With A Name, Not A Number

I glanced over my shoulder to find the schoolboy still standing there, moving his head from one poster to the next. He was squinting his eyes at the two faces on the posters, perhaps trying to make out the differences…or the resemblances. Was he wondering why they were killed? Was he wondering what they were like when they were his age? Was he wondering about the political icons on the poster? Was he hoping this would never happen to someone he loves? That was when I began to look at the same posters glued a few feet away from the wall this little boy was looking at.

 They were the posters of two brothers, Emad and Adel Awadallah, who were killed in 1998 (lots of conspiracies surround how and where, and I won’t get into it), but for the past sixteen years, the brothers have been buried in the Cemetery of Numbers in Israel – one of the occupiers* torturous tactics. Four of these cemeteries have been found, and it is unknown if more exist.[1] Unlike the cemeteries you’d naturally think of and those in scary Halloween films, the dead do not have a tombstone on their grave. Instead, a metal plate –in place of a stone – is there with a number planted on it. Three days ago, however, the occupiers gave the Awadallah brothers back to their families.

 After the brothers’ burial, a protest broke out in front of one of the settlements in the city. A neighbor’s garden caught on fire. The street was filled with shouting and whistling all to make some noise and express a part of the hatred towards such things. The smell of tear gas not only filled the air but also occupied the homes. It was the first time I have ever experienced such burning smell that hurts the eyes and burns the throat.

 By nightfall, the clashes had died out – only to be picked up from where they left off the next day – and just like the cemetery, the neighborhood went quiet. All that was left to remind everyone- the occupied and the occupiers- that what happened today actually happened is the small fire lit in the street…that and two more tombstones that hold names in the place of what were two numbers for sixteen years.

 

[1] Cemetery of Numbers: Deprivation of Human Rights. www.makaberalarqam.ps.

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