Its midday as I take a few moments to sift through my emails before dashing off to lunch. The first is an article from The Guardian newspaper (London) about Israeli “preventive attacks” that destroyed ten Palestinian homes in the Christian town of Beit Jala. Details follow about the Korabi family, just settling in at 8:30pm when tank shells started to pound their home “sending the family of 17 scurrying for safety.” Amidst the roar of tanks and screams of children, 18-year-old Osama didn’t make it and was buried beneath his newly demolished home. My stomach begins to knot.
Next is yet another press release from Defense of Children International. This one, titled “IS ANYONE LISTENING?” details an Israeli attack on a Palestinian school for blind girls. The knot warps my gut as I read on about the breaking windows, and the cowering of young blind girls. DCI uses phrases like “gross and systematic policy of child rights violations by the Israeli occupation.” I follow their recommended action instructions and send out a few letters.
I recall my “almost four” year-old’s parting words earlier in the day: “I wuv you mommy,” said Natalie as I dropped her off at school. I read on. There has to be some good news these emails.
Next is a statement from MADRE, a women’s human rights organization, that Israeli forces are targeting Palestinian children with gunfire. “This is a horrifying thought and we do not make the allegation lightly,” they said.
I wonder if Natalie is taking a nap or just lying on her mat during “quiet time” at school. Then comes Amnesty International news. Elementary school children throwing rocks and one of them shot in the head for doing so. I move on.
Tonight I’m going to grant Natalie’s nightly request to “read more books.”
Then a story about 7-year-old Hiam. Since she lost her right eye to a soldier’s bullet on her way home from school in December, she is afraid to go to school, will not play with other kids and doesn’t talk much anymore. She clings to her mother all day and wets her bed at night. Both of them are in Connecticut now staying with my friend, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, while Hiam gets fitted for an ocular prosthetic. The Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund organized her travel to the US and arranged her treatment with The Yale Eye Center and Marino Ocular Prosthetics, who are donating their services. I send an email to Mazin, the young Yale professor, humanitarian, and activist who runs on five hours of sleep. I often wonder why we have a leader like Arafat when we have people like Mazin among us. I know his big heart will nurture Hiam’s spirit and bring something good back to her young life.
But the knots remain as I check major US papers on the internet. Our horrors are rarely told. A defenseless society that has endured 53 years of dispossession and 34 years of cruel occupation is rising up again with stones. In the process, another generation of us is physically and/or psychologically maimed. Norman Finkelstein once compared Palestinians to Native Americans. European settlers pushed them off their land, terrorized and killed their women and children and eradicated their means of livelihood. For defending themselves, they were branded as “savages,” or, as Finkelstein puts it “yesterday’s terrorists.”
At home, I make Natalie’s favorite dinner, mac and cheese with chicken nuggets, and heat up leftovers for myself, my first meal of the day. We play for a while and watch Rug Rats. She gets water all over the bathroom while she takes a bath and runs around naked until I catch her to put on her jammies. We read before she falls off to sleep and I venture out in the cold to my front porch with a glass of wine. Grateful to walk out of my house without being shot at for breaking curfew, I remember Natalie’s advice some weeks ago after she heard my prayers. “Mommy, you should wish on a star to protect Palestinians.” “It works,” she said.
The knots finally unravel into tears as I realize how easily I could be the mother of a terrorized little girl with one eye shot out. The thought of Natalie suffering like that is profoundly heavy. I selfishly thank whomever or whatever out there that spared Natalie the life under occupation. I scout the most promising star and make a wish for Hiam and her mother. Then, with a wine-induced power, I summon all the stars and counsel them to act on DCI’s plea to protect children from military assaults. So ends my day.