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The ‘stoic’ Ahed Tamimi and her remarkable family were portrayed in Ben Ehrenreich’s 2016 book

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Back in 2011 an 11-year-old Ahed Tamimi and her young cousin, Marah, “scampered” to the front of another peaceful march in their home village of Nabi Saleh, Occupied Palestine, the American writer Ben Ehrenreich relates. The two were joining weekly protests against the Israeli settler/colonists who had stolen much of their land, seized their spring, and built a fish pool next to it. Israeli soldiers, there only to protect the settler/colonists, tossed stun grenades at the girls’ feet, and then violently drove the demonstrators away.

“Ahed was her usual stoic self” all through the tense day, Ehrenreich writes. But then, that night, “she had nightmares — she talked in her sleep until morning, waking again and again in panic and fear.” Her mother, Nariman, told Ehrenreich, “I don’t know what to do, but raise my children to be strong.”

16-year-old Ahed Tamimi in Israeli military court (Photo: Tali Shapiro/Twitter)

Ahed Tamimi, now 17, has become one of the most well-known Palestinians in the world. She is still in an Israeli military jail, more than 3 months after she slapped an Israeli soldier who had invaded her family home. Israelis and their apologists sneer at her as “Shirley Temper,” and some even suggest she and her family are actors.

Fortunately, the truth about Ahed is in Ben Ehrenreich’s impressive book, The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine, which appeared in 2016. He spent months in Nabi Saleh, including stays in the Tamimi home, and his first-hand account is a fascinating, lengthy description of this remarkable young woman and her remarkable family. Ehrenreich’s account of the injustice of occupation is even more compelling because it is understated; the facts speak for themselves.

Ben Ehrenreich

Ahed Tamimi appears regularly in Ehrenreich’s description of the resistance in Nabi Saleh. Her parents, Bassem and Nariman, are leaders, and her entire extended family has paid a high price for their stubborn refusal to give up their land and its spring. Bassem has been arrested more than a dozen times, and spent 3 years in jail without trial. In 2012, Israeli soldiers killed Ahed’s maternal uncle, Rushdie, with an M-16 automatic weapon. That same year her older brother, Waed, was arrested right alongside her, and a video of her trying to protect him went viral; Ehrenreich reports that Waed later appeared in military court “covered in bruises and scabs.” Nariman Tamimi has been repeatedly arrested and beaten, and then in 2014 shot with a live bullet and injured so badly that she had to walk with a cane for more than a year.

But we learn more about Ahed Tamimi than her activism. She watches fantasy films on TV with her 3 brothers, and she likes to play video games. She was disappointed she could not have a party to celebrate her 12th birthday, because the village was mourning the death of her uncle, but then her mother gave in. “Ahed’s cake was drizzled with chocolate and frosted with a sugary yellow-haired Cinderella in headphones,” remembers Ehrenreich, who was one of the guests.

In one of the most touching scenes, a brief loosening of the occupation allows some of the Tamimi family to visit the sea at Acre. The Mediterranean is only 2 hours west of Nabi Saleh, but most of the children have never seen it. Ehrenreich accompanies them, and reports that even after nightfall, the children will not leave their first beach: “The kids were in the water, shrieking and splashing and paddling about. It was dark by the time they slumped back to the cars, wet towels on their bare, skinny shoulders, shivering a little and smiling still.”

Ehrenreich’s account does also include valuable background information:
* The number of Jewish settler/colonists in the West Bank tripled since the “peace process” started in 1993, to more than 350,000 by 2016 (excluding East Jerusalem).
* Some 40 percent of all Palestinian men have done time in Israeli jails.
* Some 99.74 percent of the Palestinians tried in Israeli military courts are found guilty.

Today, Ahed Tamimi still sits in an Israeli military prison. She and her family want her eventual “trial” to be public, but the Israeli occupation authorities just refused, claiming they wanted to protect her “privacy.”

Ahed’s mother, Nariman, tells Ehrenreich what it was like to watch her wounded brother, Rushdie, dying right in front of her while an Israeli soldier refused to call for medical aid. She said she wanted to kill the soldier who had just shot her brother: “But I knew that I had to be stronger than that. I had to be stronger than them. Why? Why is it required of me to be more humane than they are?”

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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8 Responses

  1. guyn on March 21, 2018, 11:52 am

    I’m reading the book these days. The description of his stay in Hebron is also quite impressive.

  2. Kathleen on March 21, 2018, 6:54 pm

    Tamimi family an honorable, brave and inspirational family Will share this piece on fb page and link it on other websites.

    Silence is complicity, Please share their story

  3. JosephA on March 22, 2018, 12:09 am

    Thank you for bringing this book to my attention, I shall buy it and share it.

  4. Elizabeth Block on March 22, 2018, 11:14 am

    “The Way to the Spring” is superb. And it shows something most people don’t realize, which is that Israel hates nonviolence. Violence they are fine with. Nonviolence shows them as they are –
    thugs – and they respond harshly and something lethally.

    • just on March 22, 2018, 11:39 am


      In Haaretz yesterday by Dr. Erekat:

      “Were We Palestinians Wrong to Endorse a Non-violent Struggle?

      Europe told us only after we Palestinians endorsed non-violence and the 1967 borders would they act on our behalf. We did. Now they refuse to act, because of pressure from a rogue state – America

      This is actually happening. European countries, members of the European Union, itself birthed out of the ashes of the last century’s unprecedented atrocities, are currently putting pressure on Palestine not to demand its rights at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

      This Friday, four resolutions on Palestine will be voted on, and some European countries are concerned about the political implications of any calls to hold Israel accountable for its systematic violations of international law.

      The very international legal standards Palestine clings to – self-determination, non-acquisition of territory through force, and equality – are the bedrock of the European project. …

      A few decades ago, the PLO would get messages from the some of those same countries saying that only after Palestinians endorse non-violence will they be able to use their power to end the occupation and fulfill the rights of the Palestinian people. It was one of the main reasons for us to fully endorse the 1967 borders, UN resolutions, international law, and the role of international organizations in the peace process.

      Yet, almost three decades later, many people believe that taking those choices was wrong. …

      much more @

  5. Jackdaw on April 24, 2018, 2:12 pm

    Ahed’s mother, Nariman, sicced her daughter on those IDF soldiers like Ahed was a dog.

    The mother’s voice is on the video telling Ahed to ‘Get them’, in Arabic.

    • echinococcus on April 24, 2018, 2:59 pm

      Supporting a resistant is not “siccing”. If she were my daughter I would have screamed: “kill them!”
      Disposing of occupier varmint is perfectly legal, by the way. Read the UN Charter.

    • eljay on April 24, 2018, 3:04 pm

      || Jackdaw: Ahed’s mother, Nariman, sicced her daughter on those IDF soldiers like Ahed was a dog. … ||

      I agree that when a woman and her daughter are chained in the rapist’s basement the woman should not sic her daughter on the rapist. But it would be nice (and just and moral) if…
      – neither of them was in the rapist’s basement; and
      – the rapist wasn’t at liberty to kidnap, imprison and rape females,
      …but as his supporters will tell you that would be to deny him his “right” to “self-determine” himself in them.

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