Mother crying].

Poor thing, he became tired as a result of oxygen deficiency. It took them a while to get to Jordan, he was supposed to get there around 1:00p.m. instead he reached Jordan around 8:30p.m.

--Interviewer: Why did it take them that long? The border?

--Mother: Of course, the borders. You know how Israelis treat us on borders. After two days in the hospital in Jordan, they performed another operation on him. They were trying to stop the bleeding in the brain. He received the bullet in his forehead and it went through and came out from the other side. It basically tore all the brain tissues. He could not move anything, no movement in his arms, legs, head, nothing.

I brought my younger daughter with me and I told him that his sister is here to see you. He would understand and I could see his eye following his sister's movements. One time his father told him that I arrived and asked him to blink his eye if he could hear us, and so he did, but there was no other movement, he probably could hear us or else he would not have blinked. He was in this condition for six months.

First month, I was in Jordan by myself; the second month my husband was able to join me and I would go to the West Bank to take care of my other kids and then come back to Jordan. I spent so much time on the borders coming and going. The first month that I stayed in Jordan, I left my two and a half year old daughter with her sisters in the camp. the rest of the period I would go to the camp for a week then come back to Jordan for a week. Torn between my children; the ones here in the camp and my son who is fighting for his life.

They took him to the operation room to close the opening in his brains, but his heart stopped, that is what they told me, for 40 minutes. His body was too weak for the operation and they were unable to close the hole in his brains. As I told you before, the brain was bleeding for three months and they found a piece of his skull in the car. I opened the bandage on his head and I saw pieces of his brains falling with a kind of liquid. Thank God the Great All Mighty. [Crying]

--Interviewer: Have you had any knowledge of him going to confrontations?

--Mother: Yes, I did. Honestly, I did not want him to go, I wanted him to live longer. But it was in his blood, to fight for his country, for the AI-Aqsa mosque. We used to tell him that if he wanted to do something, he should do something big, he is going to die anyways so at least he should harm the Jews, like the martyrs who bomb themselves (suicide bombers). If one Israeli died in return for my son's death then that would have made it easier.

He always went to throw stones, he would come after work, breaks his fast and prays and he would leave the house in the evening. He would come back a little bit and then go out, in the morning prayers he would go, he was always going.

--Interviewer: You knew all the time that he goes to throw stones?

--Mother: I knew.

--Interviewer: Did you try stopping him?

--Mother: I tried, I would go several times to the checkpoint and grab him and take him home, but that was temporarily, because he would leave again. In the end, he was telling me that if I will go to get him the next time he will refuse to come home with me. Everybody told us that he is always in the confrontation scene and everybody throw stones anyways but he used to stand in the front because he was tall. He did not have any kind of fear. We told him that it is in his blood to fight, so if he wants to fight he should become a suicide bomber. He died now for the sake of a stone, it did not do anything to them. Nobody was hurt from the soldiers, it was not worth it.

--Interviewer: If you know now that one of your children is going to a confrontation, would you prevent him?

--Mother: To the confrontation, I would prevent him but if he wants to do something that would avenge his brother's death, I will not prevent him. If I have the chance to become a suicide bomber, I would. But I do not believe in stones. What will a stone do when there are tanks and guns and all these modern weaponry that the Israelis have? I say that somebody from the Palestinian side should take all these young Palestinians and teach them and arrange them to attack not with stones but with something that would hurt the Israelis. Instead of them being killed in cold blood.

--Interviewer: What was your feeling when your son was martyred'?

--Mother: What would be the feeling of a mother who raised her child for seventeen years, what would be her feeling. Do not forget that he was born after four daughters. Again, if he died while hurting them then I would not be as hurt. I am sad because they are killing us, although they say that these martyrs go to heaven, still if for every Palestinian that is killed there is a Jew that is killed in return, it would be better.

--Interviewer: So you think that you would feel different if your son was martyred but took with him some Israelis?

--Mother: Yes, I feel pride that he is a martyr and that he did the best he could in fighting for his country even though it is a stone but I feel sorry for all of these youths that are being killed just for throwing stones that does not do any good. I know that throwing stones is the best we could do as Palestinians, but I prefer that somebody would take them and train them. --Interviewer: If you know that one of your children is going to become a suicide

bomber, will you let him go?

--Mother: Now, after one of my sons is gone, I will not let him. I do not want to lose another one. I will try to prevent him but maybe he will not listen to me either. What can I say. No matter what, it is hard to part with your son, I am a mother, what can I say. If it was him, he was going to die anyways.

