Disasters of the War

16/01/2012 Jalal Khudiari

In 1967 my parents, my five sisters (Leila, Khawla, Salwa, Asma and Sana), my two brothers (Jamal and little Hisham) and I lived in Jenin. We had to flee to Amman. The ongoing war and the painful memories of the ‘48 massacre, gave us more than enough reason to leave for Amman. We left in a car that my father had rented for us. He stayed at home to finish some important things. It was God's will that he didn't accompany us.

In a small village on other side of the Jordan River, the pain hit us. I was 5 years old. Each moment, each second is still registered in my memory. My mother carried my little brother in her arms; my sisters were at her sides. I saw an Israeli plane approaching, it flew very low and very close to us, with an alarming noise. When it came close to us my skin started to burn because of the plane attack. It returned in less than one minute and sent a bomb. After the explosion there were bodies everywhere. Hell's doors opened at that moment. I looked at my mother and my little brother, whose face was cut into two. The explosive went through my brother and touched my mother. My sister Salwa's leg was cut in two; she had also lost some of her fingers. Many metal splinters penetrated her body in different places. Metal splinters also penetrated my leg which I have to say, denied me a normal childhood. My sister Asma was killed.

A few minutes later, a Jordanian soldier removed the bodies from the remains of the vehicle. The wounded were taken to the hospital. Before they left a Jordanian soldier bandaged my leg. Only my three sisters, Khawla, Leila and Sana and I remained. I called my mother and my father, but there was nobody to answer. We wanted to go to Amman as mama had planned for us. The suffering grew when we found my brother Jamil. He was thrown from the car and a Bedouin found him. His hair was singed and it was flaring. My sister Leila, although very small, succeeded in stopping a car and we found ourselves at the door of a hospital. My father was there; much weakened, and could not speak to us. I never thought that I would see him in that state; for me he was Superman, the one man who could protect us from any danger, the smart captain who sails his ship through the waves to a safe shore. I never thought that I would see what I saw that day in the hospital. Since then, not a day, not a moment passed, that I thought I would ever speak to an Israeli. I was convinced that whoever spoke Hebrew was an assassin. There was in me only blood, pain, and violence.

One day, a very significant event occurred. One of my friends died in the Intifada. I returned home filled with hatred of the Jews, blood, and the war. My father heard me, and saw how much I was shaken, and he did not speak to me. He is a religious man. Some time later, Jordan Television presented a program on Hitler and the Holocaust, and my father invited me to watch it, without saying anything. I watched and saw. After the showing, he said to me: "I want you to learn something. When you hate somebody, you cannot reflect, when you cannot reflect, you cannot make a good decision. Hatred can only cause you to make errors, and life cannot continue like that. It is necessary that you have a positive role in your own life."

I was a principal in Turkey. I was surprised to discover that there were meetings between Israeli and Palestinian principals. I had reservations. A man told of the death of his son in the explosion of a bus. I did not need many explanations because I had internalized what was pain. The fact of seeing an Israeli feeling pain and loss led me to speak with him, to tell him what had happened to my family. While I was there, I also met Mr. Boaz Kitain who today is the Israeli General Manager of the Parents Circle Family Forum and he spoke to me about an association which was comprised of Jewish and Palestinian families. He invited me to come to see them, to listen, to remain if I wanted to. I did not pursue the invitation. After four months, I received a call from Dr. Adel Misk, the Palestinian representative of this association. He invited me to a meeting in Jerusalem. I answered that I would see, Inshalla (with God's will).

It was not an easy decision to make; I spoke about it to my father and to my sister Salwa, the two most significant people in my life. Salwa, despite everything that occurred, does not have the least trace of hatred or spite in her heart. She told me to go there.

I went to Jerusalem. There were Israeli and Palestinian families. All spoke about pain, and of what we had not gained with violence. That influenced me a great deal. I saw that there was a human aspect, which I was to discover more of. As of that moment, I felt that I had a mission, a national duty. The release of land is not done only with rifles. The Israeli community must be able to see in me somebody who holds tightly onto the hand of peace.

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