Burn Another One: Part Eight
By Fathima Begum
Adeela shifted uncomfortably from side to side on her makeshift bed; a mattress on the floor. She wanted to block her ears so that she wouldn’t hear the shouting that had been going on in the next room since early evening, but she also wanted to know what was being said. She had no idea what time it was, she had been sent to bed earlier than normal, but she knew that it was now quite late and that she wouldn’t be getting any sleep that night.
A few relatives, her grandfather’s cousins and their sons, had paid a visit. They all knew what it was about. It had been less than a week since Berel, an Israeli boy, had stayed with them for about three weeks. He had been stabbed accidentally and her grandfather had allowed him to stay at their home until he had recovered.
“It’s been chaotic, you have no idea. You’re not in touch with what is going on out there” one voice argued. Adeela knew who it belonged to, the uncle who worked as a security guard for a Palestinian newspaper printing house.
“They sent out search parties everywhere, it was all over the Israeli news. They all thought he had died, and were looking for his body. When he appeared three weeks later – what do you think they thought of it?” he went on.
“I hope they were relieved, happy that the boy was in good health and back home” her grandfather reasoned.
“I’m sure they were, but when he tells them that he stayed with you, in a Palestinian Muslim’s home in Gaza? For three weeks. You think they will let this go? They will find you, and accuse you for all sorts of things, and they will take your whole family away!” Another voice spoke up. Adeela felt herself shiver with fright, and she drew the blanket closer.
“I have no fear. I did the right thing”
“You may have no fear but what about us, and our children? They won’t spare us. It is already a hell that our children are growing up in, what did you prove by doing what you did?”
“You exaggerate. None of you were at all involved, you should have nothing to fear” Adeela’s grandfather reminded them.
“You have always been set in your ways. You’re lucky that boy has not spoken out about anything yet, had he turned on you and accused you of kidnapping or something, you would not still be alive” the uncle said.
“And this shows that they are not all the same” her grandfather pointed out.
“You have always said that, in spite of the suffering that we have endured, and what we are still living through, you remain ignorant. We respect you, so we can’t say anything, but what did you gain out of putting the lives of your loved ones in danger? What if they had sent their search parties to our village and found him here, in your home? They would have massacred the whole village!”
“They wouldn’t dare” her grandfather uttered, slowly.
“That is what you want to think, but the reality is that people are dying every day all around us, and there is not much we can do to stop it, and then you go and invite the enemy into your home and you think you did a good thing?”
“I could never leave a boy to die, helpless, so far away from home”
“This is what started it all, all those years ago, when we welcomed the helpless into our home, our country, and look where we are now” her grandfather’s cousin said, bitterly.
“There are many among them who are as innocent as you and I. There are many of us who may have done what they did, had we been walking in their shoes”
A short silence followed, and then raised voices cried out all at once.
“That is ridiculous! We would never commit such atrocities!”
“What are you trying to say about us? I can’t believe my ears!”
“It is a betrayal to your own!”
Adeela’s grandfather waited until they all quietened down. Adeela held her breath, thinking that perhaps he would just ask them to leave. She knew how much he had helped them all, and their families, whenever they were in need and now they had all turned against him. She wanted to go in there and tell them how unfair all of this was, and that Berel was a good boy, not like the rest of them. But she stayed where she was and waited.
“When one of ours kills one of theirs, they kill many of ours in revenge. So, if one of ours has aided on e of theirs, saved his life, do you not imagine that they would do the same for us?” Adeela’s grandfather finally spoke.
“You and your ideals!” someone snorted, this time Adeela couldn’t tell who it was. “Do you not hear, or see, what is really going on? If they are not throwing air strikes into Gaza, they are dropping bombs in West Bank. If they are not shooting our young boys and girls on sight, they are taking them away and torturing them. They are a people who have left compassion far behind”
“It is all terrible, I know. But better days will come”
“This is a lie that we have held on to for too many years, it is time to seek the truth. The boy will eventually speak out, and no matter what, they will find you and then you will see the truth of our words, though you choose to ignore”
“Let them come, brother. Let the storm rage”