Burn Another One: Part Eleven
By Fathima Begum
Adeela chopped vegetables into small pieces, and carefully placed them into the small cooking pot. Her mother had been taken ill, after the news of her brother, Abbas and six other boys had all been kidnapped. The news had reached them over a week ago, and there had been no other news since. Her mother feared the worst and had been bed-ridden.
Adeela had decided to cook, even though food was hardly being touched anymore. Carefully, she placed the vegetables into the pot, and watched the pot as she reflected on recent events. Negotiations had been on-going, but they and the other families were being given very limited information by the Hamas representatives. Her grandfather had openly accused them of lying and being involved in some kind of ploy, however he’d had to retract his accusation after he had realized that he had no other choice but to rely on them for any further information or help.
They had been in touch with the kidnappers who were, as it turned out, the IDF. Adeela had heard terrible stories about what people of the IDF did to her people, and she too feared the worst. But she kept her fears to herself and kept herself busy. It seemed that no one wanted to talk to her, so she often wandered out of the house, not returning until after dusk, with the empty hope of seeing her brother turn up.
They had received visits from international news reporters, who wanted to interview her father. Some of the neighbours had admonished him, insisting that ‘they are all on the same side, against us, they are trying to get information out of you and take advantage of you in your weak moments, they will get the better of you – keep them out!’
Other’s had encouraged him, saying ‘take every opportunity to let the world know what is happening here, what we have to endure, so they will know – if they don’t know how will anyone ever step forward to help us?’
And yet others had arrived at her house, wanting a share of the limelight.
The news broadcasters had aired the story, and of all the reports only a couple had not called the boys ‘terrorists’. They had watched some of the news coverage, and hadn’t been shocked to see how the kidnapping had been portrayed as the oppressor’s triumph.
Every night, they all sat in silence, ignoring her mother’s interminable moaning as she laid on the bed as though already in mourning. They prayed as far into the night as they could until their eyes could no longer be kept open, and they’d drift in and out of sleep until the morning came and they could all busy themselves into some form of distraction.
Another eleven days passed, until some good news graced their home.
‘They will be returned. Two of them have not survived, but Abbas is not one of them. He will be with you soon’
These words had been uttered by the tall, bearded man who had come with the news. As soon as she has had heard them, Adeela’s mother had wept loudly in relief.
‘We have tried to negotiate with them endlessly, and it seems that the boy that you had allowed to stay here, Berel, was actually a reporter to the Israeli Secret Services. He was being used as a spy’
The man went on.
‘I don’t believe it. What information might he have gathered from my humble home?’ Adeela’s grandfather retorted.
‘Perhaps they were suspicious of the activities of the smaller resistance groups that the young boys are forming in this part of Gaza, and they wanted to find out more. Perhaps that’s why they were then able to kidnap your son and the other boys who were involved’ the man advised.
Adeela’s grandfather silently turned his head away from the man, expressing his disagreement.
‘This is why we strongly advise people to educate their young, and to not allow them to take it upon themselves to try and take revenge thereby endangering not only themselves but also their innocent families. We are here to fight the oppressors. That is our duty and we rely on your support’ the man concluded before departing.
The following day, just after sunrise, Abbas was accompanied home by two men.
Adeela barely recognised him. His cheeks were hollow, his eyes were gaunt and he seemed to have aged by ten years. He was very quickly enveloped into hugs from his mother and father, and then lead into the room at the back of their small home which Adeela had tidied for him.
Throughout the day, they were visited by neighbours, relatives and well wishers. Though Adeela was relieved, she was also worried. They boy who had come home seemed nothing like her brother Abbas, and she was suddenly nervous of going anywhere near this bereft stranger.
After all the visitors had left, Adeela watched as her mother fussed over Abbas with revived energy. He stared at her, expressionlessly. She knew that he was expecting her to bombard him with questions, as she was known to do. Her silence seemed to faze him a little, and he continued to stare.
Finally she asked, timidly, the first question that came to her mind.
‘Was Berel really a spy?’
He shot her a look that she did not understand, and then swore out loud. Aghast, Adeela ran out of the room. She didn’t believe it, or didn’t want to. Berel was just a normal boy, just like Abbas and his friends were. They were fighting a war they hadn’t started, and couldn’t control. They were all stuck in the same rut, battling for their own bequest.