Burn Another One: Part Three
A story by Fathima Begum
(Read Part One: http://islamiquemagazine.com/burn-another-one-part-one/)
(Read Part Two: http://islamiquemagazine.com/burn-another-one-part-two/)
Adeela sat eagerly, waiting for the meeting to begin. Dinner had been eaten and the people of the community were gathering together. This meeting had been arranged by her grandfather and some of his friends, with difficulty. People were doubtful that such a meeting would be useful, and would much rather spend the evening at home, lamenting their losses.
A loud voice called out from the front and Adeela felt herself being squeezed as people took their seats on the ground around her. The speaker was a respected friend of her grandfather’s. He first addressed the families of the three young boys who had recently died after being shot at the Karni Crossing where they had tried to hijack a truck for supplies. He also said that hat there had been even more road closures and now they might have to walk a longer route, through the valleys, to get to the olive tree plantation.
Adeela shifted uncomfortably as arguments almost broke out amongst them. There were also going to be severe food shortages, because a tunnel that was used to bring in food packs and supplies from Egypt was also closed down. She noticed her friend Bahiaa crouching a few feet away. She smiled at her, though Bahiaa didn’t smile back, instead she stared at the man speaking, expressionlessly. Adeela knew Bahiaa must be feeling scared, and wished she could reach out and give her a hug, but she could barely lift her arm.
Someone squealed nearby, when the man informed them that they had been told by a Hamas official, that an organisation called Helping Hands Here would be coming to their part of Gaza. They wanted to help re-build the parts of the plantation where trees had been burned down. This was not going to be an easy job and they all knew that they could do with all the help that they could get. But they may not be able to get to their village. Again, they all shouted over each other and Adeela couldn’t understand what they would now do. She could ask her grandfather later on, but she knew that he would just smile at her kindly and tell her that she needn’t worry, he would take care of everything and all she needed to do was play with her friends. He didn’t want her childhood to slip away so quickly, he told her, and she told him that she was older than most of her neighbourhood friends, and she wanted to take care of them.
As they planned to organise a group of men who would journey to another village to ask for help to try gain access to the closed tunnels, Adeela sat gloomily and listened. She wanted to speak up but knew that no one would listen. She wanted to tell them that she knew that her brother and some of his friends had already made other plans of their own, and although she didn’t know what the plans were because she hadn’t been able to hear them properly when she had tried to listen in while they had been talking about it, she knew that their plans would be dangerous, so they were keeping it all a secret. Approaching Hamas for help was something that not all of the elders wanted to do, because some of them would say that Hamas were taking advantage of the situation and exploiting the civilians with their attacks on the IDF, and others would say that what Hamas were doing was what should have happened many years ago and if it had, perhaps they wouldn’t have ended up this way.
Finally, Adeela was able to stand up and stretch her legs after they had all agreed that they would arrange for small groups of men to guard the plantation through the night so that they could chase away the attackers, if anyone tried to set fire to the trees again. With the food shortages inevitably coming up ahead, it was now even more important that their means of livelihood wouldn’t be burned down. Adeela knew that her parents would suffer the most when there was less food, because they would barely eat, preferring to keep Adeela, her brother and their grandfather fed. Adeela hated going to sleep at night with her stomach still craving more food, not having eaten enough, but what she hated even more was watching her parents stare at the empty vessels, sighing as they ate the few bites of bread that they would have to satisfy themselves with.
“Bahisaa” Adeela called out. Bahiaa turned around, looking frightened.
“Come out to play tomorrow!” Bahiaa shook her head.
“Why not?” Adeela asked, poking Bahiaa, who looked a lot thinner than the last time Adeela had seen her.
“I can’t. Baba won’t let me” Bahiaa spoke softly.
“But you haven’t been out to play for weeks!”
“Something happened. I can’t” Bahiaa said, looking away as she spoke. Adeela demanded to know what had happened, and Bahiaa told her after resisting mildly. It was difficult to refuse Adeela.
“Dana. She is not well. A few weeks ago, she and my brother were coming back from our uncle’s house, and they were attacked when they were passing by the old settler’s village, and there was a fight and something happened to Dana and now none of us are allowed out without Baba with us”
Bahiaa held back tears as she spoke. Dana was her older sister. Adeela knew what the ‘bad thing’ was that could have happened to Dana, her mother had warned her about it. Shocked, she hugged Bahiaa tightly before Bahiaa ran off to walk home with her father. Feeling weighed down by grief, Adeela walked home.