--Interviewer: What is holding you up?

--Mother: God, may God strengthen me and give me the power to go on. [Crying]. Every morning I kiss him and pray that God will accept him as a martyr in His heaven. What else can I do? It has been forty- five days since he passed away but it becomes harder as the days pass by.

--Interviewer: When your son was in the hospital, did you think of the possibility that he will die?

--Mother: We would ask the doctors about his situation and they would tell us that he is in critical condition but I still had hope and then I would say that even if he lives he will not be the same, his brain is damaged, he cannot move any part in his body, he was living on machines. In a way he became a martyr the day he was shot, but I still had hope. His body was rejecting everything they were injecting, be it blood, medicine or nutrition. I hoped and I said that even if he is with one eye, and does not move, I would still want him alive and I will take care of him as long as I live.

--Interviewer: Are you angry with anyone?

--Mother: The Jews, if I will get a chance to avenge my son, I would but there is no way that I will let my other son do that. I am also angry at the Arab governments, are they blind or in a coma to the extent that they are unable to see what is happening to us. All of them expressed their dissatisfaction against the suicide bomber that occurred the other day but none of them expressed their dissatisfaction against what the Israelis do to us. They kill our children daily, they demolish our houses, confiscate our land and the Arab world is watching what is happening to us.

--Interviewer: How do you define the relationship between you and your son?

--Mother: Good, my son was mysterious, it was hard for him to open up for us but he was still my son and I loved him. Sometimes my husband and my son would quarrel and it was mainly for the reason that my son goes out a lot.

--Interviewer: His father was unable to prevent him from going out as well?

--Mother: He is a young man, my husband would scold him several times, and nay son would go up on the roof and stay for the night. We could not do anything about it, it was in his blood to go out and throw stones. One time we went to visit our neighbors who live closer to the check point; [the check point is situated close to the refugee camp, the center of the camp is farther and that is where the family of the martyr lived but it was still a walking distance]. The neighbors told us that they see our son all the time at the check- point throwing stones. They were amazed at his courage and they said that he would be holding about ten stones and he keeps on throwing at the soldiers till he is done. We talked to him all the time, but it did not help. His father is hurt because he did not listen to us when we told him that he should stay at home and look over his siblings on the day he was shot. His friend was with him that day and he was urging him to go home but my son told him that be will throw this last stone and he will go home. It was the last stone in his hand, he threw it and was shot in the head immediately after that.

--Interviewer: What was the state you were in on the day of your son's funeral?

--Mother: l was numb, a mother saying goodbye to her son. There was a journalist that day who wrote about me but I was in another world, I could feel nothing, walking like a dead person.

--Interviewer: Did they bring him home?

--Mother: By the way, that same day that I took my children to Jordan, he passed away. It was a school holiday, my husband met us at the border and took us to the hospital. We went there on the account that we will stay with him the whole holiday. My two other sons went straight to the hospital and as they got there they could not find him in the room. They asked the nurse where their brother was and she told them that he is in the Intensive Care. As we got there he was taking his last breaths. I tried to tell him that his brothers and sisters are here to see him but it was for no use. He passed away, one of my daughters ran out to the nurse, thinking that he was the doctor and she begged him to help her brother, to give him something to make him better. It was a dreadful scene. His father wrote all this down, from the moment he was shot till the day he died. [Crying]

--Interviewer: Do you know other mothers of martyrs?

--Mother: Not really, there is one mother that visits me often but I do not go out and I do not think I want to. I would go to pay my condolences whenever I hear that there is a martyr's funeral, but 1 hardly go out anymore. I do not feel like seeing anyone

--Interviewer: Does it become easier when you see other mothers and talk to them?

--Mother: I do not feel any better, when I see them I feel sorry for them and ask God to give them the power to hold on, especially the first few days. Parting in such a way with your son is unbearably hard.

--Interviewer: What about his siblings?

--Mother: They are taking it hard, his 16 year old brother goes into the bedroom because he does not want me to see him cry. It is hard for him, they were almost the same age and they were friends and did everything together. It is hard for all of us.--Interviews: Often times women perform lallulation on martyrs' funerals?

--Mother: His sister did as well as my sister, when they were taking him to the house to the graveyard.

--Interviewer: Why did they do that?

--Mother: What do you want me to tell you, do you think they were happy, of course not? It is definitely not because she is ecstatic but maybe because he is a martyr. I do not know what are the reasons behind her doing, but for me I would not perform lallulation or care for one. Even though he is a martyr, it is still hard to part with someone you love.

