Burn Another One: Part Twelve
By Fathima Begum
Adeela rose early and dressed quickly. Today was the Day of Action. It had been organised by the Union of Agricultural Workers, as an event to demonstrate for the international boycott of Israeli agricultural products and Israeli agricultural export corporations. The onslaught on the livelihood on Palestinian farmers and fishermen was ongoing, and today they would plant some new olive trees where older trees had been bulldozed.
She had been surprised that her grandfather had agreed to take her along, and she had been looking forward to it for days. It had been the only thing had bought her any joy in recent weeks.
After Abbas had returned, and had told them tales of how brutally he and his friends had been tortured, none of them had been able to feel any ease.
They had been beaten and questioned ceaselessly about thing they knew nothing about. Their heads had been forced into cold water from time to time, and they had been kept hungry most of the time and even when they had been fed, it had been food that had gone bad. The two boys who had not survived had not been able to bear it and when they had died, the bodies had been kept in the same room that they had all been kept in for days, as a way of frightening them into submission.
Abbas rarely slept, and when he did he cried out in distress. Adeela had convinced him into joining the Day of Action with her, their father and grandfather.
Together, they made their way to Zeitoun. After they had all gathered together, they planted the trees, first cleaning the area and then filling it with fresh soil. As they planted their means of livelihood, they felt their hopes being renewed. There were so many blockades and a severe lack of all kinds of resources, so there was hardly any work available and people relied heavily on income from agriculture export. Somehow they all got by, yet they all knew that their real losses could never be compensated.
After the long day ended, they all travelled back home and rested. Abbas and his friends had been strictly forbidden to engage in anymore resistance activity. They had agreed, and were now setting about trying to find novel means of earning a living. They wanted to support their families and live in peace, though they all knew that was still as doubtful a reality for them as it had always been.
Some days later, Adeela and her family attended a wedding they had been invited to. The couple were young, and the henna on the bride’s hands glistened. They all ate from the buffet meal that had been arranged and they danced, though the men had stayed in their own segregated area. The celebration ran late into the night, and Adeela was enchanted by the cheer and good spirits. She wished for every night to be like this, filled with fun, laughter and exuberance. For this one night, all who we present forgot that they were oppressed, imprisoned and plagued by injustice. They forgot the misery of their daily lives, and the angst and despair they couldn’t escape from. They allowed themselves an occasion of sanguinity, knowing that soon their realities would drag them back into the deep drudgery.
Only a few days later, Adeela’s grandfather received a letter from his cousin, who had immigrated somehow to Egypt and had settled there. The letter had been delivered by someone they knew who had travelled to Egypt and had returned, with a letter to pass on to her grandfather.
He had been shocked to receive it and he had not imagined that he would ever hear from his cousin again, and he had opened it hurriedly and read it aloud.
‘As-Salaamu-Alaikum my dear brother. I hope this letter finds you well. I hope you are all in good health. I wish to be able to give you so much more than this letter but this is all I have been able to send at the moment. We are well, though not at peace, knowing that you are suffering every moment of your lives. I write to invite you to join me, with your family. We are comfortable here, in our neighbour’s land. I wish for you to be here. I am able to make the arrangements for you and your family to make the journey to Egypt. We will receive you and look after you. Please consider this, and do not tell anyone about it. I believe you will be able to send a reply with the brother who has been able to deliver this to you. I eagerly await your response’
Adeela’s grandfather sighed. She knew that he would never agree to leave Gaza, or Palestine. She sat by him and watched as he wrote his reply with his aged but steady hands.
‘Walaikum-As-Salaam, brother. I am happy to hear that you are well, and also I am pleased to say that we are also well, all things considered. I thank you for your invitation. However, I will not be joining you. An escape can be found, if searched for sincerely, but my brother an escape is not what I desire. I yearn for justice, and for my rights, and though I know that I may never live to see the people of our country living in peace, I still can’t leave this land. It is where we belong, and it is where we will live and die. Death will come for us all one day, we can’t escape this truth, and when I will die – it will be here, on the land I was born in, in my country’.