By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Once she found out that a fence was going to be built right over her husband’s grave, she started pleading with the soldiers to leave the grave alone (it’s forbidden in Islam — and in Judaism — to move a grave). She asked them to build the fence right through her house if they had to, but leave the bones. She said they gave her 800 shekels (about $175) and told her she had to move the bones.
When she saw bulldozers coming to dig the path for the fence and the surrounding roads, she asked her neighbors to help her move her husband’s remains, so at least they wouldn’t be bulldozed. No one wanted any part of such a shameful activity, she said, especially since they had known her husband. She had to go to another village, where no one knew her, to get help.
When Rebhiyeh talked, her voice was high and small. She spoke in little bits at a time, just answering my questions. She looked like she couldn’t quite believe what was happening to her. It was very hot in the fifth-grade classroom (sign still above the door) we sat in. We were all sweating, a lot.
I asked Rebhiyeh whether she’s seen her house since she left it. She said she went once, and it’s still standing — barely — but after that, she never went back. I asked whether she stopped going because it’s too sad. She started to cry.
Her problems, clearly, go beyond the barrier. She and most of the other villagers living along the fence in the north are very poor. There is no electricity or sewage system. There’s been running water for just two years, and it only runs through the pipes every week or two.
But now on top of that, her house is uninhabitable, and her husband’s land, which has been her only source of income for years (she grew olives and almonds), was taken to build the fence. She had to beg her neighbors for flour three days ago. She doesn’t know how long she’ll be able to stay at the school; people are grumbling about their kids having to learn all crammed together on the top floor, with her and her kids living below. Her oldest son, at 19, is wandering around — she doesn’t know where — trying to get into Israel to work. She said he’s very angry and can’t stand seeing his mother and sisters living like this, with nothing, so he left. I felt a little queasy as she said this, picturing one more enraged, hopeless 19-year-old Palestinian man in Jenin with lots of time on his hands.
When I asked Rebhiyeh about the road map, she looked confused.
“You mean the road they just opened now [along the wall]?” she asked.
She’s never heard of the road map, and has no idea that there is a peace plan struggling to happen around her.
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