--Interviewer: How is his father doing?

--Mother: His father is in a worse situation than I am, for the last five months in the hospital he was with him all the time.

--Interviewer: Do you feel that the household dynamics have changed?

--Mother: A lot. Nothing is the same. [Crying] He was the eldest in the house; we were counting on God and him. He would run the household errands and we were hoping to see him grow older and get married and have children. He was kind hearted, [crying], ask everybody about him and they will tell you that he is a good person. He left emptiness behind him.[Crying].

--Interviewer: I apologize for causing this.

--Mother: That is the way it is, I do not forget him for a single moment. I try to hide my feelings from his father, sometimes I enter the bedroom and I see him cry and sometimes he enters the room and finds me crying. It is a legitimate cause to die defending one's country but parting is still hard. May God have mercy on him, may God take care of him.

--Interviewer: You mean that on the one hand you want him to defend his country but on the other hand it is hard for you to lose him? Mother: That is true. Who else will defend our land if it is not our young men but on the other hand, even though they are considered martyrs, it is still hard to lose a son. It is a hard thing for every mother to say goodbye to their children. It would be better if our children could fight, kill and come back safe and sound to their families.

--Interviewer: Where did you stay in Jordan?

--Mother: The first two months we stayed with my sisters, I have sisters there and then we had to rent out a place because my husband was staying alone for the most part and we did not want to cause discomfort for anyone. It was hard for me because I was torn between my children here and my son in the hospital. You know how hard it is with transportation and the humiliation at the border and after the first time I could not leave my two and a half year old daughter, because she developed some kind of fear when I left her for one month so I had to take her with me all the time. I took all of them the last time and when we got there he was dying. I was telling him to hold on for a while so that they can see him and he can see them, this is his fate and there is no objection on God's will. I do not know if this is the path that my son chose or is it the fate that God wanted for my son, I do not know. [Crying].

--Interviewer: Honestly, I did not know that your son was martyred recently; I was told that he passed away a couple of months back.

--Mother: Do not blame yourself; even if you come after a year, the pain will be the same. A mother never forgets her son even after a million years.

--Interviewer: Does it make you feel a little better because he is a martyr? Why? Mother: Yes, it makes it easier to know that he is in heaven with the company of the prophets and God. You try to make it easier on yourself when you believe that. Even when I wanted to cry and scream, they would not let me because they say it is a sin because he is a martyr. May God have mercy on him, that is the only thing I can do. Even though he did not obey his parents, I hope God will forgive him.

--Interviewer: Are you disappointed that he did not obey you?

--Mother: Just a little bit, but then I pray for God to forgive him, maybe God inspired him to go out to throw stones. This is his fate and that was his time on earth. We keep asking ourselves that maybe this is the time that he had to go and if it is his fate to become a martyr then he would have received a bullet even if he was at home, I do not know. And every mother prays for her son, May God forgive him and have mercy on him. Even if you spoke with his father he will tell you the same thing. But I wish he would have listened to us and waited for us at home. Every time I would hear shotguns, I would collect myself and go to the confrontation area and grab him by the hand and take him home. I used to do it all the time. I had no power to prevent him all the time but I would go and get him whenever I could. That is why I say if I was present at the time he was shot I might have protected him. I might have prevented this from happening. Every Ramadan I would spend most of the time in the A1-Aqsa mosque praying. This year I only went this one time and look what happened.

--Interviewer: Do you feel guilty?

--Mother: Yes, a little bit. I keep saying that it would have been better had I not gone. The thing is that my husband woke him up and pleaded for him not to go. He is guilty of not listening to us. It has been 45 days since his martyrdom and we keep repeating the same thing. And then I say maybe this is his fate and there is nothing to do about it. Life is meaningless after his death.
 Mother B: Area: Bethlehem district (refugee camp).
 Age: 14 years old. Was shot. Siblings: two year old brother, and
 two sisters, 15 and 12.


--Interviewer: Where are you from?

--Mother: We are refugees from Malha [now one of the Jerusalem suburbs inhabited by Israeli Jews]. We became refugees in 1948, came to this refugee camp and we live here ever since.

--Interviewer: How old was your son when he was martyred?

--Mother: He was 14. He was a good boy with good manners; he was a good Muslim; he prayed. He was good in school; he also took part in demonstrations.

