How the occupation came to me as a young boy

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Both my parents were away from home on the eve of the June 1967 war and I was home alone with my younger siblings. At the time we were living near in a rented house next to Rachel’s Tomb just outside Bethlehem. Jordanian soldiers were posted near our home and I remember how my older brother Jonathan came running and screaming as I was sitting leisurely in the balcony of our home. Go inside, don’t you hear the sirens, I had thought they were test sirens. Once we went he suggested that we go downstairs where it would be safer, we took a board game and a transistor radio which was broadcasting the ‘heroic’ news from Sawt al Arab that the Egyptians were bringing downs tens of Israeli planes.

But the reality was clear outside, hundreds of people from surrounding villages with children and belongings were making the walk into the center of Bethlehem which was thought to be safer. We decided to do the same where my aunt had a house. Both my older brother and I had to carry out younger sisters and we walked a few kilometers into my aunt’s house next to the church of Nativity.

My aunt’s home had been turned into an emergency hospital and my cousin Mubarak Awad (later to try and lead a nonviolence struggle only to be deported by Yitshaq Shamir) was bringing the injured. My most vivid memories was peeking a look and seeing some badly injured Palestinians and hearing the sounds of loud speakers encouraging Palestinians to leave because the town will be boomed. In addition to providing first aid, my cousin, whose family lost father and home in 1948 was out in the streets encouraging locals not to heed the Israeli calls and to stay home. He must be personally responsible for tens of families not becoming refugees.

Cousin Mubarak would later spend some time being interrogated in an Israeli jail being arrested after Israelis found a paper in his car talking about the effects of occupation. Having been a boxing champion with a healthy body, he looked pale, thin after his release.

It took a while for my parents to return. Mom who was caught in Jordan was smuggled across the Jordan River and the Red Cross helped dad, who was caught in Germany when the war broke, to return home. Upon dad’s return we went to inspect the church he was the pastor of on Mount of Olives. A rocket had hit the church most likely from the Mount Scopus enclave that the Israelis had kept in the post 48 cease fire agreement. The rocket left a major hole in the stone built church but since no one was at the church at the time, no one was hurt.

The most vivid memory after the end of the first days of the war was the demolition of the house of our neighbors. Apparently the Israelis suspected member to be involved in some resistance and we were all shocked when the army came and blew up their homes. Nothing has stuck in my memory as much as seeing the house across the street
being blown up in such a savage way.

Months after we went back to our home on the outskirts of Bethlehem and soon enough we found ourselves doing some business. The flood of Jewish Israelis visiting Rachel’s Tomb was perfect for small business. My mother would make daily a pitcher of lemonade and my brother and I would go out and sell to the visiting Israeli tourists.

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