Jamal Ibrahim Mukbal


Jamal Ibrahim Mukbal

Born in 1972, works as a barber, lives in the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron.


I am from Iraq al-Manshiyya

Why do I say that I am from Iraq al-Manshiyya (currently in the area of Kiryat Gat) when, in fact, I was born in Beit Ummar?  Well because I am from there.  My father was born in Iraq al-Manshiyya, as did my grandfather before him.  I had an ordinary childhood, what might be called normal.  My father worked in a plant for stone cutting near Nablus, and later in the Notre Dame hotel in Jerusalem.  Until the First Intifada I did not encounter Israelis; I knew almost nothing of them and I also took no interest.  I don't recall us talking of 1948 in our home, nor at school. 

When the First Intifada broke out, at the end of 1987, we learned the meaning of the word occupation.  People from the town were killed, others were arrested and homes were demolished by Israeli bulldozers.  Curfew was imposed on us.  I opened up my ears to listen to the news.  I was 15 or 16, and felt I had a new life and new questions to ponder; for example, why my extended family, many of them residents of the refugee camp Al-Arub, lived in great poverty and destitution. 

At that time my grandmother and uncle told us many stories of Iraq al-Manshiyya.  They told of fruit trees, the flock and the trips to Jaffa to sell eggs, vegetables and fruit.  Up until the Nakba their lives in Iraq al-Manshiyya was easy, good and tranquil.  Suddenly they had no land, only narrow rooms in Al-Arub.  They also told of our family members that were scattered all over: in Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and here, in the West Bank, in a number of places.




I started participating in demonstrations along with other young boys from Beit Ummar and Al-Arub, and I would paint slogans like: "With our spirit and blood we shall redeem you, Palestine" or "The 'Fatah' was here".  We threw rocks, especially at buses on road 60 - the settlers' main route - which passes near Beit Ummar and Al-Arub.  We did not attend school since the army had closed it and turned it into a military camp, actually making it quite easy for us to find soldiers and throw rocks at them!

We would organize ourselves into groups of three-four boys, with a commander for each.  In addition to our independent initiatives, we would also get orders to execute various activities like handing out flyers, or attacking the home of a collaborator.  My parents knew I was active and greatly objected to the fact.  Of all my brothers, I was the only one who rebelled against them. 

One day, after somebody from Al-Arub had been killed by the army, there was a demonstration in Beit Ummar.  I marched with a flag and also took part in rock throwing.  When we reached the center of the town, the soldiers surprised us.  I ran away, sprinting for over 300 meters, and only then did I feel the blood dripping down my head.  The world began to spin around me and I lost consciousness. 

At that time my parents were in Jordan with my brother who had undergone medical treatment.  On PLO Radio, broadcasting from Lebanon, it was reported that I had been killed.  My father arrived in the Al-Makassed hospital in Jerusalem immediately.  There were loads of people there; some were crying.  He made his way past them and suddenly discovered me alive.  For three years I underwent treatment and took medication for the injury I had sustained, and which left a scar on my head. 


The arrests

In November 1988, a few months after my injury, we were told to hoist flags above all public building - the schools and the mosque - because Abu Ammar (Yasser Arafat) was about to announce the founding of the Palestinian State from Algeria.  When it was dark we hung up myriads of Palestinian flags in the center of the town, and that same night the army entered my neighborhood. 

We knew that when there was a civil car escorting the military jeeps it meant it was the vehicle belonging to the Shabak (Israel Secret Service) coordinator, and that arrests will be made.  As was the custom, they took the Mukhtar with them so that he would show them the house in question.  The Mukhtar called my father from the outside: "Ibrahim, Ibrahim."  All of us in the house were awake.  My mother was confused from sheer fright, and didn't know what to do first.  She quickly hid away the clothes I had been wearing the previous day.  Usually a person who has performed some kind of activity can be identified by his clothing.  Then she tried to feed me hurriedly. 

When the Israelis entered the home, I was on the second floor.  I heard somebody saying to my father: "I am Captain Nur, and I want Jamal."  A soldier went upstairs and entered the room where I was sitting and eating with my mother.  He let me finish eating first and then I was arrested.  I was small and shrunken.  The soldiers were surprised because they had thought they were coming to arrest a big guy.  My mother quickly brought some warm clothes and walked me down the stairs crying. 

