Burn Another One: Part Six
By Fathima Begum
Adeela crouched under the shade of an olive tree and licked her dry lips. It was very hot, and water clean enough to drink was in short supply. Wiping the sweat off her forehead with a cotton scarf, she watched the others as they tirelessly picked olives, trying to fill up as many plastic bags as they could by sunset. She rested her head against the trunk of the tree, feeling the urge to sleep.
As she almost dozed off, loud voices snapped her back to consciousness and she jumped to her feet. She’d been ordered by her parents to run home at the first sign of any trouble and not to bother waiting for her brother if she couldn’t see him. She almost took off, but was compelled to find out what was going on, so she trudged her way through the trees all grown so close to each other, and through the huddled groups of people picking olives.
A fight had broken out. There was nothing extra ordinary about that, but Adeela soon realized that this time the fight was actually between some of the boys from her community and some boys from settler families. Most settlers had already moved out of Gaza, but the remaining minority often liked to have their presence felt. Adeela hid behind a large tree, feeling safe enough to stay. There were no weapons being used, but it was a violent fistfight. Suddenly, one of the boys drew out a knife – perhaps he had snatched it from a frightened olive picker – and stabbed one of the settlers. Adeela gasped, and clutched her plastic bag, half full of olives. It took only a few moments for the boys to disperse, leaving the wounded boy on his knees, wailing and bleeding profusely.
Adeela stood back as everyone crowded around the boy. She turned to run off home, but turned back when she heard Abbas’ voice call out her name. She pushed her way through the small crowd, and saw that Abbas had managed to lift the boy up with the help of one of his friends. She looked up in surprise, as Abbas ordered everyone to move out of the way so they could carry the boy out of the plantation. She followed them as they carried the boy back to their village, as he clutched his wound and cried. As they neared the village, she ran ahead of them, straight to her home where she told her father and grandfather what had happened.
Her father shook his head and swore at his son for bringing the boy back to the village, but her grandfather instructed her father to go out and find them and then bring the boy to their home. Scowling, her father obeyed. A short while later, the boy was bought in and laid on the thin mattress that lay on their sitting area floor.
They scurried around to get help, and a doctor from a neighbouring village was soon found. As he tried his best to stop the bleeding, they all discussed what next to do.
‘Contact his family straight away’
‘No. They’ll have us all arrested within minutes’
‘We can’t keep him here’
‘We can’t just leave him anywhere either. He’ll die. He needs rest, the wound will heal but he needs rest’ the doctor advised.
‘They’ll come searching for him and will probably arrest us all anyway’
‘Where does he live?’
The boy waved his hand, weakly, motioning them to quiet down.
‘My family live near Tel Aviv’ he spluttered. Shocked, they all fell silent. They had assumed that he was from a settler family, but he had actually come into Gaza from the city of Tel Aviv.
‘How do we get you home? They won’t let us cross over’ Adeela’s father said. It was true, the crossings into Israel were guarded heavily by Israeli militia, and crossing over with a wounded Jewish boy was going to be impossible.
‘I know’. The boy replied, staring at them all in turn, expectantly. Adeela’s grandfather spoke up.
‘What is your name?’
‘Berel’ the boy replied, hesitantly.
‘You can stay here until you are fully recovered. Then you can go to the crossing by yourself, and you will have no problems crossing over. Maybe the officers will even drive you home’
Instantly, deafening cries of protest rang out. But her grandfather raised his hands to show that his word was final.
‘Won’t anyone come looking for you?’ An uncle asked the boy, who shook his head slowly.
‘We are not permitted to come into Gaza, by our families. My friends would be in too much trouble if their families find out what we did. I got carried away with my friends, they all wanted to come over, and…we didn’t mean to cause trouble. They will think I am going to die, they won’t tell anyone that we came all the way over here’ he spoke softly.
‘Don’t worry’ Adeela’s grandfather re-assured him. ‘Nothing will happen to you and you will be returned home safe and sound’.
He then requested for everyone to leave the boy alone, and everyone left except the doctor, who continued to tend to his patient. Adeela’s father shooed her into the kitchen, where her mother had watched everything through the veiled square hole in the wall.
Adeela stepped up onto a chair and peeked in, through the window. Berel cried out in agony every few seconds as the doctor cleaned the wound. After the doctor had left, Berel lifted his head an inch to observe his surroundings, fearfully and as her grandfather fussed over him to make him more comfortable, Adeela wondered how long he would stay, or could bear to stay.