And I finished telling
her and waited for her tears, certain they would come. I remember I also
wanted to apologize to her for telling her something so terrible even
though it will be so sad and hard to hear, because one simply must know
what is happening so near, and because he had been alive and now he’s
dead. Perhaps I also needed to get it off my chest, and whom would I
tell if not her.
Her eyes remained dry and I wondered. Her gaze was flat, and stiff, and
empty. Time went by. Then she said: “But what did he do?”
What did he do? What kind of question is that? What does it matter what
he did? He is dead. Shot in the neck. Murdered. Is that your first
question? What did he do?
And I told her, I think I said, “They were throwing stones, and he...”
And she said, “I see”.
True, I didn’t tell her - I didn’t have the chance to tell her - that it
was not at the innocent that he was throwing stones, not at the
guiltless, but at those who incorporate violence since they are
That he threw stones at those who sit between him and his felled life
because they are there, which is not their home, and
that he lives in the ghetto which they maintain, and his neighbors and
family and he himself are humiliated day by day all day, because there
is the Occupation, and they – its facilitators – are there at the gates
of his life, at the aorta of his spirit and rights, and life.
That he threw stones at the checkpoint where the assailant sits, he who
bullies and violates and steals and takes, the executioner, the soldier who
is guilty of maintaining and facilitating a policy that hurts him.
Perhaps I didn’t tell her all of this, because I did not yet believe
that I would have to excuse myself to her. That dead Omar Matar would
have to prove to her his innocence, and his right to remain alive and
not to die.
Because I thought his death was stronger than anything.
“I see” she said, because for her that was enough. Now everything had
become clear. He threw stones and so he could be shot while running
away. In the neck. With live ammunition. And his life could be taken. “I
see” she said to me, and her face remained empty, and her tears never
came. Not even then. Only “I see” which she said, and fell silent.
After I already realized where she had gone inside herself, in the
middle or at the end of her meeting with me then, or perhaps only later
in my own feverish thoughts, there was a moment when - in my mind – I
said these words to her:
And if I had told you that not Palestinian Omar Matar but a Haredi
(ultraorthodox) fourteen-year old Jew was the one throwing stones at the
checkpoint, at a soldier, at a policeman? And the policeman then knelt,
took aim and fired at his neck while he was running away and the bullet
entered his neck and he fell and died, would you still say “I see”?
And if I told you that an angry fourteen year-old Jewish boy, had
thrown a stone at a military base housing Wehrmacht soldiers, and after
he had thrown the stone he ran away, and a Wehrmacht soldier chased him, then knelt, took aim and shot him in his neck, and
killed him, would you then, too, say "I see"?
And if I told you that a fourteen-year old boy had entered my next door
neighbor’s yard and thrown stones at his house, and at him, and my
neighbor opened his window, took out his pistol and shot him dead, would
you still say “I see”, about this imaginary boy throwing stones at my
neighbor who had never done him or anyone else around any harm, where
there is no occupier and no victim, and my neighbor had never harmed
anyone around him before would shoot him and take his life? Would you
still say “I see”?
But I didn’t say anything. I sealed my ebbing sob and my anger and
astonishment, and kept silent.
And I never saw her again. I didn’t happen to, nor did I want to. And
perhaps our paths never crossed again because I didn’t want them to. And
years went by. And I don’t know what she did with them. And I didn’t
think about her any more.
2010. Not very long ago, on television, I was watching the coverage of a
settler’s attempt to run over boys in Silwan, and remembered her.
A Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem. In a segregated discriminating
city where the law forbids Palestinians to build their homes, and the
law keeps demolishing their homes, which will never be made legal,
because they are Palestinians. Where Jews have settled and are protected
by the Occupation forces while taking over the place, step by step at
the expense of its inhabitants, under the auspices of the regime.
A car drives along, downhill, deviates from its track, collide with two
children one of whom is hurled in the air and falls on the road.
One’s mind and heart refuse to believe one’s eyes.
With what ease the scene was televised time and again - the child flying
in the air again and again and crashing down on the road - and the
Israeli anchormen and women, male and female reporters all click their
tongues, their faces empty and cold just like that of the girl all those
years back after I had told her about the murder of Omar Matar.
