The news is out. Life is not fair and justice lies beyond us, not only in the courts, but in the choices we make. Ophar Rahoum, a 16-year-old Israeli, was murdered several weeks ago, and now the newspapers announce that a friend of mine, Amina Mona, “admitted” to involvement in the killing. She is the alleged e-mail seductress who made contact, “pretended” to be a “safe” friend, and then encouraged Ophar to come to the West Bank to meet her and, unknowingly, his death. That’s the news.
But, there’s more to the story. A Palestinian life has already been lost because of Ophar’s death. Amina’s father, heartbroken when he learned of his daughter’s possible participation in this crime, died of complications of a fall or a heart attack.
As for me, I cannot remember being more spiritually beaten than I am now. When I heard of Ophar’s murder at Palestinian hands, my heart froze. I had been writing about the death of Palestinian youths and how much we love and mourn the children who die in street clashes. Was this any different? Deliberately killing any child is evil, and I believe that as deeply as I feel anything. As much as I have personally suffered during my lifetime of occupation, I do not wish death to anyone, Israeli or Palestinian-especially children.
One of our neighbors said to me, “Come on, Samah, it is sad to kill a boy or a civilian, but had Ophar not been killed, he’d hold his gun in a couple of years’ time with the rest of his peers in the Israeli army and enjoy Israel’s favorite hobby, killing Palestinian kids.” I flinched when I heard this justification of murder. I felt terror and, again, the freezing of my heart. “Is this what we have come to? Has oppression blurred our vision and blinded all insight? Where is goodness? Where is God?”
Now, as I fear the worst for Amina, my love flows entirely to her. I forget the horror I felt when my neighbor justified Ophar’s death. I desperately want to talk to Amina. Anger begins to grip my feelings when I read about Israelis arrested for murder. News about an Israeli sniper who killed a 14-year-old on his way to school with nothing but a tablet and pencils in his backpack catches my attention. The Israeli courts called this “a not highly recommended killing” and sentenced the soldier to 49 days in jail. Since Amina was arrested, an Israeli, Nahoum Korman, was convicted of murdering Hilmi Shoushe, a 10-year-old Palestinian boy. The killing occurred five years ago. Finally, the Israeli court had decided to try the case. Nahoum Korman is found guilty of manslaughter, not of a deliberate act of murder. His punishment: six months of community service. I dread to think how the Israelis are treating my accused friend. When I read these reports in the newspaper, I want to scream out about such unjust sentences. A wrong like the murder of Ophar surely is the result of oppression Israeli has imposed on us. If they do not take our lives, then Israelis murder our psyches.
I dread to think how they are treating my accused friend. The only news that seems to relate to Amina’s case-the possibility of bail is not even suggested-is that Israel has resumed a policy of torture. If that is so, I know what awaits Amina. Unlike the light punishment meted Israelis who kill Palestinians, Amina, if she survives at all, will spend her life in prison. Prison will devour her youth and cause her endlessly to regurgitate the bitter reality of being Palestinian. A boy is dead, a loving father is dead, and now, Amina.
How I want to tell her that I love her still, no matter what her crime. I calm down as I think on and on about Amina and begin to think, again, of the crime. I abhor murder, but I love Amina. I, and so many of us who know her as a lively, intelligent, ambitious and honest young woman, cannot believe the story. Was she sincere in her communication with Ophar, then both of them tricked by others who caught them meeting? Was Amina tortured into admitting guilt? No one, not even officials, seems able to contact her. One story circulated that Amina had died in jail. Then we were told that this was not true.
We called Amina’s lawyer; we went to visit Amina’s family. Someone reported that Amina was in a hospital, in “deteriorating health.” Then came news of the death of Amina’s dear father. Now, we read about Amina’s admission of guilt. We are told that Amina planned to kidnap the boy and to use him “symbolically” in a press conference to attract the attention of the world about the daily killing and maiming of our Palestinian children. But anger got the best of those involved in the scheme and Ophar ended up dead. And, you, beloved Amina, what has happened to you?
A Plea to the World
If I cannot get a letter to Amina, I want to cry out to the entire world, “When will the Holy Land be holy? When will the state that uses religion and tribalism to espouse evil allow a system that encourages justice for all of us? When will we learn that different as we are, we are all human beings? We Palestinians, the Israelis, the people who encourage our war from beyond are so alike. Think! We have two brand-new maps of the human genome to prove it.
We have science making so much of what we believe understandable; we have our religions which teach us right from wrong. And yet, look where we are.” If I cannot expect God to intervene, then my prayer is to God’s people: Help change the ring of destruction that surrounds all of us. Please, please, Israelis and Palestinians and those who influence us from beyond our borders, help us on this tiny plot of earth to recognize that, like it or not, we are of one universal human family, one species, with the unique ability to reason, to distinguish good from evil, and to choose love of each other over determination to take whatever we want only for ourselves, regardless of the cost to others. For me, reverence for God expresses itself in reverence for people. As I think about my dear Amina and of the boy Ophar, I cannot help reflect that recognition and acceptance of the universality of our humanity is our only hope for justice. Please, world, let this realization born in thoughts about destruction of a boy, a girl and a father bring an end to the evils destroying all of us in Jerusalem and beyond. Amina is far from our reach and from anyone who cares about her. She is all alone and so are we.
(Samah Jabr is a freelance writer and medical student in Jerusalem. This article was written with the assistance of Elizabeth Mayfield.)