Mideast night

We dread to hear the telephone ring

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From a speech by Palestinian-Canadian activist Rana Rifaie last Sunday night at Innis College at a rally for peace and justice in the Middle East, sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation, United Jewish People’s Order and Yosher — Toronto Jewish Network for Social Justice.

I would like to share with you a couple of days in the life of my family in Anata, a suburb of Jerusalem.

OCTOBER 6, 1 PM My husband arrives home. Confrontation with the settlers erupts in the eastern neighbourhood of the suburb. Israeli soldiers get involved.

4 PM My 16-year-old nephew is shot in his upper right arm with a live bullet. My husband and his brother take him to the hospital, which would usually have been a 20-minute trip. It takes them 90 minutes due to road closures and detours.

Three hours of surgery and 24 stitches later, the fragments of bullet are removed but the shrapnel in his face has to wait due to the volume of critically injured in the hospital.

8 PM My husband arrives back home.

8:30 PM A 12-year-old cousin is shot in the left arm with a live bullet that breaks the bone. This time, they are lucky and get to the hospital in one hour.

MIDNIGHT My husband is back home. His mother says, “Thank God — two injuries and no deaths.”

OCTOBER 7, 2 AM The settlers drive through Anata, shooting sporadically and terrorizing the townspeople.

7 AM The phone rings and, as usual, my mother-in-law prays as she picks up the phone. “God willing, it will be good news.” Unfortunately, it’s bad news. My sister-in-law’s 14-year-old cousin has been shot in the head. His brain has been scattered by the bullet.

My sister-in-law has had three casualties in her family.

Her 22-year-old brother was shot in the spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He happens also to be deaf. Her other two brothers were shot in the leg.

9 AM A three-year-old nephew comes with his father to see my husband, demanding band-aids to cover the imagined injuries to his face, which he says the soldiers inflicted. His little pockets are full of pebbles.

He claims that he is ready to fight the Israeli soldiers when they come after him. These are the children whose milk is being laced with tear gas and smoke.

His name is Salam. His father, who spent six years in Israeli prisons in the previous intifada, named him Salam to signify his support of the peace process.

Two weeks ago, Salam got a new brother. I think you can guess his name. Jihad. His father has had enough of this so-called peace.

The day my sister-in-law had Jihad, she was going through labour but insisted on walking in the funeral of her 17-year-old cousin, who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers.

I was hoping in 93 that young Palestinians such as Salam would be the generation who would be able to attend a full year of school without closures and that their pockets would be full of candy and not stones. They were to be the generation who would build peace with Israeli children.

My hopes, along with those of all Palestinians, have been shot down.

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