Diaries

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Diaries

The following are diary entries made by 16-17 year old girls of the St Joseph school in Bethlehem, 2002-3, published in: 2004 The Wall Cannot Stop Our Stories: A Palestinian Diary Project: 300 pages (English, with separate teacher manual). Published by Terra Sancta/St Joseph School for Girls, Bethlehem.


Lyn Elias

IS THIS MY HOUSE?

In the night of the 4 th March at 8:30 exactly we heard a noise of an explosion from the F-16 planes, I got very afraid and ran downstairs. That night me and my family were sleeping in my grandmother's house.

The breaking news on the T.V were that the (mukata'a) was bombed, and when I heard the news I couldn't stand on my feet, I fell down and sat on the floor without moving,my heart was beating very quickly, and then the telephone rang and someone told us that our house was completely destroyed.I couldn't believe that.Many people then phoned to be sure that we're out of the house and some of them told us that a rocket had entered into the house! Then after few minutes we heard another explosion,and another.

My mother went after everything was calm,she went at 10 o'clock and returned at 12:30..at that time I was sitting doing nothing,staring and wondering what my house will be after all this.My mother returned,all her clothes were white! I asked her,but she didn't answer…she was shocked.

Now it's 5 o'clock,I went off and dressed up so as to go to see my house,my mother refused..but then I went…..

Many metres away from the house I could see people looking around.

The first thing I asked was: IS THIS MY HOUSE??? I was completely shocked after thinking all the night and I couldn't imagine that it would look like that.

First I saw that there were no garden,no walls, no windows, and even the doors were out of their places.I entered, and there was dust,broken glass and I couldn't walk cause there were many people inside.Everything was broken,not in it's real place and not good anymore, all the furniture were damage except  few things.I couldn't imagine that this was my house which my father used to tell me that it was built in 5 years and I realized that it was completely demolished in only 5 minutes!

Just at that moment I knew what it meant to lose a house. But thank God that we're all still alive!

Date:January 16, 2003

Curfew is a common word we usually use it everday on;y in Bethlahem or in any other place in Palestine, and it has become something normal for what is happening during these days.

What a hard situation that surrounds us? These days under curfew, don’t make us feel that it is something strange because we got used to sitting at home 24 hours doing nothing! For someone else in the world this thing seems unusual but this is our life and we must be satisfied with it, even if no one would accept to live this kind of living.Till now we can’t do or change anything, but we hope that the next generations who will follow us will not suffer and live this way.

Life has become something boring to us because in situations like these  you will not be able to do whatever you want or wish, you don’t feel like  doing anything, and not being able to live like other people in the universe is something very disappointing. If I asked anyone the meaning of curfew he will say: the situation when you are unable to go out from your house…it’s true, but for us this gives us many deep and painful meanings.

Date:February 3, 2003

Today is Monday the curfew was lifted and I knew that yesterday, so I went to school as usual. First when I’ve just closed the door I heard a jeep calling that we are under curfew! I was confused and surprised, people were in the streets, and I think that it wasn’t something strange! After all I managed to go to school after I checked that everything was ok.

At school I studied,chatted with my friends,went home,ate lunch, watched T.V, studied my exams and listened to the radio… till now nothing extraordinary or new happened, but for me I felt that there is a big difference between today and yesterday because yesterday was curfew so no one was in the streets, no one was out of his house… The city was empty like there was no air to breathe in it, for that no one could live in such a city.

Today it felt like someone threw oxygen and so everyone can breathe and so people went out. This is really strange, when there is curfew, we are dead but when it is lifted we are alive again…

And there is a arabic poet who said that when we are living we are awake and when we die we sleep, but I can see that in our lives we are sleeping…what will happen when we die?!

Date:February16,2003

Two days ago I was walking in the street and there were two women chatting  together; they were arguing about what time they will announce that the curfew will be lifted the next day!

One woman said that she saw the news on T.V at 2 o’clock (ofcourse in the early morning!), and the other woman said that she was awake all night and saw the news at 1:30!!! I laughed and thought how the people are so silly! They are waiting for the mercy of other people so as to move, go out, work, do their shopping… I mean to start their daily things that they usually do, but now the people do all these things only in a few hours…only when the curfew is lifted.

I feel that when there is curfew the city is like the city of dead people, and when the curfew is lifted the people are alive again.


Ameera Lama

THE SECOND INTIFADA STARTED RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF MY OWN EYES

Days go by and time goes fast; minute after minute, hour after hour. So I’m writing a few words to make them last.

Three days ago, we were discussing with our teacher about time and he told us that yesterday, for example, is gone and we can’t bring it back. So I just felt scared and had goose pimples. Then I thought that my life is passing, and it’s going without any changes. It’s just a routine. We need a flavor in our life like peace, love and faith.

