February 1, 2004
[Bethlehem, West Bank] When I first
heard about the recent suicide bombing in Jerusalem, I was angry.
I'm 100% opposed to the bombings, because I think that there are
much better options for resistance. When I heard that the bomber
was from Bethlehem, I was even more angry. That meant that the
Israeli army would probably invade, and invasions makes life for
the community more difficult. When I realized that I knew the
bomber, I didn't know what to think.
Actually, I had met the young man,
Ali Ja'ara, only once. I stopped by his police station to ask
about a recent news story from Aida Refugee Camp. (The story was
of the miracle baby born with the name of his martyred uncle on
his cheek.) Ali spent about a half hour talking with me and my
friend, Saliman. We were just a few guys hanging out. We talked
a little about families, and he mentioned that it was difficult
to live poor in a Palestinian refugee camp. The thing that I remember
most about him was his humility. Ali was a police officer, but
he seemed very down to earth, quiet with a ready smile. After
we talked, he showed me where I could get a small gift for the
baby, and then he introduced us to the family. Ali stayed a little
while, maybe had coffee and a bit of food, but then he excused
himself, and I never saw him again. Not until I saw his face on
a local poster.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz usually
runs profiles of the individuals killed in suicide bombings. I
read these with incredible sadness. The victim's faces are usually
so happy, but now, and maybe forever, their photos are a reminder
of tragedy and a needless end. Their biographies include the entire
range of Israeli society -- immigrants from Russia, businessmen,
soldiers, mothers, sometimes schoolchildren. I read about obstacles
overcome, personal triumphs, birthdays to be celebrated, and recent
weddings. Their stories start full of hope, but instead they all
end in a senseless death.
Today I met Abu Ali, Ali Ja'ara's
father. Then men in Ali's family were receiving visitors paying
condolences. There was no celebration in the hearts of the family.
I saw no joy in the eyes of the men. Ali's father looked crestfallen
and demoralized. I shook Abu Ali's hand and told him I was sorry.
I was sorry that he had lost a son.
I image that losing a child would
be just about the worst experience in life. I can't imagine the
pain he must feel. He has been quoted as saying he thought his
son Ali would soon be married -- not buried. Abu Ali had lost
even more than a son though. He also lost the only means of support
for his family, and he lost his house, since the Israeli Army
performed the standard demolition of the building where the suicide
bomber lived. Abu Ali was already a refugee. Now he is a refugee
without a home -- twice.
I sat in the room with about forty
or fifty Palestinian men. Visitors greeted the family and then
most sat in silence. There was some Arabic music playing -- songs
of pain, I expect. I sat with the family for a while. I sat thinking
of a situation that would drive a reasonable, personable young
man to do such a horrible act -- a situation I still can't entirely
understand. I sat thinking of victims -- both Israeli and Palestinian.
Knowing that in my mind a bombing is wrong, I still felt a great
compassion for these men who had just lost a son. It was the same
feeling I had for the Israeli victims of the bombing.
It's easy to point fingers in this
place. I know I do it. I think I know who causes most of what
goes on. But regardless of who or what is to blame, the sad fact
is that there are so many unnecessary victims on each side. Every
time a bomber blows up a bus filled with civilians and every time
the Israeli Army kills another innocent bystander, both sides
Demolished Home in Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem
(The Israeli Army continues to
invade Bethlehem. You can find details on my