Nourishment for mourners — Palestine diary
Turkish coffee in paper cups and handfuls of dates nourish the mourners. Banners declare children martyrs; their faces earn places in front of and beside national icons — from al-Aqsa to Arafat. Flags, of Fatah or Hamas or Palestine, flutter in defiance.
I feel a stranger in these mourning tents set up for the young dead. An intruder among crowds that spill onto the road outside, unfamiliar with this unique context for death.
Grief, denial, defiance, pride, anger, vengeance; the emotions lie heavy, not quite blending.
But in Jerusalem and Hebron, I, the foreign stranger with a notepad standing hesitantly on the threshold, am welcomed in and offered the paper cups of Turkish coffee and handfuls of dates. I choose a seat on the banks of plastic chairs that seem well-rehearsed in their duty.
They don’t see the intrusion but the opportunity, to voice their disbelief at claims their children were guilty of attacks and anger that bullets left no chance to prove innocence.
The mourning is not private. They attract hundreds of relatives, friends, neighbours and journalists. The Palestinian flag makes a rare appearance in Jerusalem, a sign of resistance marking out the home.
There can be repercussions. “[Police] told us that if anyone in this area throws a stone [during protests] they will break the hands of all the people here,” said Ahmad Manasrah, as he mourned the death of his nephew Hasan after an alleged attack on Israelis. Another of his nephews, Ahmad, had been with Hasan and was filmed being denied treatment while he bled on the ground.
More than 150 Palestinians have been killed — in alleged attacks or protests — since October. Most were given funerals only after long delays, if at all. The release of bodies recently hastened as Israeli authorities realised they were prompting the very protests they claimed funerals became. The idea was abandoned of filling the second intifada’s graveyard — the cemetery of numbers, not names.
Because chants at funerals became chants at protests for delayed funerals. The crowds still gathered, the banners still unfurled. And the sound bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets rained down anyway.