Abeer stood holding her husband’s hand tightly. Even as they carried their two children, Shaheed and Malak, to a final resting place at the Ramallah graveyard, she could not help but dream of returning home to the way things were.
Jamal’s goal in life was to properly raise his children, Shaheed, 7, Wa’ad, 5, Malak, 4, and Abdel Munim, not yet two. He wanted to see his children grow before his eyes and then go on to university. This dream kept Jamal going. During the day, before being laid off because of the economic crisis, he worked as a truck driver for the Ramallah municipality. By night, he worked as a taxi driver.
Making home in an apartment in a two-story building in Ramallah’s upper middle-class neighborhood of Ein Musbah, the Barakat family thought they were far from the places in the West Bank where clashes have erupted. But what happened at 9:35 pm on April 30 proved that location would not save them from loss.
“I was doing laundry and the kids were playing in their room, Abeer says of that fateful night. “My husband had just come home from work and Shaheed asked him to go out and buy him chocolate and falafel. His father took the baby with him, leaving the other children in the house.”
Abeer says that before the explosion, she saw a burst of fire rising from the sides of the house. Then, everything came crashing down. “I was standing near the washing machine, which is in the corner. The wall collapsed and I fell to the ground, the washer falling on top of me.”
The mother and children all screamed at once, calling out for each other, but the sound of the falling walls and gush of water from the washing machine drowned out their voices.
“I pulled the washer off of me and called to my children. The silence was deafening. Finally I heard my daughter Wa’ad screaming, ‘Come get me Mommy.’ I just told her not to be scared and to stay in her place.”
“I began screaming hysterically for my children. They forced me into a car and took me straight to Ramallah hospital. Along the way, we found my husband and all I could tell him was to find our children.”
Abeer was in a state of hysteria when she reached the emergency room. Her clothes were stained with blood and dirt, her arm was gashed and bleeding profusely and she was bleeding internally.
“Those were the worst moments of my life,” she recalls. “I thought all my children were dead. I never would have believed that our house had been booby-trapped. We didn’t do anything. Why would anyone want to kill my children?”
When the doctors finally brought in Wa’ad, Abeer says she let out a huge sigh of relief. “I held her and cried.” Then she asked about Shaheed and Malak. The staff told her they were in critical condition and had been sent to Khaled Hospital, even though they knew the children had died.
Only Wa’ad had survived, clearly because she had been in the bathroom at the time of the explosion. When the bomb went off, the bathroom door fell on top of her, probably saving her life.
The next day, Jamal brought his wife the devastating news that the other two children were lost.
Shaheed, whose name means martyr, was given the name in honor of his father’s nom de guerre, Abu Shaheed. Jamal was given his nickname by fellow inmates during the many years he spent in Israeli prison during the first Intifada. Abeer admits now that she was uncomfortable with calling her son “martyr,” but wanted to fulfill the wishes of Jamal’s friends. Her other daughter was named Malak, for “angel.”
Palestinian officials remain close-mouthed about the explosion that led to their deaths. They say an investigation is ongoing. Some facts, however, seem clear. An explosive object was placed in the stairwell, near the foundations of the two-story building. The target, most Palestinians say, was Hasan Al Qadi and Abdel Fattah Doula, who also lived in the building. Israel has accused these two Fateh activists with the murder of an Israeli youth lured to Ramallah by a Palestinian woman via the internet.
Abdel Fattah, who survived the blast, says he, Hasan and two other men were in the house at the time of the explosion. “We were ready to leave, but Hasan said he was staying home. When we opened the door, the bomb went off. We ran out but Hasan couldn’t get out and was killed in the explosion.”
Abeer says she is sure that Israel was behind the blast. “The night before, my husband and I were sitting on our balcony. There was a bright object in the sky that I thought was a star.” But Jamal told her that it was an Israeli helicopter searching the area.
Still, the Barakat family never would have believed that the same time the next night, their home was to be reduced to a pile of rubble and that two of their children would have joined the ranks of those who have died for Palestine.