He threw stones, they say. It wasn’t the driver who started, it was the
boy. The boy the boy the boy the boy. Who threw stones. Who lay in wait,
who threw, who started, who is guilty. And the little body is hurled in
the air before crashing on the asphalt. And this tiny humanness, blunt
and burning, is flashed back from their empty, cold faces that say “I
But a car, never mind why, hit a boy. A boy was hurled in the air. And
crashed down on the asphalt. Is this not a closed, complete, objective,
And even if the driver was afraid and didn’t mean to do it, and did not
intentionally change his course in order to run them over –
And even if other children had thrown stones at him earlier, or even
these very children whom he ran over –
And in spite of this automatic acquittal of the Jew only because he is a
Jew be what may, regardless of what he had done –
Before all of this, ahead of all of these contexts and interpretations
and rationalizations, is
there not a child there?
A child whose little body was hit by a car, its impact hurling it in the
air until it fell and crashed on the road.
True, the child’s skin may have been slightly browner than the assailant
driver’s, and if not his skin color, than his accent may have been
different, and he was most likely not the boy next door, nor possibly
the son of a family relation of the Israeli television’s reporters. And
true, by means of
‘mandatory conscription’ that stamps its recruits with the State’s
stamp, be what may, the assailant driver himself – settled in Silwan and
manifesting Israel’s inherent injustice towards this neighborhood – is
to a certain extent everyman, every man who serves in the Israeli army,
as are the sons and daughters of all those anchors and reporters, and
they themselves, are either the hitting driver or those who protect him
in deed or in some future potential.
Because they too are soldiers.
And it is certainly not easy to sympathize with the victim of someone
you might know and be related to. Of your son and daughter. Your own
To sympathize with your witness, your mirror.
But is there – still – nothing that is not relative, I wonder, that is
not merely in the eyes of the beholder, that bears inherent meaning and
value regardless of circumstances and identities of those involved? In
his poem On the Slaughter, written following the 1903 Kishinev pogroms,
didn’t the poet Hayyim Nahman Bialik write:
Vengeance such as this, vengeance for the blood of a small boy,
Satan himself has not devised-
Words that have become emblematic of the non-relativity of evil. Words
that say that a crime is a crime, and a child is a child, and injustice
is injustice, always.
Again and again I recall that girl, now already 23 years-old. And I
imagine her witnessing a horrific traffic accident, perhaps, how her
heart begins to pound, how she approaches, with her bleeding heart that
I remember so well, and the driver stands there and one person lies dead
on the ground, covered, and she approaches the body, lifts the sheet and
sees the identity of the victim, and raises her eyes and sees the
identity of the hitting driver, and only then does she weep, or merely
says - “I see”.
And I think to myself, no, Bialik, you were wrong. Not the blood of a
child. The blood of a Jewish child, perhaps, but not the blood of just
Not in these parts and not at this point in time.
Here there is no such thing as ‘a boy’ or ‘a child’ if it is a
Palestinian, for a Palestinian is not ‘a child’ but always a
Here it is all – really all – about ‘ours’ and ‘us’ and ‘them’. And we
are right because it is ‘us’, and they are wrong because it is ‘them’.
And there is no evil or good conduct, justice or its violation, as an
inherent, permanent and absolute value regarded only in view of the deed
itself. Only who killed and who died.
There is only ethnicity.
Since the attempt to run him over at Silwan, 11-year old Omran Mohammad
Mansour whom the car hit was tried and found guilty. He has been placed
under house arrest and fined. However, 57-year old settler David Be’eri
who drove his car into the two children is not under any kind of arrest,
And just as I did back then when Omar Matar was murdered, now, too, I
stitch inside me the tears that rise and my anger and astonishment, I
lower more curtains, and again I distance Omar Matar and all the other
murdered children of Qalandiya refugee camp and the run-over children of
Silwan whom I’ve already distanced a bit, and already they are almost
mere words, and even less – stains of memory.
And that girl and those others like her who say “I see” – I distance
Until the next time when I will not be able to contain them again.
Until the next time someone within earshot says - “I see”!.