I’d like to write about two painful and unforgettable experiences that played a tremendous role while growing up.

The first one happened exactly on July 2000 when my two brothers, who are studying abroad, decided to come for a short visit after being away for two years. That date became a nightmare after my mom was admitted to the hospital and stayed there for 72 days. My brothers came directly to the hospital instead of coming home for a happy welcome. The whole family spent that time in the hospital. My brothers flew back to their universities feeling worried about my mom’s health. Our freezer was full of all the food and traditional pastries that my mom prepared for my brothers. We were always praying and crying so that God would heal her. My beloved father suffered a lot as he used to go to work in Jerusalem, to the hospital and then back to Bethlehem every day. He became thinner with worry; he didn’t eat properly which made things worse for him. I, myself, was only 13 years old when I had many responsibilities both at home and at the hospital.

Something else happened unexpectedly: on September 28 and while I was studying in my mom’s room in the hospital in Jerusalem, we heard shooting and screaming. When we looked from our window that was facing Al-Aqsa Mosque and directly over the emergency room in the hospital, we saw people running in all directions followed by Israeli soldiers shooting them. There was also a heavy smoke. I went quickly to inform the doctors and nurses who sent ambulances to the wounded people. But those ambulances were not allowed to move the casualties into the hospital. All the injured people and the martyrs were coming to the same hospital we were in. I was shocked and started to cry while looking on that tragic scene. It was the first time for me to see martyrs, and blood all over the place. The Israeli soldiers surrounded the hospital and shot tear gas bombs inside it. I can’t seem to be able to forget that horrible day when the second Intifada started right there in front of my own eyes.

The second painful experience happened in June 2001 when my father became ill. He had a surgery in Jordan and we had to go there by an ambulance since the political situation was critical and military closures were heavily imposed on the Palestinians. My father came back after three months and continued his treatment in Jerusalem. We had to go to the hospital after passing the checkpoints and begging the Israeli soldiers to let us pass each time. It was to no avail. We asked our parish priest for help; he was able to help us get a permit to pass the hateful checkpoints. My father’s health worsened since the doctor was giving my father a higher dosage than was prescribed by his doctors in Jordan. My dad was going through chemotherapy until he couldn’t eat a thing. The next day was his birthday and I presented him with his favorite bottle of perfume. On April 1st, I went to visit my dad and I had to stay there because the Israeli tanks then invaded Bethlehem and put the Nativity Church under a tight siege for 40 days. By then my dad’s health worsened and he was put in the ICU and we were allowed to stay with him most of the time.

On April 10th 2002, after 10 days of suffering, he passed away taking part of my heart with him, leaving me lost with a big hole in my heart and life.

I will never forgive the Israeli soldiers for neither allowing us to bury my father in his native town, Bethlehem, nor for not letting my brothers come to see him. They had only heard his voice and advice through the phone, and who couldn’t believe his death.

We had to bury my father in Jerusalem. I can’t describe how we felt when we entered the house without him; we felt him around us as if he was still alive. We won’t ever remove any of his things; everything is left the way he left it!

I will always remember his weak and innocent looks when we were near him (mom and I) in the ICU.

He once took our hands, kissing them and saying thank you and he always told us to stop crying whenever he saw us crying. He used to say: “Everything is OK. Don’t worry!” I can feel with many who suffer and I am still suffering from his loss.

When I became 16 on 26th September 2002, I was aching for my father’s presence, and I remembered how he used to take pictures of my friends and I every time I celebrated my birthday. I passed this dull birthday weeping as I remembered his promise to me when he said that he would give me driving lessons and buy me a computer. I really miss his presence, his laughter, his kindness, his love and his jokes.

We feel that our house is empty without him. He left a deep bleeding cut in our hearts and our tears haven’t dried yet. God Bless his soul.


Raneen Riziq

SOLDIERS IN THE HOUSE FOR THREE WEEKS

10\9\2002

Dear diary,

It is 4:15 and I am just entering the house, my mother and my sister are watching TV.  But wait … they are sad, when I sat to watch the interview I saw Fadwa el-Barghouthy, the wife of Marawn el- Barghouthy, who is now in jail. It was a very emotional program and it symbolized the tragedy that happened in every house and every day to the Palestinian people. Fadwa el-Barghouthi talked a lot about her life with her husband, how they suffered a lot from the Israeli soldiers, and whether or not she and her daughter will be able to see him again. Then she added a nice thing, she said it to her husband and it was “Palestine is not only for you”.

At that moment I was very sad and I went to my room, shut the door but I could not sleep. I started thinking of all the people who are killed every day by the Israelis; people who lost their houses, their family and of the people who are passing their hard life in jails.

We are not living our life, we are not taking our rights and all the Arabs are watching speechless, without doing a thing. How can they let a person take another person’s life? I always ask myself… why is that happening to us? What did we do to them? What did we take from them?