The day he was martyred, there was a demonstration after school. He went to the demonstration without telling me; he was worried that I might prevent him from going. The night before I warned him that the Israeli soldiers are focusing on young boys 10 years to maybe 22. I heard that the Israeli soldiers said that these boys are strengthening the Intifada and they should be taken care of. I warned him several times but I never knew what he did when he left the house, he never told me.

On the day he became a martyr, there was a demonstration after school at noon, it was a peaceful demonstration accompanied by the teachers of the school. When they reached the checkpoint area, the demonstration ended and most of the protesters went home. My son had to pass close to the checkpoint in order to get home. The youths were throwing stones at the soldiers and one soldier aimed at my son and killed him. He was on his way home when they shot him in the back. He was still carrying his backpack. I had no idea that my son was shot but then I saw it on the news.

I was waiting for him and I was wondering why he is late. He usually comes home by 1:00 p.m. I went to his father to tell him that our son did not come back home. It was the beginning of the Intifada and all the family was gathered because the Israeli army closed the roads. His cousin told me that her son who goes to the same school saw my son go to the demonstration. I went back to the house and turned on the television; they were announcing that a boy from our refugee camp was severely injured. I had a feeling it was him. My husband's friend was knocking at the door. He came to tell us that a boy who has the same name as my son was injured; there is another boy in the family with the same name so he was not sure. I went up to my brother-in-law's house and asked him to accompany my husband to the hospital. My husband is a diabetic and I did not want him to fall apart. My father accompanied them as well. My sister was with me and I told her that I have a feeling that he is my son and he is not only injured but he is already dead. My sister argued that there are many kids in the camp who has the first name as my son. I became restless going up and down. I then went to my brother-inlaw's house when my nieces announced that it was my son who was injured. I collapsed on the stairway and started to cry. I then started to run towards the hospital. My sister-in-law prevented me from doing so and urged me to be patient and wait. I refused and started walking; I still do not know how I got there. When I reached the hospital, they refused to let me in. My uncle told them that I am his mother but they still refused to let me in. I insisted, when I entered his room he was pale as death. Can you imagine how it feels when a mother outlives her child? I ran outside and fell on the floor and started crying. They sent me home; they never allowed me to go back to the hospital. I saw him only for one time at the hospital. I do not know why they never allowed me to go in there.

--Interviewer: Was tie still alive?

--Mother: At that point he was still alive; he lived for three days before he became a martyr. I went home and I was in a state of unconsciousness and to this day, I ask myself, why didn't I stay in the hospital'? Why didn't I sit beside him till the moment he passed away?

Even on the day of the funeral, they took his body to his grandparent's house. We live in 'Area C' and we were afraid that we would be harassed by the israeli soldiers during the funeral so we decided to arrange his funeral in my inlaw's place. When we reached his grandparent's place they refused to let me see him. I insisted and when they let me in, I collapsed once again; I was shouting and crying till they injected me with tranquilizers. I lied unconscious in bed for three days. Every time I woke up they injected me with more tranquilizers. I was asleep most of the time; when I woke up I would start running to the door. It is a hard feeling to be informed about your son's death through the television, it is a huge shock. My son went to school and as a result was killed.

--Interviewer: Did you have any knowledge that your son went to throw stones?

--Mother: I did not have any idea. I still do not know if he ever went to throw stones.

--Interviewer: Did you ever ask him if he did?

--Mother: He often came one hour late after school and I used to ask him where he was? He said that he was playing football at school. I was never suspicious.

--Interviewer: Were you ever suspicious especially with all that was going on?

--Mother: I became aware after his death that he was angry at the situation in the West Bank. He wanted to fight and hurt the Israeli soldiers. I was told that he was carrying a slingshot and he went to the direction of the settlement and he was throwing stones on the cars. Somebody from the camp found him and they forced him back to the camp. I found out all about this after he was martyred. I never thought that my son would go throw stones. He was very mysterious.

--Interviewer: Did he ask you permission to go out whenever he did?

--Mother: He would not ask for permission but he would tell me that he is going to a certain protest. He did not tell me that day because I made it clear the day before that I did not want him to go to protests because I heard that the IDF is shooting to kill every young man. I still cannot believe that my son is dead. He never went out at night; he came after school and stayed at home. He loved to play football, he would come and play with the neighbors and he would play by himself if there were nobody to play with. He always helped with the house chores and whenever something broke in the house he would fix it.

--Interviewer: I heard that there are other martyrs in the family?

--Mother: My husband's nephew.

--Interviewer: Did your son ever mention him to you?