I did not cry but I was very frightened.  In the jeep they blindfolded me and handcuffed me.  When they removed the blindfold, I discovered I was in my old school which had become a camp.  It was strange for me to see the classrooms filled with beds and equipment belonging to soldiers.  I was brought into a room, undressed and made to sit handcuffed in a corridor.  I leaned against the wall, ashamed of my nakedness, trying in vain to hide my private parts.  They didn't even let me keep my underwear. 

A woman soldier came and emptied a jar of water on me.  They brought me back to the room and told me to dress quickly.  They transferred me to Dhahiriya, where I was placed in detention.  I was 16 and slight of build, but only when they placed me in a room along with another 45 detainees did I understand how small I really was.  Among these people was Falah Arar, a veteran fighter, who had always been a role model for me.  I was very excited to meet him because until that point in time I felt I was in a strange world.  When I saw him I felt like crying - finally a familiar face.  On the day independence was declared, they transferred me from the room to a tent.  Outside, in Dhahiriya, they amplified the volume on the loudspeakers so that we would here the proclamation, but we could not rejoice and be happy.  After 18 days I was released. 

After a year I was once again arrested for rock throwing.  I denied the charges and was released after twenty days.  My father, mother and uncles urged me to cease my activities, but I did not listen to them.  One day I hid a rock behind my back and approached soldiers who were busy taking down a flag we had hung up the night before on an electricity cable.  The soldiers did not notice me, and when I was really close - four-five meters away - I threw the rock on one of them and hit his eye.

I ran away towards the houses and heard shots.  After two-three hours all the soldiers and jeeps disappeared from the town.  I was walking with my friends, really happy at the fact that little brave Jamal had chased away the soldiers.  Suddenly two jeeps appeared from two opposite directions and caught me.  The soldiers started hitting me.  I fell at their feet and they continued to hit me for a long time.  I was once again placed in detention in Hebron and on the third day was brought to court.  I confessed and was sentenced to two years.


Happy at the terrorist attacks

It is tough in the Ktzi'ot prison.  It is extremely hot; no family visits are allowed; there is no television and we often got the gas treatment!  But for me it was not a prison, but a university.  Older prisoners, teachers and doctors - all taught us, and learn we did, and plenty: about Palestine and the occupation; about the Israelis; about 1948 and 1967.  We also learned how to survive interrogations and how to behave towards the "rats" among us. 

In prison I took part in interrogations of collaborators.  True, it was cruel, but I do not regret it.  My task was to record these interrogations and write down the confessions.  There were some who confessed immediately, nonviolently, while some others did not.  I do regret not having taken an active role in the torturing.  When I remember all the things these people had caused - how many people went to prison because of them and how many people's death they were the cause of - I think to myself that I did not do enough. 

I was still in prison when Saddam Hussein fired missiles at Tel Aviv.  And I rejoiced along with the other inmates.  In wake of my appeal, 6 months were taken off my sentence and I was released in March of 1991.   I became engaged to my cousin Sa'adiya.  The condition posed by the family for the approval of the marriage was that she first complete her studies.  She was in tenth grade at the time.  I waited for seven years - until she completed her computer studies in college.

At that point in time I felt that I had advanced sufficiently and no longer had to be active as a field player.  I started organizing groups of young lads to whom I conveyed all the knowledge I had: how to act, what books must be read, what songs must be heard, who the leaders of the Fatah were, what the meaning of the flag was and why there were refugees in Lebanon - all that I had learned in prison. 

My wedding in September of 1995 was like a demonstration, with lot of flags of Palestine.  We lived in my family home.  My wife worked as a secretary and later as a teacher in a private school.  I worked as a barber. 

I objected to the Oslo Accords.  I felt the agreement wasn't fulfilling our own needs; rather, it was making room for more settlements and more check points.  I was happy for the suicide bombings - those who were killed were the enemy who had conquered me and was living in my city: Jews who had come from Poland, Holland, New York...  I made not distinction between civilians and soldiers and I cared nothing for children.  A dead Jew?  Very good.  People died on our side too.  I felt it was only a natural response.


The Home

In 1997 I travelled with my wife and two little sons to Saudi Arabia.  I worked as a marketing agent for a company for mineral water.  I decided to go to Saudi Arabia because I had started building a house and was drowning in debts.  For a period of two years I transferred money to my father in order to pay off the debts.  We came back from Saudi Arabia with 4000 Dinars.  My wife sold off all her gold jewelry and I got back to work - to finish building the house.  I built the house in Area C - an area which, according to the Oslo Accords, is under Israeli security control, near the settlement of Karmei Tzur near Beit Ummar.  One day, when we were at the tiling stage, I found a demolition order at the entrance to the house.

