My Great Aunt and Uncle's Wedding, BETHLEHEM 1945
My grandparents decided to leave the West Bank to emigrate to America in the fifties. I doubt they would have known that in 1967 it would be occupied by Israel during the 6 day war and they would never be permitted to return and live there.
My late grandmother had told me when she first arrived in America how she felt displaced and longed to return home. After all both her and her husband left their town of Bethlehem where their families had lived for generations, in fact oral history of the town would relate that their families had been there for over a millennia.
I on the other hand was extremely lucky. I grew up in London a privileged life. I was never aware of any kind of discrimination directed towards me because of my race, sex or religion. My parents provided me with both full emotional and financial security. I feel blessed.
My grandfather's brother had married my grandmother's sister and they were to stay behind in the West Bank. They were to experience a war and live under occupation.
They would have a grandson who was born in the same year I was born. I will never forget a story that this grandson would tell me of what had happened to him during the first Intifada (1987-93).
At the time he was no more than 11 years old and he lived with his family on a main road that connected Jerusalem to Hebron so it was regularly used by the settlers at the time. Regrettably since then a bypass road has been constructed for Israeli use only. His close family and extended family ( aunts, uncles, cousins and his grandmother) lived in a small three story building as was common in his town. He wanted to go upstairs from the basement to see his grandmother which entailed climbing stairs that were by the main road. At that moment he saw a passing settler struck by a stone (a frequent occurrence at that time). He had no idea who had thrown it but he vividly remember the settler looking over in his direction filled with rage.
Terrified he rushed upstairs to his grandmother’s apartment and told her the story. As a Palestinian living on the West Bank she knew at best this could end by her grandson being arrested by the army. She quickly decided to hide him.
Minutes later there was a knock at her door. It was the very same enraged settler and an IDF soldier. They informed her that they needed to search her home. There was nothing she could do. She was helpless.
Her grandson told me he was saved by a miracle. Although the fully armed soldier and settler did their best they couldn't find him.
Nizin Jamjoum, a 14 year old girl was not so lucky. She was shot dead in a revenge attack by settlers in Hebron. Ahmed Natcha, 8 was stabbed during the same attack. Sadly these kinds of attacks were not isolated. The usual defence settlers employed was that they had stones thrown at them and they had to defend themselves.
Why was it that I was lucky to be spared living under occupation and violence? Do I deserve this luck?