--Mother: My nephew's husband died in 1989 and my son was still a baby.

--Interviewer: Did he ever show any signs of anger towards the Israeli soldiers and the occupation'?

--Mother: He would be happy whenever he heard about a suicide bombing. Frankly, he used to adore Hamas, he would become ecstatic when he would hear that Hamas had inflicted losses among Israeli lives. It is a normal response when these children witness death that the IDF inflicts on the Palestinians. If I had a chance to throw stones I would, so I cannot blame these youths. This generation has more awareness, unlike our generation who was not able to defend their country.

My two-year-old son keeps asking me where his brother is; he used to take him to the football playground. He would drag me everyday to go get him and I would walk with him outside but I cannot bring his brother back and the scene would burn my heart even more.

--Interviewer: After the death of your son, will you ever prevent your other son from going out to throw stones?

--Mother: Honestly, if he wishes to go and throw stones, I will not prevent him. Maybe we would be liberated and maybe we will be free. The Intifada should go on or the blood of our children will go to waste. There is almost a tragedy in every Palestinian household, either a martyr or somebody injured. I would urge every Palestinian to go on with the intifada, we are controlled by the Israelis, they decide whenever they want to close the towns and cities on us, they decide whether they will let us go through a check-point and they have complete control over our lives.

--Interviewer: Do you hold anybody responsible for the death of your child?

--Mother: Israel, they do not have mercy, not for an old person, a child, a young person or woman.

--Interviewer: Do you support peace with Israel?

--Mother: Not this kind of peace, they took all of our land and they want to give us half of it now, not even a half, maybe a quarter and they refuse to give us Jerusalem and this is the problem. If they really wanted peace, they would have never entered A1-Aqsa mosque, it is not theirs, why would they go there? A1-Aqsa is ours, it is the Muslims'. All our fighting and massacres are for the sake of Al-Aqsa. What can I say about Arab leaders, if they would help us just a little bit. We cannot make it on our own; we do not have the same weaponry that the Israelis have. They see us slaughtered and killed and they do nothing about it. Jerusalem is not only for us the Palestinians, it is for all Muslims and if they want to enter it they should help us defend it. The PA is helpless and cannot do anything. It is just like us, toys in the hands of Israel. The weapons that the PA has are nothing compared to that of the Israelis. The Israelis are cowards; they hide behind their guns and weapons. We are surrounded by two checkpoints and whenever there is a confrontation, the Israeli soldiers start firing from both sides. The floor above us is completely demolished, bullets fly around. They shattered the glass in the kitchen and ruined the refrigerator. We live in fear, one time I was really scared, I felt that the house will fall down on us and I took the girls and hid in the stairway. The bullets were pouring like rain. We hate the Israelis so much now; even when peace comes it will be hard to deal with them because they caused us so much pain. Frankly, I myself hold a grudge towards the Israelis and if I see one I might tear him into pieces.

--Interviewer: After several months of your son's death, does it become easier?

--Mother: After seeing all the martyrs that fell, I feel comfort because I know that many mothers share the same fate. My son is not the first and he definitely is not the last. What can I tell you, I must have perseverance, God gives us patience so that we can handle our disasters. It is faith in God that gives you the strength to go on. I still feel that my son is around me. I can feel him in every corner of the house. It has been a year since he passed away but he is mentioned every day. My nieces mention him every single day. There is always a story that is being told about him.

--Interviewer: Do you have any contacts with other mothers of martyrs?

--Mother: I don't really do, but a martyr fell recently in our neighborhood and I went to the funeral and so did my husband and l have talked about paying them a visit but we still did not. I would like to go and visit the mother. We both lost our child and you form this kind of bond; your wound is the same as hers so it is easier to relate to one another.

--Interviewer: How is your husband doing?

--Mother: Since my son died, my husband became unemployed. He does not want to do anything anymore, he just sits there. When they buried my son, my husband wanted to be buried with him. People carried him out of the grave and they took him to the hospital because of his diabetes. He used to work on the Israeli side but since his son became a martyr he cannot bear to think of working with them.

--Interviewer: Did it help that you had women around you?

--Mother: If it were not for them I would have never survived. My family never left me and it helps when people keep coming and going to your house.

--Interviewer: I have noticed that women use lallulation in martyrs' funerals? Why is that?