My father had bought the land in 1965, but at the municipality I was told I should take the demolition order seriously.  And so a new road of suffering began.  I managed to submit all the paperwork that proved ownership, but time and time again the session was delayed, and each time they would make it more difficult and require more documents.  But I continued building the house throughout, and on April 16th, 2000 I decided to move in.  There were no windows or shutters, no electricity or water, but so I was advised by people who had undergone a similar process.

That same day I brought in a little tractor to dig up a temporary sewage hole.  My wife was four months pregnant.   The tractor was digging away, with me next to it and my wife in the kitchen.  A white helicopter appeared and started hovering really low above us so that I could even see the people inside.  One of them was taking pictures of us.  The tractor driver ran off immediately because the vehicle was stolen.  That same day my wife had a miscarriage.  This miscarriage was a result of the occupation.  The house was not demolished but the legal process is still underway.  From being a simple house, it was transformed into a challenge, and I have related the events at length because I am a refugee son of a refugee. 





The group of the wounded

I did not participate actively in the Second Intifada.  I was very busy with the legal fight over the house, and one of my sons fell ill and had to undergo treatment for a period of a year and a half.  I still supported suicide bombings.  Although I was a Fatah man, I supported Hamas. 

One of my friends told me about a meeting with Israelis near the Dead Sea.  I didn't want to hear about it at all, but the friend told me to simply come: "You don't have to participate nor talk." So I consulted with my wife, but she did not like the idea.  Why should a patriot like myself meet with Jews?  Not suitable!  But I convinced her that I was going for curiosity's sake alone. 

I had always known the Israelis as soldiers wearing uniforms and carrying weapons.  It was surprising to meet them eye-to-eye and eat with them.  It still didn't change anything but it did arouse in me some hesitation and curiosity.  And thus I found my way into The Group of the Wounded.  The criterion for joining, on our part, was that we had either been injured or prisoners.  The Israelis do not have prisoners, so the criterion for them was that they had either been injured or served as wardens.  Two months after the group was founded we travelled together to Bosnia.  There, we had no choice; we had to keep each other company the whole time.  We talked of the refugees and about suffering under occupation.  They talked of persecution and the Holocaust.

The encounter there really affected me, and I wanted to know more about the other side and find more opportunities for such meetings.  Till that point in time I saw no difference between non-violent and violent resistance.  Any type of resistance to the occupation was legitimate in my eyes.  After Bosnia I invited the entire group to my house.  My wife and son, despite the latter being quite young, found it very strange.  They saw the pictures from the meeting sessions and asked me: "Are these the same Jews that shot at you?  Are you sure of what you are doing?"  It was quite hard for me to answer my son. 

Some of the Israelis accepted the invitation, but some found it hard to come to a Palestinian's home.  I hosted them nicely, and both my wife and father were present and welcomed the guests into the home.  It was during this encounter that I felt something change inside me.  Beforehand I had hesitated, because I didn't know how society would view this.  I felt as though I was in a bind, in a place where I have to defend myself and explain my behavior. 

I understand that I am losing out from this conflict more than the leaders.  It was my home that was threatened and it is my son who might be arrested; however, if there is peace I will be the one who gains.  I am still convinced that the Israelis are occupiers, but I also feel that I have achieved something through the meetings with Israelis, something I was not able to achieve through rock throwing.  The Israelis in the group are rightists.  They knew nothing about occupation, but they, too, have undergone a change and now they talk of the occupation, and a year ago both sides signed a convention that supports a two-state solution. 

I still support any type of resistance, but have reservations about civilian targets.  If I had the opportunity to go back to Iraq al-Manshiyya, I would not refuse, but today I would agree to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.  This is something altogether new for me - a change that came on as a result of these meetings.  And yet I still say it with some sort of shame.

I went with Gadi Kenig from the group and my family to visit Iraq al-Manshiyya.  All that remains of this village is a cemetery and remnants of trees.  And yet it still felt as though I had lived there my entire life.





* Jamal Ibrahim Mukbal participated in the "Wounded Crossing Borders" group.

 * Upper photo by  Oded Leshem 

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