i (i) wrote,

June 27, 2002

The following testimony was sent today by Sam Bahour, a
Palestinian-American who lives with his family in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah
in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It gives a powerful taste of daily life
under military curfew and occupation that is not available from the media.

Ali Abunimah

From: Sam Bahour (sbahour@palnet.com)
Sent: Thursday, June 27, 2002 9:52 PM

We finally had a house visit of our cities uninvited guests. Sixteen fully
armed Israeli soliders entered our home as part of the house to house
searches that they have been carrying out for 4 days now in Ramallah,
while we sit under 24-hr curfew.

Our home compromises of 3 flats. My in-laws live on the ground level, we
live on the 1st floor and my parents on the 2nd. My wife, Abeer, and
oldest daughter, Areen, spent all day baking to fill the time while under
house arrest (in international law they call that "collective
punishment"). It was 7:30pm when Areen wrapped a tray of the sweet
"Haresah" that had just come out of the oven and was excited to send it to
her grandmother in the flat below. When we are under curfew, like now, we
use a basket and rope from our front porch to send things below since we
are not allowed out of the house. When the basket swings into the door my
in-laws know that they should open to see what we have lowered. This time
Areen was alone on the porch and started lowering the basket when she saw
a soldier's helmet at her grandmother's doorstep after the basket was half
way down. She hurried and pulled the basket up and in and left the window
wide open. She came running saying the soldiers are in our house. She
was scared, more than she has been since we became under curfew. I had
just got off the phone with Corky, a New York Daily News reporter, and was
at my computer.

I went to the front window to see a lot of soldier's kneeling in front of
the stone fence in front of our house. My dad happen to be with us at the
time. As we sat to see what was going to happen our doorbell rang. When
my wife answered via the intercom it was her mom saying that the soldiers
are here and we should open the door. When we did no soldiers entered,
only Fadwa, Abeer's mom. I met her in the stairway and she advised that
they want one of us only to come downstairs. I proceeded to go see what
was up. When I reached the doorsteps of my in-laws I looked in to see
their porch packed tight with fully armed soldiers kneeling in a full
alert position.

One soldier was kneeling at the doorway and trained his rifle on me as I
approached. I greeted them and asked what is needed. He asked me if I
spoke Hebrew and I told him English or Arabic. He proceeded in perfect
English and asked who was upstairs. I answered that my family and father
were there. He demanded that everyone come outside in front of the house.
I asked if the children should come too because the weather was a little
cool. He snapped back and said "everyone". I yelled upstairs and asked my
family to come down and bring their ID papers with them. As I waited the
soldier asked my mother-in-law where was Marwan Barghouti, as if she
should know. I told him that although my mother-in-law has the same last
name they are not related. I told him each are from a different village.
He said, sarcastically, "no this is Ramallah". I answered back and
advised him that he was in Al-Bireh not Ramallah and that my in-laws are
from Dir Ghasannah and Marwan was from a village called Kober. He seemed
to be confused so I just answered his original question and told him
Marwan was in "your jail". He smirked and seemed to accept the answer,
which is true.

My wife was now approaching with my daughters and father. Areen, my
oldest daughter was shivering with fear. I held her and bought her in
front of the soldiers who were absolutely crammed in the doorstep and
porch all in the kneeling position, weapons pointed. I told her, "see
they are just like us, they don't scare us." My father tried to comfort
her too and told her the same. My father was itching to engage the
soliders but we convinced him to pass this time so no one ended up
sleeping in prison. Areen relaxed a bit, but did not say a word as the
soldier in the doorstep demanded that my wife open the car garage. I told
him the key was upstairs and she would need to get the key. He approved
and as we sat waiting for Abeer I told the soldiers, " we have a long way
to go yet." No one answered but 2 or 3 of the soldiers, young boys, shook
their heads in agreement. We sat their looking at them, each looked as if
they were fearing for there lives. They were in a foreign land in a
stranger's house and had a whole Palestinian (that is terrorist) family in
front of them. They just stared at us as we hugged our children trying to
relax the shock and shed the fear.

As Abeer came with the key to the garage two soldiers asked her to open
the garage (in international law they call that being "a human shield").
As she opened our empty garage, the soldiers, full of fear, entered step
by step guns ready to fire. I could not tell if they were disappointed
that they fund only dust or if it was a relief to them.

As the the two soldiers returned to the house, as we sat outside in the
cool breeze, one soldier extended his hand with all of our ID's. My
mother-in-law spoke to them in Arabic, she said, "maybe one day you will
come back in time of peace and not be so scared". No one answered.

The lead soldier called for the soldiers to exit the house. On his way
past us he quickly said "bye", as if he knew had did something wrong by
violating our life. They left, one by one, in full alert. It turns out
they had searched and taken refuge in every home of the house not just the
porch. As they exited gunfire could be heard a little way up our street.
It was another Israeli unit for sure but they took no chances moving
slowly and cautiously back to the street. As the walked past us, one by
one, each with a heavy weapon or radio equipment or backpack, my daughter
just hugged me tight. As the last soldier left the house my father-in-law
emerged and stood at the top of the steps. Frustrated, he bid them
farewell and told them in broken English, "Be sure to come back tomorrow."

After they left we learned that they checked each room and closet of the
first floor.

We returned to our home and Areen was much more relaxed. She came to us
and said, "you know I used to be scared of them but not anymore." She
went on, "you know, some of them look like nice people. I feel sorry for
them with all those jackets and gloves and helmets, they must be so hot,
maybe that's why they did not talk to us." I assured her that I'm sure
they are nice people but Sharon forced them to come. I am struggling to
make sure she does not view every Israeli, even those that violate the
security of our home, as the enemy.

At last, the fear of those helmeted, armed soldiers running free in our
streets has been broken. I was hoping for this day so my daughter will
not live in fear of our future neighbors. Nadine my 2 year old daughter
can hardly speak but she imitates the whole above episode in the most
cutest accent and body language ever.

As we settled down after our daily dose of occupation, we joked that they
could have stayed since we had some of the best sweets in Al- Bireh to
offer. More seriously, tonight we will give our girls an extra hug and
kiss good night, because we know how today could of ended if one of the
soldiers in the street saw Areen lower a basket above the head of the
soldier entering the house.

God help the next house they went to search.

Still under military curfew,

  • 80 words

    A while back, I entered Atmosphere in a writing contest. I'll find out in February whether it wins. In the meantime, I'm getting constant invitations…

  • Best review of my book yet!

    I met this woman and her husband in Wichita, by chance. Mentioned my book in casual conversation and she ordered a copy on the spot. Here is what she…

  • Mary Gauthier

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded