“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Reflections Of An Engineer From Ramallah

It is ironic that the Israeli Army selected their D- day to coincide with Good Friday. It could also be that our lord intended, in a subtle way, to remind the world of his crucifixion at the hands of his crucifiers albeit this time the act is being done to the smaller of his sisters and brothers. The Lord may have wished to remind us, contrary to the expectations of the crucifiers that resurrection follows and light comes out only from the dark dungeon of the grave.

It is ironic that the Israeli Army selected their D- day to coincide with Good Friday. It could also be that our lord intended, in a subtle way, to remind the world of his crucifixion at the hands of his crucifiers albeit this time the act is being done to the smaller of his sisters and brothers. The Lord may have wished to remind us, contrary to the expectations of the crucifiers that resurrection follows and light comes out only from the dark dungeon of the grave.

It was the first time ever that I could not participate in the traditional Via Dolarosa procession in the streets of the old city of Jerusalem. We started hearing the rolling of tanks and the armored vehicles at about one after mid night. There was ferocious shelling and shooting. I gathered my children into one room which I thought it might form a safe haven within the house and turned on the TV set. The declared aim of the war was to eliminate the source of terrorism. Naively one would think that this is prudent and falls quite in line with the “new world order” and congruent with the campaign spearheaded by the US after the September 11 tragic incidents. I know how most of the western world may view this Israeli campaign; thanks to the modern world of satellite media that turned the world into a small village. However, big TV coverage looks for big stories. Small individual stories that might tell the tale remain buried in the regard is a modest one meant to urge individuals like myself to pose legitimate questions in a world where the power game is based on convoluted logic and distorted facts. Perhaps it is constructive to describe the events from the vantage point of an average person who is not a seasoned politician neither a strategic analyst. I admit that these lines allow me to vent my sorrows and resentments.

In this situation one would think that information is of dire importance, in Ramallah we have few private and primitive TV and Radio stations and one single official TV and radio station. We resort to the private ones as the official one was completely dynamited two months ago by an Israeli army on the pretence that it helps incite the public. Few hours after the invasion started all TV and radio stations were silenced. Then electricity was out and soon after, water was cut. The repercussions that followed included but were not limited to the spoiling of food in the fridge, the spoiling of the medications that needed refrigeration and lack of energy for heating and cooking. Most important we were left with no touch with what was going on. Fortunately our telephone line remained on.

The actual street fight soon subsided. In other towns and villages the fight did not even start. This is because in the Palestinian Authority administered areas there is no regular army. The police force present is hardly enough to stop a Bank robbery. Even this force lost its entire infrastructure prior to the invasion by continued Israeli air attacks. The brave defiance in the old city of Nablus and the refugee camp of Genin forms an exception rather than the rule. The ferocious fight in those two locations portrays pure national heroic defiance rather than good strategic military action. It is fair to note that the brave young men and women of Genin without even a helmet were never defeated, they simply ran out of ammunition and were killed. Can it be that the Israeli people needed to realize that perhaps the copy rights of MASADA are not exclusive to the Hebrews only!

The twin cities of Ramallah and Albireh are under curfew since March 29 save for three hours every four days that are granted to the inhabitants in order to buy food supplies from the already depleted stores. Last week accompanied by my son Habib we went out the market during the curfew lifting hours. To my bad luck I drove into a junction were Israeli tanks were stationed. There was no way for me to turn back and run for my life. All bullets run faster than my car. I realized that at this point I have no protégé except my guardian angel. My heart of four bypasses doubled its normal beats and missed some in the process and so did my adrenalin gland. The American made gun pointed to my head was not on the shopping list my wife gave me. The 10 minute ordeal ended but not its effect which included returning home with empty basket.

Since the Palestinians have no army to be defeated obviously the war against terror would not be complete without house to house searches. Here I can solemnly testify that our daily rosary prayers did pay off. We were all quite lucky that only two tanks (merkava 3, the most modern in the world) and two armored personnel carriers stopped by the front entrance of our house. As we saw the soldiers dash out towards our house I rushed to open our front door in order to avoid what happened to our church Usher Abu George who got a shrapnel in his head when the soldiers blew open his apartment door. I could count twenty two armed to the teeth soldiers entering our house. The scene was indeed horrifying that I lost count of those who encircled the house and took firing positions. I should admit that their chieftain was well mannered and refrained from shooting me when I dared to ask if he mistakenly thought that my house was a garrison. The search by itself was smooth and non eventful. All my children together with their mother were locked up in one room but not without one armed soldier with them who stood sentry with a loaded M16. After about 75 minutes the soldiers surprisingly left. The general climate in our house was so serene that I really praised God almighty that upon checking up on my children I found them all still breathing. A similar episode repeated itself in the house of our next door neighbors “the Tannousses” with one exception nevertheless. The soldiers locking all the families in one apartment decided to spend the night right in the beds of those neighbors. In order to safely park the APCs the soldiers literally dragged the cars out of the driveway and smashed them with the Merkava tanks. I thought that perhaps for the Israeli individuals’ safety and wellbeing, the aim justifies all means. Actually I have seen this practice repeating itself at the end of each day.

