Excerpts from Nahum Barne’a, Yediot Aharonot, Shabbat Supplement, 8/30/02:
“Haled put the plate of knafeh on the table, to put something sweet into the bitter, and said simply: Our little brother, Issa, did the terrorist attack in Rishon Letzion, in the pedestrian mall.
Two new immigrants were killed in the terrorist attack in the pedestrian mall on 23rd May this year.(it was actually on the 22nd, Barne’a doesn’t mention that one of those killed was a 16 year-old) The Tanzim, the military wing of Fatah took responsibility. Issa, the murderer, was 17 when he died, a high school student.
“Ahmad El-Mugrabi from the Tanzim enlisted my brother,” said Haled. “El-Mugrabi has a brother, Ali, who studied at the same school as our brother. He filled his head. That’s how he enlisted the girl who committed suicide in Kiryat Yovel (the supermarket in Jerusalem), as well.
“At the beginning of the Intifada our father called us, the three boys, for a talk. You’re not part of this story, he said”.
“I was closest to Issa”, says Haleed (Haled’s brother). “He used to tell me everything. He even told me that he had begun to smoke, a big secret at his age. But he didn’t tell me about the enlistment.
"On the day of the terrorist attack he threw a party at a friend’s house. With music. Then he told Mom, I’m going to play football. At 11 that night we started to look for him. Three days later I turn on the television, here, at work and I see a photo of my brother and message of the Al-Aqsa Brigades. My brother had suddenly become a Shaheed.
“He’s not a human being, this El-Mugrabi. Why did he send my brother to commit suicide and not his own? If I had seen him in the street I would have done something bad to him. The brothers of the girl from Kiryat Yovel looked for him for a long time. They wanted to kill him”.
But El-Mugrabi is not to be found. He’s in an Israeli prison.
“Last week,” Haleed said, “They came to us from the army. They said if you work with us we won’t do anything to you. I said I’m not working with anyone. Then you’ll sleep in the street like a dog, the soldier said”.
“Then the army came a second time,” Haled said. “You’ve got half an hour to take out your things, they said. My father is a lawyer. He asked if they had a warrant. They said, you’ve already wasted five minutes of your time. Yallah, terrorists. Get out.
“After the soldiers had laid the explosives, they all stood for a souvenir photograph, like a soccer team. Then came the explosion. We had a palace, a 375 square meter house and every thing is gone. We didn’t have time to take out half of the things”.
“The Palestinian Authority came”, Said Haleed, the younger brother. “They said we’ll give you a monthly allowance of a thousand shekels. My Mom said I don’t want it. Is that the price of my son’s life? They took him to die at an age they don’t take boys to war”.
“If I had known what he was going to do, I would have cut off both his feet”, says Haled, the older one.
“I watch Arafat on TV”, says Haleed, ”And he’s shouting Shaheed, Shaheed, Shaheed. And I say to him collaborator, collaborator, collaborator. Ahmed Yassin is better than him. At least, Yassin doesn’t lie. Doesn’t talk of peace and make war”.
Abu Zooz says, “When the IDF entered Bethlehem a lot of people were pleased. Beforehand, every five people here, every ten people, would take weapons and become their own government. They would come into the restaurant and say: Give us all the money. Or they would phone me up and say: Give us 40 thousand dollars, or else we will kill you.
"But now you’re coming in, going out, and coming in, and going out. 90% of people in Bethlehem say it’s better that Israel stay”.
“It’s true”, says Haleed.
“When Arafat first came I said he’s bringing bad luck with him,” said Abu Zooz. “No good will come of him”.
“And now my father cries”, says Haled, “he cries all the time. They won’t give us back the body. They say they’ve buried him in Beer Sheva, but they won’t tell us anything”.
“We have a question,” Haleed says. “Are we allowed to rebuild our house? And if we do, will they destroy it again?”
Why is the house important? I ask.
“We can’t bring back my brother to life. At least we can get the house back. I am just thinking about the house all the time. I have decided to save enough every day for one brick, till we have enough for a whole house.”
The next morning I told their story to Muhammad Dahlan, Arafat’s close aide. …
“…I know the Palestinian people. You’re right, they are angry with Arafat. They say to me that he %!$#ed everything up. I tell them not to be heroes with me. We’ll come to him. I will attack him and you will just say Dahlan is right.
"And then they come to Arafat, and Arafat kisses them, and they start to tell him how great he is””.