It is our right, our land, and on of the rights is to live peacefully in our own country.

Last but not least I hope that peace will prevail all over the world and I want to say that no one loses his rights forever, in the end, a person will finally get it.

21/1/2003

At this moment I am very angry, provoked and sad. The news is just over, and the situations day after day are getting worse. Lots of people are being killed every day; no one can guess what will happen after a minute. We sat watching TV to see if they were going to lift the curfew or not, if there will be school or not. We go to school one day and stay house for 4 days.

What a miserable life, isn’t it?

Why do we have to suffer?

Why are not we living like people all over the world?

Moreover, we have no clubs, nowhere to enjoy our time or to participate in different activities; we just stay at home, watch TV, eat, study and sleep, what a killing routine!

All the people were waiting and expecting that the year 2003 will be happier and better than the years before it; without wars or killing but in peace and love, but it seems that the third world war will happen this year.

Anyways, I hope that we will go back to normal life soon, and that we will live peacefully in our land and birds holding olive branches will fly all over the sky.

24/11/2003

It was a very hard situation to face! Soldiers were in your house for 3 weeks, locking you in an apartment, and preventing you from moving freely inside your house! The story was that during the forty-day incursion, the Israeli soldiers were occupying houses and one day they reached our house, knocked on the door and entered, holding their guns. They put them in our faces and checked the house. Finally, they decided to occupy the house. They took the keys locked my aunt and us in the same apartment and threatening us by saying that any try to open the door they will not hesitate in killing us.

Days passed and one day they knocked the door demanding for every telephone and mobile in the house, for sure we did not accept, and after an argument, they left us peacefully. My feelings during this period were unknown. I did not know whether to cry or smile because they went or what. Every step we made was watched; every word we said was heard because one of the soldiers was staying behind the door to check. They thought it was their house, if we switched on the TV they said to turn it down or to switch it off because the soldiers wanted to sleep, if we laughed they immediately came to see what was happening.

During the first days, I was depressed. I did not feel like talking to anyone but after spending 5 days under this situation, I got used to that. After spending 21 inside our house, they decided to leave. They came at 6:00 and locked the doors as usual. We thought that they weren’t leaving. But at 10:10 they came and threw the keys in our faces and went with a sad smile on their faces, because they had the comfort of our house and did not want to leave it. It was really a very hard situation to face and at the end, we thanked God that they did not harm us.

25-11-2003

Today is a very funny day, the weather was cold and our class is very cold as well, so some girls brought with them blankets, of course without the knowledge of the teachers. It was really funny to see. It’s 12:00 o’clock and we are doing a physics exam, silence is all around and suddenly…a girl stood and said: “Snow, Snow”.

WOW, snow is so beautiful because in our country, we rarely see snow, and the teacher started shouting and said that each girl would lose 5 marks of her exam, and he ordered us to stop this silly behaviors. So, when he went out and all the girls started dancing because if it continues to snow, there will be no school for at least two or three days. I went home waiting for snow to fall but I slept that day without seeing it.


The following story is taken from the diary of the Palestinian author Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (1930s), “The First Well,” about his youth in Bethlehem.

On the edge of the Valley of the Camel, a little below the New Road, a hugh azarole tree soared upwards, visible from our house on the hill above. The slopes of the valley were covered with olive trees wherever you looked, but this wild azarole prided itself on its height, its spreading branches, and its towering grandeur. No one knew who had planted it; perhaps it had simply burst out from the earth between two big rocks, too long ago for anyone to remember. We always saw it clearly from the road, because its upper branches rose up higher than the road's edge, and it would sway with every breeze as if beckoning to us, deliberately and willfully inviting us. We had only to climb a rock or two and jump on to one of its branches, then carry on up into its dense network of branches and leaves, and fill our pockets with its sweet little yellow fruit.

During the olive-picking season we'd make it our point of entry to the trees in the valley. The croppers, with their sticks and ladders, would pick the olives with a deftness that went back thousands of years, singing merrily as they did so. "'Ala dal'una" was everyone's favorite song; and in autumn the valley would be filled with the sound of it, as men, women, boys, and girls shook the trunks and the branches, beat them with their sticks and climbed to the higher, more difficult branches on ladders, making the green olives fall, like pearls, on to the red earth. They'd move from tree to tree, picking up handfuls of fruit to fill their baskets and bags, and their songs and the tunes of the double reed and the flute would move on with them. Whatever the time of day, there was always someone, perhaps visible, perhaps not, sitting alone on a rock somewhere and playing the double reed or flute, pouring out a flood of tunes which echoed through every part of the broad valley like the playing of a gentle breeze.

