So we duly piled into Mohammed’s car. I was nervous and excited at the same time. This man was inviting us into one of the most contentious area’s within the West Bank. He told us that some days he wasn’t allowed into his street, most days he was ridiculed and attacked and that the soldiers had put something down on the road to identify his car to the settlers, so they would know when he was approaching so they could mock. “Today will be ok” he said, “today I have a permit.” This permit allows him to enter and leave his street. This permit is not issued every day!
Eventually we came to a huge metal barrier in the road. Here Mohammed has to beep his horn to alert the soldiers to his being there. It isn’t as if they don’t know, there are camera’s looking down on us from every angle since we arrived in the area. This is certainly Big Brother watching us!
He explained that sometimes, he can be left sitting there for over 2 hours, even though the soldier who has to open the barrier is less than 200 yards from where the car is. Today he was lucky and the soldier, armed to the hilt, approached the car straight away. Mohammed’s permit was checked against a list, then the barrier was opened and we are allowed to drive in. We probably drove 200 yards, then turned left. This is where Mohammed lived. If we had turned right, this is where his attacker had lived, Baruch Goldstein, the assailant who entered the Ibrahini mosque at morning prayers and slaughtered over 20 men and injured many, many others. On a daily basis, Mohammed had to face this cold blooded murderer, who lived his life in luxury as he never came to trial.
Mohammed invited us into the shade of his verandah, where grape vines hung from the roof. His beautiful wife came and greeted us with mint tea and Eid biscuits. He proceeded to tell us his story, with Manal translating. She didn’t manage to get very far into his story before she herself broke down.
Mohammed was shot and left for dead. He was so badly injured that he was counted amongst the dead and was paraded around the streets as a martyr. He was taken eventually to a hospital where they discovered he was alive. He was in a coma for 10 days. During this time, his family had been told that he was dead…..but they had no body, none of the familes had any bodies, as Israel was trying to cover up as much as possible about what had happened. His family had a funeral for him, not knowing if or when they would ever have his body to lay to rest.
We all sat with tears rolling down our cheeks. I looked over at Mohammed’s wife, who sat with such dignity and silent tears also rolling. I got up and walked over to her and hugged her tight, both of us now sobbing in each others arms at the horrific tale her husband had told us. My heart felt leadened that a human being could inflict such atrocities to others and have no remorse or shame for what they had done, all in the name of so called religion. In some circles, Goldstein is venerated as a hero and now has a shrine to him over his grave.
Mohammed spoke with such dignity, and there was no malice or anger in his eyes, even though daily he suffers indignity under the hands of the occupation.
We left the cool shade of his grapevines and out into the searing heat and following cameras recording our and his every move. Mohammed drove is to the start of Shehuda Street, a street we were going to try and walk down properly, this time without any children. (this blog will be written about our first day in Hebron…eventually!!)
I will leave you with a photo of Mohammed and a picture of him as a Martyr. It is an image that is now scarred on the back of my eyes as his horrific story is now scarred in my mind.