--Mother: I admit that my cousin did that, they are happy that he died a martyr. If he died a regular death then he is put in the ground and is forgotten. But with a martyr comes pride because he is not dead, according to the Qu'ran he is alive in the heavens. I was told that the martyr watches his parents for a year and sees everything that we are doing. This gives me hope, I become ecstatic when I know that he is around. I attended a few religious classes that a religious woman conducted and l loved to hear what she was preaching. It comforts me because I know that my son is alive in the heavens and it allowed peace to enter my heart when she talked about the status of martyrs in the heaven and how they are able to absolve the rest of his family. It relaxes me because I know that my son is alive and he is beside his God. If it were a normal death, he would have never reached this higher status. He is a martyr, he is a young martyr which means that he does not have many sins, may he put a good word for us with God.

--Interviewer: Do these religious sessions make you feel better or do they make you feel happy?

--Mother: I am happy that he is a martyr.

--Interviewer: Do you miss his presence?

--Mother: Of course I do. I put his backpack away but every now and then I would take it out and look through it. I still keep his clothes, I go to his bedroom and cry a little bit then I rise and ask God for forgiveness and occupy myself with housework. Everything around the house reminds me of him and causes me to cry.

I am proud of his martyrdom and I know that he is with God but the fact that he is no longer in the house that he does not exist anymore makes it hard. He is not present anymore but I always feel his presence. This is his fate and there is nothing that can be done about it. For a mother, her son is, is her heart, he is the blood that runs through her veins, he is a part of her body. What would be the mother's feelings and reaction when she carries her son in her womb then raise him only to lose him to death at an early time. She cannot do anything but miss him, as I told you, I would sit down and cry my heart out and then I get up. Yesterday night, I sat with his backpack on that couch and I started crying, the girls came and took the backpack away and vowed not to let me cry. He was my first-born and I loved him dearly.

--Interviewer: How are his siblings coping with his death?

--Mother: Frankly ... [The mother's cousin who performed the lallulations at the funeral stopped by for a minute and left]. This is my cousin, the one who performed the lallulations. My husband's family are like my family, I do not have any sisters and my sisters-in-law are my sisters. They stood by me in the time of need and I will never forget that.

--Interviewer: Did you perform any lallulations during the funeral?

--Mother: I did not have the energy to breathe.

--Interviewer: So it is usually a woman relative or neighbor that performs these lallulations ?

--Mother: Usually, that is the case but I heard incidents where the mother is the one who does it. Many mothers would walk in their sons' funeral parade, I could not, I was weak. Maybe because of the way I learned about his death, I do not think that many mothers learned of their children's martyrdom through television; I did.

--Interviewer: What about his siblings?

--Mother: Ask them. It was hard for his 15-year-old sister, they were close with one another and she loved him a lot. His other two siblings are young and they do not know what is happening. But she is a survivor, she exerted perseverance; she presented a speech on her brother's funeral that was put on television. It was obviously a sad speech but it also showed her strength, faith and steadfastness. She presented a speech at her school, in the Nativity square [around the Nativity church in Bethlehem]; her brother's body was lying there and she presented the speech in front of 40,000 Palestinians who came to attend my son's funeral. His other sister is sad for the loss of her brother but I do not think she understands, she is only 12 years old. One of the lines was: Adieu, adieu, To the martyrs of Jerusalem Adieu.

--Mother: I had a copy of the poem and I cried whenever I read it, as a result the girls took the copy and hid it. They say that I should let him rest. Every time I cry I would cause him to become restless in his grave. Everyone in the family had seen him smiling in their sleep, I never did. I went and asked the Sheik (religious man) the reason why I never did see him and he said because I cry.

--Interviewer: That was the Sheik's reply?

--Mother: Yes, he said once I stop crying I will see him in my sleep. There is no day that passes without me crying over his loss. I do not know if this is how other mothers cope with the death of their children or I am the only one who cries. The Sheik told me that I upset my son if I keep crying because I would be the reason for his exclusion from any event in the heaven. He said that I should stop crying and that l should eat because if I mourn his death then God will not allow my son to eat with the rest of the martyrs and my son will be sitting alone in heaven without taking part in any thing that the other martyrs take part in. What can I do? I love my son and I miss him. [Breaks down into tears].

ENDNOTES

(1.) Mouin Rabbani "A Smorgasbord of failure: Oslo and the AI-Aqsa Intifada," The New lntifada: Resisting Israel's Apartheid. Roane Carey, ed. (New York: Verso, 2001), p. 78.

(2.) Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish, "The US Media and the New Intifada," The New Intifada, p. 237.
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Author:Habiballah, Nahed
Publication:Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:8672
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