Here and there a few olives would cling stubbornly to their branches, or lie hidden among the pebbles or between the cracks in the earth that were lined with nettles and various kinds of autumn anamone; and we'd take our school bags (school being closed for a few days, so that the students could take part in the olive harvest) and glean behind the croppers, picking up any stray or stubborn olive they'd missed, however few these might be. These were free to anyone who took them; and when we'd filled our little bags with them, we'd go back to our lonely azarole tree if there was any daylight left, and climb it, singing our own songs, happy with what we'd gathered.

I tried to understand the bedouin words of the song and took pleasure in the uncommon ones among them. I liked to imagine how the "north wind" changed the colours of lovers; I saw them, dark, tanned by the sun as it lit up their large, kohl-painted eyes, eyes that glittered and shone, gleaming white and intensely black, while the north wind blew on them and deepened their darkness - and their sweetness:

'Ala dai'una, 'ala dai'una,
The north wind has changed my color.
I'll write to my sweetheart on blue paper
And send many greetings to my beloved girl.
But if, my darling, you're bent on staying apart,
Talk to me on the telephone.

I tried to imagine the voice of this adored sweetheart as she lisped over a telephone. I'd seen a telephone once at some people's house, but I'd never put the receiver to my ear -- and many years later, when I spoke on the phone for the first time, this song and these words were the first thing that came into my mind. I wished the person at the other end had been that beloved girl bent on staying apart from her lover, while I picked olives in the Valley of the Camel and filled my pockets with azaroles; then I could have asked her, "Tell me, please, why are you bent on staying apart?"

One day I was coming back from the azarole tree, on my way home with Sulayman. Near the tree a lane turned off from the new Road and went up till it reached the top, by the garages of the Bethlehem buses whose company had recently been established. At that point the lane turned to join Ras Iftas Street as it carried on upwards; our house was on the heights above this lane, which had actually, for many centuries, been the original road to Jerusalem, before the New Road was built and paved in the early 1920s. The New Road led directly to Manger Square, skirting the edge of the valley in a wide arc and missing the old town.

One of the owners of the garages where the lane turned off was a relative of ours called Abu Ilyas. After my father's sciatic nerve disease had forced him to leave his job at the convent hospital, he'd sometimes go to Abu Ilyas to amuse himself and talk to the two or three men who worked there and who were acquaintences of his. He'd watched the car engines being repaired, enchanted by their complexity and movements, and he'd say, "that's the kind of work I've always wanted to do!"

One day Abu Ilyas asked my father why he didn't go and work for them; and when my father said he was too old now to learn a new trade, and was too sick in any case, he insisted that my father would simply be allowed to help the workers as best as he could. The wages, he said, would be very small -- one shilling a day.

My father agreed to this, despite my mother's objections (my mother was in Jerusalem, and didn't know what was happening at home). I argued as strongly as I could, too, because I was afraid my father would do himself an injury with the physical exertion involved. But my father insisted; the work was easy, he said, and it would give him something to do.

It was just a few days after he'd started work at these garages that Sulayman and I were, as I said, going back home up the hill from the hospitable azarole tree, and I saw my father busy carrying a number of tires inside from the sidewalk.

"Let me help you, father," I said. 
"No, no," he said. "You go and play with your friend." 
"Let me carry the tires with you," I said. "I'll go home afterwards." 
I turned to my friend. "You go," I said, "I'll follow on later."

Sulayman went off, and I helped my father with what he was doing. A few meters below us there was a car hoisted up on a jack, ready for a front tire to be put on. One of the workers had already fitted the tire on to the iron rim of the wheel and pumped it up, and he asked my father to carry it to the car.

I volunteered to carry it myself, and, finding that it was heavy, I stood it on its edge. It was pumped up hard, like a football, so I decided I could roll it along instead of carrying it. I fact, I only had to give it a little push and it rolled along easily in front of me.

I ran after it, pushing it once or twice, and it started to roll downhill faster. Then, when I tried to push it sideways toward the car hoisted up on the jack, my hand hardly touched it, and it went on rolling in the direction it had chosen for itself.

I ran quicker behind it, but it outstripped me like a bolting horse, going faster and faster down the road as I still sped after it with all the strength I could muster. I saw it getting further and further ahead of me, while I panted behind, vainly trying to catch it. It looked like a furious animal that was thrown off all restraint. There was a man peacefully riding his donkey up the road, and I was afraid the crazy tire would run into him and throw him and his donkey to the ground, but it crashed into the side of a stone, bounced two or three meters up into the air, and came down on the edge of the New Road. I hoped it would fall flat and finally come to a stop, but instead the cursed tire fell on its inflated rim and bounced again, with increased force, toward the azarole tree. Still I ran and panted on, unable to grasp the meaning of what I saw, and I heard my father shouting at me from a long way off, "Now look what you've done! Look what you've done!"

At the edge of the valley, near this azarole tree, the tire gave one last bounce, then disappeared into the depths.

