It is a beautiful autumn morning in the Holy Land. So magically beautiful in fact that a Palestinian teenage girl walking to school and daydreaming of romance would be forgiven for forgetting, just for a few seconds, the ugly occupation breathing death down on her at every street corner she takes.
She has used this same route for years now – she can walk it blindfolded. She has learned the rich history of her ancestors and the deadly substance of the occupier on this very same route. Often when she’s walked it, she’s experienced sickening palpitations and involuntary fist-clenching to encounter the occupier enemy at close range, be they armed and in uniform, or in civilian clothing with weapons possibly concealed. She has many times seen hate and murder in their eyes as she nervously stepped past them. This is her daily trail of fear and loathing and she affectionately calls it ‘my little redemption road’.
But today, as she walked the ancient Jerusalem street, she noticed something different: the street was unusually empty of enemy pedestrians. She took a good look around and sure enough, not a single hostile invader was in sight. This had never happened to her before – all her life, the occupier has been perpetually before her, beside her, behind her or above her. The enemy’s absence was thrilling. A sudden euphoria stirred in her heart and two small stars emerged from the waters of her widening eyes. ‘This is what it must feel like to be free!’, she thought to herself and began skipping childlike, breathing deep the refreshing chill of the autumn air. Spontaneously, and for no discernible reason, she took a sudden left down an empty walk street. She ran down the narrow slope of it as if it were a vast green pasture under big skies. Under her breath, she was humming a love song.
But euphoria under occupation is a fleeting mirage. Happiness under occupation is impossible. Peace under occupation, non existent. Life under occupation is either everlasting sorrow or premature death.
In fact, the shadow of death hovers perpetually over every occupied person, day and night after day and night. And today, despite the street empty of enemy, death was still present where the Palestinian teen was enjoying the momentary lapse of her brutal reality. She was flushed with dreamy life, skipping and singing and looking skywards when all of a sudden, out of the shadows of a doorway jumped a heavily breathing man, a settler with a glaze of rage and murder in his eyes, his thick hands pointing a menacing knife at her from two feet away.
He wasted no time and instantly lunged at her. She gasped and stepping back in terror, she fell to the ground. The settler maniacally threw himself on top of her, attempting to stab her while she blocked his dangerous wrist by gripping it with both hands and pushing it away from her body. She was revolted to feel his turgid breath on her face as he cussed and spat at her eyes, damning her soul to the darkest pits of hell – pushing the knife forcefully, shakily, closer to her jugular. But her will to live matched his will to murder and for what seemed like an eternity, she held him back with strength spun from sheer primordial fear – till his knuckle-punch to the side of her ribs winded her and the savage suddenly gained the upper hand.
Now his blade is actually touching the delicate skin of her neck while she attempts feebly to push his hand away. Now the knife tip pierces and a thin hairline of blood trickles down her neck. Now a single tear falls from her eye in honor of her mother. Now she feels the knife tip digging deeper and her life flashing before her eyes – the faces of all her loved ones frantically rush at her and fade and weaken her from sorrow. But unexpectedly, the image of her childhood friend who was kidnapped and burned alive by settlers remains vivid: his gentle face swirls and grows and clings to her for dear life; the spirit of his profound memory wraps her and breathes a new fire into her lungs, into the veins of her trembling hands – a fire that alchemizes her emotions and turns her fear of the assailant into boundless courage and strength – turns her fear of death to immeasurable passion for life. ‘This is my land, my life!’, she locks eyes with the killer and firmly heaves. He grunts flailing and grinding teeth – so enraged by her meaningful words. She takes advantage of his emotional unsteadiness and with both her hands still gripping his knife-wielding wrist, she begins to use her whole body: rocking them both from side to side with all her might: wildly from side to side till they start rolling down the slanted street, rolling and rolling and darkly embraced…
When the rolling stops, both victim and assailant remain entwined and motionless… Then a twitch of fingers, soft fingers – a small heaving sound before the Palestinian teen rolls over the settler weighing on top of her and quickly, aghast, she scrambles to her feet.
Breathless, in disbelief she stares down at the corpse that once raged at her. His eyes are now empty of hate, empty of love, empty of everything. His lifeless fingers still grip the knife and the knife’s blade is buried deep, deep into his own heart.
Like the ghost of a gazelle she runs fast and away from the site of her failed execution. Unseen by anyone.
The fabric of her being is now profoundly altered by this encounter. Tomorrow she will go to school with knife in pocket and an inconsolable desire for freedom.