The tragic death of the Palestinian protester Jawaher Abu Rahma in Bil’in left all of us grieving very deeply as we sat helpless, leafing through the news stories of her sad death. That, in fact, was not an extraordinary incident to me, but rather a new episode in the long series of events that show that Palestinians embody the essence of what sacrifice means. As one sleeps, another wakes up. As one dies, a whole generation is born.
A scenario that didn’t happen
(The sun is about to set behind the horizon; the trees stand on the two sides of the gritty road; nothing is heard in the background but the demonstrators marching amongst whom is Jawaher, her heart beating really hard. The demonstrators carry the Palestine flags, red flags, and yellow ones. Some are busy taking photos. A sudden stream of thoughts invades Jawaher’s mind as few Israeli soldiers come within her range of vision in the distance.)
“Here we go,” Jawaher says to herself, still marching ahead. “here is 1, 2…3” Jawaher turns her head a little bit to the right, “4, 5, hmm” and as a new soldier, his gun diagonally overturned across his chest, comes into view from behind a hill (supposedly there is one) she continues “and here is 6” Jawaher lowers her head to the ground as she marches ahead.
(The protesters start whispering to each other, some hastening their steps to catch up with others and pointing with their hands in different directions. A middle-aged protester with shabby hair, putting on sun glasses, and wearing ugly green striped Bermudas hastens his steps so that he becomes by the side of Jawaher.)
“There are another two,” he says to Jawaher.
(Only then a whole troop of soldiers appear from behind the hill. Barely visible, four soldiers in the lead followed by a dozen behind them who show up gradually in pairs, all helmeted and carrying their guns aggressively.)
“Yeah two.” Jawaher replies shortly.
“It will be tense this time, will it not?” the middle-aged protester states rather than poses a question.
Jawaher nods silently.
(As they come closer and closer to where the soldiers positioned themselves over the hill, the demonstrators slow down, and some of them eventually stop marching. They gather in one spot, a couple here communicating their hopeful expectations for the new year, and a group of four there agitated over the unexpected arrival of the soldiers. Some continue matching, however. An old woman comes over to where Jawaher is now standing alone. She is followed by a young lady of Jawaher’s age.)
“Mama,” Jawaher is surprised to see her mother. “I’ve been looking for you.” Jawaher addresses her mother.
“Where have you been?”
“At the back of the demonstration, close to the fence.” The young lady replies.
“I think we should go home, daughters. I feel worried.” The mother says.
The daughters don’t reply.
(All at once, all hell breaks loose as a sharp screeching sound is heard, immediately followed by another and another, then thickening rising smoke covers the area; the crowd of protesters scatter in different directions; some start backing away; others hide their faces in their hands, and others continue marching ahead, tightly covering their mouths and noses. Some looking backward as they backed away and stumbled. Jawaher’s mother and sister start withdrawing from the scene clasping Jawaher’s hand who staggers behind.)
“We did this last time.” Jawaher thinks to herself.
“They did this last time.” Jawaher’s sister says aloud.
“And the one before.” Jawaher thinks as she struggles to catch a breath. “Last month we did the same,” trying to keep her balance as she followed her mother, she continues raising her voice. “last year we withdrew; each day we do the same, and then we lost my brother.” (Jawaher struggles to keep her vision, but everything becomes blurry as she feels terrible pain tearing through her throat and chest.)
(A cloud of smoke covers the place, and nothing is clear. A few moments later, the vision clears: the demonstration is dispersed momentarily. The soldiers are still over the hell; some protesters, barely visible, gather at the end of the road. Silence reigns in once again.)
(Behind the walls of a nearby house, surrounded by her mother, her sister, and a strange woman, Jawaher is lying on the lawn, foam brims out of her mouth and trickles down her chin. Jawaher mutters incomprehensibly, her vision comes in and out of focus.)
“I can see it coming. We’re one step closer.” Jawaher tightens her grip around her mother’s hand and smiles.
(Outside the lawn, the protesters start gathering again very close to the fence. They grow in number. The demonstration continues.)
Mohammed Rabah Suliman, 21, is a student of English Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. He blogs at http://msuliman.wordpress.com/.