…. from an essay written by four students from St Joseph School: Jennifer Juha, Jumana Denho, Rasha Hazineh and Nisreen Ballout, 2003

There was a little boy who was holding his toy. It was a pigeon that symbolizes peace. While he was playing one afternoon, he had a dream. He dreamed about another world where he could talk about his toys and his hobbies, his interests and his dreams, instead of talking about guns, blood and killing. A world where he could run and play with his friends. He dreamed about people who loved each other, smiling to each other, happy and secure. Happiness was in everybody’s heart. There was no war, no tanks, no rockets, and no shelling and bombing. There weren’t sounds of crying. Christians, Moslems and Jews living together in peace, fighting together against the evil of the world. They talked about justice. He dreamed about w better world. A world full of peace. A bullet, an evil bullet came like a thief and entered his heart. It took his soul and his dream away. His pigeon was beside him, right there next to his motionless body. But the pigeon remembered his dream, and came to life and flew away. It has decided to tell his dream to the world. AND it decided to make his world that he dreamed about come true.


Occupation Diary

Mary Masrieh from Bethlehem

Monday 8/4/02

Here I am in the place where Jesus was born, now a most terrifying place. Monday last week we woke up at 1:00 A.M. I could hear bombing and shelling everywhere. At 4:00 I ran to my mother’s room and hid under her bed because the bombing was very close. My father looked from the window and counted twenty tanks all around our house. They entered the old town of Bethlehem near the Nativity Church. My father has a shop there. Since a week no one is allowed to walk in the street or to look out from the windows. We don’t see daylight, we have covered all windows with blankets. As if we are buried.

Our house has two floors, one for us, the other for my uncle with his three small children. We stay all the time in his place because it is safer there. I don’t move, I just watch TV. Bethlehem is really a small town in which Moslems and Christians live together, and we know everyone. We knew Omar Salahat who was killed near the church while he was checking his restaurant which is near my father’s shop. (They kill anything that moves, even a cat). The Israelis went into so many shops. My uncle’s friend has a jewelry shop; they stole 10 kg. of gold.

Thursday 11/4/02

Today was the worst day. Not because of what is happening in Bethlehem – we got used to it. Tanks all around, I can’t sleep, I can’t study. I just cried all day what happened elsewhere, especially in Jenin. Hundreds of people killed. Many lie in the streets for three or four days, nobody can bury them. They don’t allow TV to come in.

Now I can hear tanks near my room. It has become normal. I don’t feel afraid. I wake up at the sound of bullets and I go to sleep at the sound of bullets. I was not afraid when, two days ago,  I went out to buy some bread with my four-year old cousin. The tanks in the street started to shoot and shell. Two days ago a man was killed on the street while he was bringing food to his children. He went out during the curfew because his family was in need.

The situation in the church is still the same. I called father Rafael. He is one of the priests in the church. He told me that they had not eaten anything since six days.

I can’t really write everything because I can’t translate my feelings into normal words. In this world, the truth is buried. When you say a word of truth you are smashed and killed under their tanks.

Friday 12/4/02

Now I am sitting in the garden because we are allowed to go out for two hours. I can see the people rushing to the markets and stores to buy milk and bread. There are some children playing and others are talking to each other. Five minutes ago the tank near our house started shooting in the air while we were all out. Thank God, nothing happened and none was injured. Then two tanks approached us. Everyone went inside but I stayed outside.

Two days ago they buried a Moslem in the church. There was no place to bury him. I know so many people there and now they are without food for a week.

Everything changed in my little town. The roads are damaged, cars are crashed. Even trees are damaged. Bethlehem is not Bethlehem anymore. It is now a desert with destruction everywhere. There is no hope for us to live peacefully. Now there is no difference between life and death. I prefer death so I don’t see those evil crimes done to my people. Maybe it will be safer in the other world near God. My cousin asked: “Why can’t we play and have fun like other children in this world? What did we do to suffer?” I laughed and told him that it is a crime to be Palestinian.

Monday 15/4/02

I woke up at 10:00 to prepare myself to buy some food with my uncle. The Israeli soldiers allowed the people to go out from 10:00 – 14:00. On our way to the market I saw my lovely Bethlehem ruined. The worst thing is the rubbish which is everywhere on the streets and which poison the air and create an unhealthy environment.

Today they entered a building in Doha, an area near Dheisheh refugee camp which is near our house. They ordered the women and children to go out and then took all the men, put them in armoured vehicles and drove them away. The women and children are now on the street, the children slept on the ground. The Israeli soldiers claim that there were some men with weapons hiding in the building. When they shelled it, a woman who could not run away was killed. Her baby of six months was injured.

