By Tamar Fleishman
“They burned him and he was still alive”, I heard this sentence from everyone of the members of the Abu Khdeir family, when I came to their home two days after the funeral of their child who was abducted at the beginning of the Ramadan month by malicious Jewish men who took him into their car and drove off into the Jerusalem woods where they poured gasoline over his body, light him up and left as the flames took hold of the child Muhammad Abu Khdeir.
Entering the family’s yard wasn’t easy, but I couldn’t refrain from doing it.
“If you tell me to leave”, I said to Husain, Muhammad’s father, “I will respect your wishes and leave”.
“Anyone who is not part of the government or the settlement is welcomed in my home”, the father replied.
And indeed, the Abu Khdeir family opened their mourners’ tent to thousands of people from all ethnic groups, religions and nationalities that assembled at their home during the official days of mourning, so as to express their condolences and sympathy to the grieving family that fell victim to an unprecedented act of atrocity against a child, who’s only wrong doing is having been born to another religion and another nationality, and that of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The child who on the early morning hours of one the first Ramadan days, sat on the stairs of his father’s store on the main road of Shuafat and waited for the prayer to begin at the neighboring mosque. But things didn’t go as planned.
Israeli government officials, who wanted to join the family in their time of grief, were sent away and not permitted to enter.
The father declined the call from the Prime Minister when Benjamin Netanyahu’s people tried to organized it, he also refused the president’s request to visit the mourning family, president Peres and his presidential entourage were waiting outside the house and had to turn back, since the family refused to let them in.
The family that had yet to find comfort and peace since the day of the terrible burning, talks also about the other child, a Palestinian child who a few days earlier to the kidnapping of Muhammad had almost also been abducted in a nearby location: “They (the police) didn’t protect our children, now they are here all the time, when it’s too late”.
The explosive reality that formed following the murder of Muhammad in Jerusalem and its surroundings and especially on the border line between the two nations, which some see as a beginning of an Intifada, led to a sequence of incidents in which the authorities harassed the members of the Abu Khdeir family, who only want to find comfort for their souls and commemorate their child in their own modest way.
Ever since that day special police forces had been posted on the street where they live and particularly by their home- they are dressed in black and armed with the latest and most sophisticated weapons.
It is as though everything is backwards, the victims are treated as the guilty party. Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been victims of military occupation, systematic discrimination and violent treatment by the police.
The harassment of Abu Khdeir family started two months after the murder of their child, when representatives of the police arrived at their home and ordered them to dismantle the small monument they placed on the fence surrounding their house. Otherwise, they said, the Municipality of Jerusalem would get the job done.
“We told them that if they destroyed it we would build a new one, a bigger one,” the child’s uncle said.
The monument still stands.
But what had caught the eyes of Israeli authorities is the photo of the child that the family hung on the wall of their house.
“They probably think it is an incitement”, a relative said and then told me that on the 24th of October at 10am, Kamal Fares, head of Neve Yaakov police station, called the Mukhtar of Shuafat and the family’s lawyer, and then called again at 6pm to notify them that the photo of the child is illegal and that they must take it down immediately, or else they would receive a fine of two thousand Shekels a day (a fine that would be imposed on them by the municipality of Jerusalem.)
“We took it down, of course we did”, the family says. “What other choice did we have?”
(Translated by Ruth Fleishman.)
– As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. The majority of the Spotlights (an opinion page) that are published on the site had been written by her. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.