Lives Torn Apart
By Charles Stratford
03 December 2004
son was shot by them on a day like today," says Georgette, "the
bullet passed straight through his chest but he's alright now, thank
God." She leans frailly on the fence that separates our gardens
in Ramallah. "Best you not go out just yet, if you need anything
The Israeli Defence
Force are in town again. They've been here all night arresting men suspected
of involvement with armed resistance groups. They bang on doors and
pull young Palestinians into the back of waiting jeeps. They come and
go as they please.
On the street an
elderly man is thrust up against the wall by a soldier less than half
his age. The man looks terrified. The harness he wears is used to carry
a container of tamarind juice which he sells to thirsty shoppers in
the market. The soldier doesn't know this. He continues to shout at
the man in a standard learnt Arabic. "What's your name? Where are
you going? Where do you live?"
"We never know
what time they will come," says Georgette, "It might seem
quiet half the time but anything can happen. Even if this was news,
they're too fast for the T.V cameras to catch."
"Even if this
was news," that says a lot about life in Ramallah. The worlds press
may have set up shop for a few days to witness President Arafat's spectacular
funeral. They may now be flooding in behind visiting foreign statesmen
for optimistic quotes about the future - words of hope now the man around
whose grave some lay wreaths has gone. But when the suits and Mercedes
disappear the press aren't far behind.
It's difficult for
the media to fully capture the systematic mass humiliation of innocent
Palestinians by the Israeli army.
Ramallah may not
be experiencing the daily atrocities committed by the IDF in Gaza, Jenin
or Nablus but lives here remain deeply affected by the occupation. They
are still collectively punished for deeds they didn't commit.
"It's the uncertainty
of not knowing what will happen next, the powerlessness, the feeling
of isolation from the outside world and not being able to go anywhere.
This creates terrible depression in us," says Georgette.
On 10th May her
son, Shady, 30 was working at a jewellers in central Ramallah. When
he heard the first tear gas bombs explode he told his boss, who suffers
a heart condition, that he'd close the shop doors. They will be gone
in five minutes, he thought, after they've taken whoever they want.
As the Israeli army
opened fire outside he felt something appear from just above his left
nipple. He fell to his knees before noticing the blood. Looking up,
he saw his boss beating his head with his fists and screaming. "He
thought it was his fault that I'd been shot, he was punishing himself."
The soldiers kept
firing as the three youths tried to carry him to safety. One was shot
in the leg and Shady fell to the ground. He rolled across the road to
His face is tired
and withdrawn as we sit talking about his experience. "Do I look
older than my thirty years" he asks, rolling up his jumper to show
the scars stretching from breast bone to waist. Five hours of emergency
surgery showed the bullet had missed his heart by 4mm. A fragment of
the door through which the bullet passed lodged into his liver. "I
don't hate the Jews or even the soldiers that did this they're just
following orders," he says.
"We used to
go to Jerusalem to visit the holy places and see our friends and family,
says Georgette, before the checkpoints. "In the evenings we'd drive
to Nablus and visit our cousins. We haven't seen them for four years
and don't know when we'll see them again."
There is little
opportunity for the family to escape their trauma. Hundreds of checkpoints
make free movement around the West Bank almost impossible. Check points
that guard the roads near which 120 illegal Israeli settlements continue
to grow. Roads on which the 240,000 illegal settlers can freely travel.
everyone shares her feelings of isolation and fear in Ramallah, the
'quiet capital' of Occupied Palestine. Shady has returned to work against
the advice of his doctors. His wife is expecting a baby. "What
can I do, we have to try and live," he says. "But it's hard
when you can't predict what will happen next."
Charles Stratford is a British Arabic speaking journalist based in Ramallah.