It is now 12:00 P.M. I can’t sleep because the soldiers are planning something terrible for the men in the Nativity Church. First a soldier speaking good Arabic started threatening them through a megaphone: “To those in the Nativity Church, know your destiny, go out and you will be without harm or loss, you will be safe.” He kept repeating these words for an hour. Our house is far from the Church but we could hear it clearly. After that, they played a tape with terrible sounds which I can’t describe. I still hear them: people screaming, sounds of machines, hammers, alarms, knocking, barking of dogs. I know we won’t sleep tonight. I wonder how the people inside the Church feel. I think they are getting crazy. No one can hear those sounds for long. The soldiers just want to make them crazy. They keep repeating the sounds for several hours.

I am going to pray the rosary with my family. We pray it every night, we ask God to protect those who are in the Church, Moslems and Christians, because they are innocent.

I can’t continue… I hear bombing, maybe they start bombing the building. Now we are going to hide somewhere because it is really near our house and it is dangerous…

I always say a prayer to God: Our case is clear as the sun but no one in the world wants to look at it and see the truth. So please, God, I am only asking to let evil not destroy us. I beg just to be with us and to assure that we will be safe and return to normal life like others in this world.” Is this too much to ask? We just want to live.

Tuesday 16/4/02

Today was one of the worst days. I woke up at the sound of bullets from tanks crossing our street. The street was empty but they just shoot to terrify people. I studied a little. Then I went to watch TV to see the latest news. I was very sad hearing that they arrested Marwan Barghouti. He is a decent men who has faith in our case and always prefers peace and negotiations with the Israeli side. Now God knows what they will do to him. His only guilt is that he loves Palestine very much.

In the afternoon my uncle wanted to go out for a while and sit in the garden which is behind the house away from the main street. He went out with his wife and three children and my little brother went out too. My mother was praying in my room while I studied. I went downstairs so as to study outside and have some fun. The minute I wanted to go out my uncle shouted at me not to move because there was a tank crossing the street. I could hear its sound clearly. Then my uncle’s voice disappeared. I wanted to look out from the door to make sure it was safe. As soon as I opened the door a rain of bullets came into my direction. I ran as fast as a I could and hid behind a huge cupboard in my uncle’s house. I heard my cousins and my brother screaming but I could not do anything. I thought that they might die. After two minutes I could move and my uncle came running, his face white. The children could not move from fear so he held them tight. My mother was hiding under the desk in my room. She could hear the bullets hitting the door of my balcony. After a while I went out to the balcony and we found there a lot of bullets. That was the worst moment in my life. Death was very near. It is really terrifying. They know we are civilians but they don’t want to see anything moving.

At 7:00 o’clock, the soldiers started shooting from all sides at the Church. Two rooms of the priests were burned. There was no shooting from inside the Church. Windows were broken. Two men were injured.  They continued shooting and shelling for forty minutes. I started to cry. Where are the Christians who have dignity and faith? My church in which I praise the Lord with my prayers and songs, has become a war zone. I wish that I once again pray in it some day in the future. I always pray that someday I stand in a place where everyone in this world can hear me. I’ll tell them some words that may light their hearts and open their eyes to see the truth and defend it. I will tell these words to all the people who live peacefully and happily in their independent countries. Just remember when you eat that there are hundreds of children who die from hunger because they are Palestinians. Remember when you drink water that there are hundreds of children who drink dirty water from the ground because they are Palestinians. Remember that when you go asleep that there are hundreds of children homeless who sleep wearing nothing just because they are Palestinians.

Wednesday 17/4/02

Today was a bit calmer. New tanks entered Bethlehem with machines I had never seen before. The only hope that Palestinians had in Powell’s negotiations with Sharon and Arafat was that there would be an end to the massacres in Jenin and Nablous. I was really shocked when I heard Powell saying that Arafat disappointed him. What is this? He returned to America blaming Arafat. Is he blaming him because his people are killed by Israeli soldiers? Instead of blaming Sharon he blames the man who is a prisoner in Ramallah. There are no words which can express my feelings towards this injustice. Are they blind or are they making themselves blind? To whom shall we shout, beg for mercy?

There are people stuck under their destroyed houses screaming and asking for help. The UNRWA was unable to rescue them because the Israeli soldiers prevented them from entering. They are left there; no one knows how many they are. Doctors say there is a strong smell in Jenin, a smell of dead bodies, some of which have not been found yet.

Today I called Father Amjad in the Nativity Church to know how the people there are. He was desperate; he could not even talk to me, he told me. They stay awake all night and sleep some time in the morning. There is no food. They only drink water and salt. The sounds from outside make them very nervous. Some of them start hitting the floor with their legs and scream.

I am desperate without hope. Our innocent children don’t know the meaning of happiness. They just know death, war, tanks, fear and suffering. How much feel I sorry for my people, my lovely country.

Now after Powell has gone there is no hope that somebody will move. We just hope that God will do a miracle and stop our suffering.