Today is the 22nd day that our nation is locked up at home. Ironically this is the day in which our adversaries celebrate their independence day. Certainly this is not the proper time to think of old wounds or to remember what our parents went through in those dark days of Palestinian history. To our dismay history is blatantly repeating itself. It is more practical for me to think and concentrate on our small fruit garden and allow myself to call my weekly pesticides spraying against insects ‘my private war against terror’ which I very badly lost due to the continued curfew imposed by the Israeli army and my inability to poke my head out of the window. The consolation in this matter is the fact that every thing in life is relative. Sure enough I lost over 1000 kilograms of fine grapes and fruits but how can this be compared to the millions of tons of fruits and vegetables that were lost by Palestinian farmers. The basic difference is that if my garden is there to satisfy my ego but for others it is a way of life. My 1993 SIAT car riddled with bullets and shrapnel is still running, for numerous other people their cars do not look like cars anymore. Obviously when trigger happy soldiers did not find human targets to shoot at they found Palestinian cars parked in the streets as a convenient alternative to quench their thirst for blood.

The declared war against terror did not stop me from checking on our church. I did this the first time the curfew was lifted. However, I sadly report that I could not drive there because the roads leading to the church and downtown were totally devastated and looked like they have never been asphalted. Telephone and electricity poles are lying on the ground. Many trees were uprooted and all curbs and sidewalks were systematically ruined. I met St. Joseph sisters who informed me that the offices of the ministry of education have been completely destroyed. This included all student records from 1950 onward. All banks were and are still closed. This means that the people who are out of work and with no income could not even call upon their savings to maintain their lives. I should reiterate that presently the unemployment rate in about 100%. Yes, this is not an error; the number I typed is a hundred percent.

Yesterday, April 19, I succeeded in buying some meat for my children though I truly hope I did not. At the crowded butchery I ran into Dr. Muaed, an invasive cardiologist and Dr. George, a Pediatrician. When I very quickly inquired about why they were not in their normal position i.e. in hospital, both informed me that they could not reach there and were prevented from doing so by the invading army. To the best of my knowledge Ramallah has very few cardiologists. I thought to myself about what would happen to those people who may get a heart attack or those who need continuous cardiac care. I personally can easily relate to such cases because, two years ago, I myself had to fight a long and painful battle against 4 almost occluded arteries. A short conversation with those two Physicians uncovered another painful and regretful fact. The twin cities of Ramallah and Al bireh with about 100,000 inhabitants are now without even one single ambulance. All ambulances are out of commission due to either direct destruction by the Israeli Army or are out of order and cannot be repaired as all garages are closed. My thought traveled to think of those individuals with cancer, with people with kidney failure requiring dialysis, with mothers approaching the delivery dates, with children needing immunization, with children of meningitis, with diabetics needing special diet and medication, with people with no food or money and the list goes on with the sky as a limit. Still the most ominous result of all this was the success the Israeli leadership have achieved in setting a schism between human beings and their respective humanity and on both sides of the divide. The Palestinians are being treated with absolutely no respect to any dignity or human rights. The Israeli soldiers on the other hand are behaving as if they do not belong to a human species that has heart and conscience. Sadism is best manifested at the road blocks that they have erected around each Palestinian village and town. Personally I go through one road block between Ramallah and Jerusalem twice each day. What I see there is so despicable that gets beyond my ability to describe.

The above was a modest attempt to describe personnel experiences and observations since the onset of this latest Israeli action which in my opinion was an exercise in futility. The acronym used is ‘Defensive shield’ in order to save the Israeli public from potential suicide bombers. I am sure a heavy cost was incurred on their side both in casualties and in material even if this incomparable to the losses they inflicted upon us. In spite of this tragic situation I am not about ready to lose sight of the whole story. I am not a bit eluded by their carefully worded press reports and vehemently opposed to them. The war was in fact waged against the Palestinian National movement which has been gathering momentum and mushrooming. History tells us that such grassroots movements cannot be defeated they simply transcend with evolution from one state to the next. Suicide bombers are not born they are made. They constitute a phenomenon that is worthy of serious investigation. I do not pretend that I understand it neither do I condone it in any way shape or form. I can say however, that the very brutal living conditions imposed by the occupation have created the right environment for this evolution. The lack of any parity between the strong and the week is an important factor. To be magnanimous, I can point to the influence of the American Veto in the UN Security Council which adds insult to injury from the Palestinian vantage point. The Palestinians very much value and revere life; towards this goal for themselves and for their future generations they are presenting daily sacrifices on the freedom alter. If the Israeli army succeeded in eliminating a number of Palestinian hard liners they also succeeded in setting the stage for the birth of a multitude of even harder ones, some of whom may not have been conceived by their mothers yet. The gruesome scenes resulting from a lopsided power balance succeeded in amalgamating the Palestinian people together with their national movement in a single searing kiln of national unity rather than amplifying ideological differences amongst them.

Finally I wish to echo Patriarch Michel Sabbah’s position in this matter which trusts that a short and effective way out of this predicament is through justice. Accordingly, peace and security for all would prevail. Forgiveness is indispensable prerequisite for a historical reconciliation. Prophet Isaiah wrote that peace is the fruit of justice.


2016-10-24T07:33:48+00:00 May 1st, 2002|Categories: News|