I know this is the first article I write since I came back to Palestine, and I am sorry that it is not going to be a very happy post. I do hope you won’t interpret this as Nablus being a very grim place, because it is not. I do plan on writing very soon about all the wonderful things I witness here, but I can’t deny either that sometimes, the situation gets really bad. Since what I am about to tell you just happened a few days ago, I felt like I shouldn’t wait too long before talking about it.
Jamal Mohammed Dwaikat was 20 years old. He grew up in the village of Balata, close to the biggest refugee camp of the West Bank, in the eastern part of Nablus. As for everybody here, his life has always been tightly linked to the Occupation. During the Second Intifada for example, the city was totally under siege and there were periods of several weeks of curfew, where going out of your house or even showing your face at the window could get you shot by the Israeli soldiers who were constantly going around the village in tanks.
However, children have the wonderful ability to make the best out of what they have, and Jamal grew strong friendships in his school, that accompanied him throughout his teenage years until today. In high school, he was part of a group of about 15 young boys, who used to always hang out together . At that time, his dream was to go to a sports college.
But life had other plans for him. When he was 16 years old, he was arrested and put into an Israeli jail. He had thrown rocks at the soldiers who invade his village once a week, in order to allow settlers to come and pray at Joseph’s Tomb, a holy place for Jewish people who claim it is the tomb of a patriarch. Hundreds of them come every week, and each settler has more or less four soldiers to protect them. The soldiers come a first time before the settlers in order to “clear” the zone. Locals claim it is just the tomb of a man from an important Palestinian family, Joseph Dwaikat. While the truth will probably never be known, it is undeniable that, week after week, the soldiers come and disturb the tranquility of the people in their own village, often in a very threatening way. And while soldiers have all sorts of guns and sophisticated military equipment, Palestinians fight with what they have; throwing stones has for a long time been a symbol of Palestinian resistance.
Jamal spent 3 years in prison for that gesture. He was also accused of fabricating arms but that has never been proven. Sadly, there are no fair trials when it comes to those issues. These years have been very difficult for him; Israeli prisons are not known for being tender with their prisoners. Ironically, as a sports fan, after some months he was joined in prison by his former sports teacher. Regularly, his friends wrote to him to show their support, and when he was finally released a bit over a year ago, several thousand people were there to greet him. It was a great source of joy for him, but it was also hard to get used to “normal” life again after that. All of his friends had moved on with their lives while he thought he had to start from scratch. He was also a lot more quiet than before going to prison. However, Jamal was slowly getting used to his old life, and had find jobs since.
Until last Thursday evening. On Thursday evening, the soldiers preceding the settlers decided to come earlier than usual; they had taken the habit of coming into the village after midnight, but for some reason, last Thursday, they entered the village at around 10.30. At this time, there are still many people on the streets. Jamal was having coffee with his friends in a coffeeshop that is further down the same street as Joseph’s Tomb. Some soldiers arrived in a Jeep. It is unclear what happened exactly; some claim that the young man tried to throw a cocktail Molotov at them, but there is no evidence of this. Anyway, the result is that they started shooting. They started shooting several bullets from the Jeep, randomly, in the crowd of people who were just living their lives in the village. Jamal was one of them. And he was shot in the head, the bullet coming in from the side of his face and going out from the back of it. As soon as his friend saw him falling down, he carried him away, to a nearby house. From there, a taxi drove him to a hospital, because he was bleeding a lot and there was no time to wait for an ambulance.
The clashes continued all night in Balata. Some say that Lieberman, Israel’s new minister of defence, from the new government that has been said to be the most extreme the country has ever had, was visiting the Tomb with the settlers.
Jamal was later transferred to a hospital in Tel-Aviv to get better treatment, making it impossible for his loved ones to visit him. He stayed in a very critical state, declared brain-dead and in a coma, for several days. Yesterday, his death was announced. The Israeli authorities first refused to give the body back, but it seems that it will be released tonight. The area has been very tense the last few days, some protesters trying to burn down Joseph’s Tomb. They are fighting against the Palestinian Authority’s police officers who are defending the area. There is no doubt that people are in deep pain, they are hurt and tired, and I am afraid that things don’t look so bright for the near-future. Ramadan has just started in a very sad way.
Rest in Peace, Jamal.