19/4/02

Here we are: Another day of death and destruction. More dead people, more suffering. It really became part of our days and lives. Death is very near to us and any minute anyone could be killed. Yesterday I was watching TV with my brothers at seven in the evening when suddenly a huge explosion shook our house. My mother told us to lay on the ground and be careful. The tanks were in front of our house and started shooting everywhere. Then another huge explosion. It was dark everywhere and we could not see anything or move to hide in a safe place. After an hour of fear the tanks drove away and we found out that the Israeli soldiers suspected a car in our street to be full of explosives but the car was from our neighbours. The two huge explosions were from a plane which bombed the car, while the shooting was for nothing, just to make us and the other civilians here shake from fear and pain.

Today I woke up at nine, really desperate. I wish to stay sleeping for a long time so as not to see innocent people getting killed each day. I asked my mother not to tell me anything if they enter the church and a massacre happened, because I don’t want more pain, more tears and more suffering.

I saw today on TV a baby injured from a bombing on Gaza. His body was full of wounds and he was screaming from pain.

In the afternoon we went down to my uncle’s home and our neighbour told us to be careful. The soldiers reached our area, and they were going to enter the houses and arrest the men. My brother was very afraid.. He is fifteen years and very tall so they would think he is old enough to take him away. They entered a big apartment building near our house, checked every apartment and left without entering our house. They arrested many people from Bethlehem but thanks God our house yet… haven’t been entered.

NO MATTER WHAT
PALESTINE WON’T DIE

20/4/02

Nothing new: more killing, more suffering.

21/4/02

I feel very sorry because each Sunday we go to church but today we can’t go as usual, and we just pray at home.

22/4/02

I woke up at nine in the morning hearing my mother talking in a loud voice with the soldiers. I went to see her and she told me that we have to go down. We went downstairs and I saw nearly twenty soldiers at the door, one came in and told us that we have to stay in one room. They took my brother and my uncle so as to lead them to the rooms.

They searched everywhere, they took out everything in the cupboards, drawers and everywhere. They made a mess in our house, everything upside down, nothing in its place. They stayed two hours. There was one outside and four were with my brother upstairs, four with my uncle in his house and another four in my grandmother’s house. A soldier came in the room where we stayed and told us, “Please, don’t worry and stay here.”

After a while they went but they are still in our area. Thank God, they didn’t take anyone. I thought that they will start ruining and destroying everything but they were not really bad. I think it depends on who is living in the house. In some houses they destroyed a lot., sometimes didn’t leave anything undamaged. The important thing is that they didn’t take anyone.

It is now 12:00. They gave the people permission to go out from two till six. So we are going to buy food.

Thursday

As usual, I woke up at 12:00 because we stayed watching TV till a late hour. I heard some sounds in the late afternoon, sounds of shooting. We were disappointed because the meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian side over the case of the Church did not achieve anything. This will keep the situation as it is or it may deteriorate. It is threatening to enter the church these days. One was killed in the Church and another injured. There is no first aid or medication that can save them.

Some of our relatives called my father asking him for food. They are a big family but they cannot go out and buy anything. They asked my father for help. I studied a little but not too much, the situation doesn’t allow that.

Friday

As usual, tanks go around our house all day. The Israeli army gave permission to the civilians in Beit Jala and Beit Sahour [two towns neighbouring Bethlehem] to go out and buy food. My cousins and brothers were very happy and danced as they heard this news. This is the best news these days. One can see light and sunshine.

My father wants to check his shop which is near the Church. We join him in the car. I hope that nothing will happen.

26 May 2002

Today the tanks which entered yesterday have gone out of Bethlehem. I don’t understand what they did here, they did not achieve something real. I decided this month not to continue writing because there is no use in explaining the Palestinians’ situation when no one cares about it. What really hurt me was when the fighters were transferred to several countries. My heart was going to split from the anger, the sadness, the injustice. These men who the whole world thinks are terrorists are the most faithful men in Palestine. When we suffered from Israel, they used to defend our lands and let Israel know that Palestine is not empty as they want it to be, but that it is filled with Palestinians who are not afraid of Israeli weapons. Every house in Palestine was sad. I felt something really bad the minute the bus went and disappeared from the Nativity.

I am a Christian and I was anxious about all the lies and misleading stories the press started reporting about what had happened in the church. I went and saw it myself. There weren’t anymore blankets, cups, and plates. The relationship between the men and the priests had been very good. The priests used to give them from their own food. In Bethlehem we find this normal, because they were men from Bethlehem. Everyone knows them, we are living together, we see them when we go to school or the old town. They are not what the world or the press says.

If Israel thinks that the Intifada will end just like that, they are wrong. If the Israelis want to achieve this, they must kill every single Palestinian man, woman, boy or girl, because no one of us will live happily as normal without our freedom. You may ask yourself why the Intifadah after everything Sharon did, did not stop. The answer is that this Intifadah is a just revolution and that we must continue and will continue. And I believe that the Palestinians who were transferred will return one day carrying the flag of Palestine. We will welcome them with singing and dancing and happiness and hope will return to our soul.

Yesterday I went to the church to pray. Father Ibrahim expressed his feelings of anger and sadness, and he said: “Even we were in danger and anyone could be killed but I was concerned for these men equally as for the other priests. Staying in the church with them was better than seeing them getting out of Bethlehem with no justice or mercy. When I got to know them, I found them really good and they respected the church. I pray for them to be safe and secure and return some day to their own country.”


Marianne Sa’adeh (sister of Christine Sa’adeh, 12 years, who was killed in Bethlehem during an Israeli assassination)

March 27th 2003

March 25th was a good day, at the beginning anyway, but it turned out to be the worst at 6:30 p.m. until now. My story started when we went out at 6:00 o’clock to do our grocery shopping. The weather was bad; it was cold and snowy. My sister and I were sitting in the back of the car, after our shopping at Awwad’s supermarket near Rachel’s Tomb. We saw three Israeli jeeps and an ambulance following them. They were driving so fast that I said to my sister, “What kind of bad luck that awaits those people who are living near the place where these soldiers are heading.” It didn’t cross my mind for a second that we will be those people who will be under their fire.

Mum and Dad went to Giacaman’s market to finish our shopping. When we were close to the Shepherd’s Hotel, we saw the same three jeeps stopping a white car. We passed by the first jeep when suddenly the shooting started; they were shooting at us!! My sister tried to hide in between the driver’s seat and the passenger’s seat, and I put my head in between my hands to protect myself from dying. My sister and I were screaming. I was afraid; the bullets were hitting the car and exploding in it. I closed my eyes because I was afraid, but I felt my body exploding with those bullets. Everything came to a stand still, even the car stopped.  My mom asked me whether I was OK and I answered that I was fine, but I felt something hot entering my right knee with great force. She asked about my sister, Christine, but there was no answer. She asked me to check on my sister and at the same time she asked my father. I held my sister’s hand asking her, “Christine, are you OK?” No answer came. I was so afraid and I went out of the car shouting and asking for help. My mother started screaming and calling for help. When I went to the car, I saw my sister, who was sitting right behind my father’s seat, lying in between the two front seats, bleeding.  I was terrified and in such a great shock. A good man, who was living close to the area, came down from his house with his wife and his mother-in-law and he took my sister out of the car. My father was injured; he had eight bullets on his side and back. The ambulance that was escorting the Israeli soldiers was near. I went and asked for help. They told me that they would help, then I just collapsed on the wet ground. Somebody’s voice was calling me, and I left my place of hiding and went with my family in the Israeli ambulance to the checkpoint. There were three ambulance cars and a lot of soldiers waiting for us. They put some bandages on my leg and took me in the same ambulance with my sister. When I saw her, I started shouting and covered my eyes with my hands (I don’t want to talk about her during that time). The doctors asked the soldiers to take me to another ambulance. Everybody knows what happened after that, I think.

It was the worst day in my life, and I don’t want to add any more words about that night or the nights that I spent in the hospital. However, I’d like to say that the Israeli nurses and doctors were very kind and nice to me because they treated me in a good way.


After jail

Wassim, Ahmad and Jamil were born in the same refugee camp, in Nablus. They grew up under the same conditions but became real friends when they were prisoners. They were imprisoned in an Israeli jail for periods between 3 and 5 years. There they spoke together about things they could do to help people. They wanted their life to take a new turn. They developed the idea to create an association to do social work among youth in their refugee camp.

After leaving the jail, they collected books and opened a small library. They did so under the distrustful eye of some inhabitants of the camp. Books are not part of their culture, their traditions… But after a while, the three friends’ library met so much success that they could enlarge it. Step by step, their association became a large center in the refugee camp, with more and more activities (artistic and sports activities for youth, kids and a women’s group, speech therapy, physiotherapy, support for the handicapped kids...) and with more and more people coming.

Eighteen years after the creation of the center, Wassim, Ahmad and Jamil are very proud of it. Despite all the difficulties the association has always been active. “This life is hard”, comments Ahmad, “but we have to accept it.” I ask him what his hope for the future is, and he answers: “The kids. When I see them learning, growing, smiling, singing… I think: this is our future. Some youth have grown with the center; they’re now volunteers and they help us with the activities for the children. Soon we will stop working in the center, and we know that they will continue our work, that the center will never die.”

The story of Wasim, Ahmed and Jamil written down by Anaele Hermans, a Belgian volunteer who worked in a Palestinian refugee camp in Nablus.

From: Hoping against hope: Stories and thoughts about life in Palestine, Culture and Palestine Series, Bethlehem, 2008.

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