Week 46 – Where’s Haitham?

In the three months I have been living in Bil’in, I’ve made a lot of friends, most of the village in fact, but some are closer than others.  Haitham is one that I’ll never forget…
When I first arrived in the village, it was Haitham who greeted me.  but it was during the long nights, sitting up on the look-out for invading Israeli Occupation Forces, when me and Haitham really got to know each other.  I told him about my life on the road, and he told me aboutlife under occupation – both are unique, both are impossible to imagine until you live it.
During every Friday demonstration I found Haitham at the front, video camera in hand, so we were destined to spend a lot of time together, even if it was under fire.  Haitham is the resident cameraman in Bil’in, so when soldiers are starting beef, Haitham is always there.
One day, Haitham invited me into his home to share a cup of tea, as is the Palestinian tradition.  The moment I met Karme, I fell in love with him – Karme is Haitham’s youngest son, aged two, and when he was eight months old Karme was diagnosed with leukemia.
“I used to take him to the hospital in Jerusalem every day,” Haitham told me, “but recently I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the permit I need from the Israeli authorities, so my wife goes instead.”
Now I visit Haitham’s house all the time, even just to sit in their garden and read a book (at the moment it’s entitled “Hezbollah”) or to say hi to Karma and Khawle, Haitham’s wife, who’s always happy to make me a few sandwiches or wash my clothes.
“Aola is like your sister now,” Haitham once told me.
I remember once going to al-Quds, and getting a phone call as I was catching a bus to a friend’s house.  I heard Karme’s voice on the other end…
“Dodo… O TAY!”  Roughly translating as, “Jody, OK!”  It was so sweet.
I was as upset as anyone when the Palestinian Authority cut the funding for his healthcare in Jerusalem.  Nevertheless, Karme’s smile still brings sunshine to my day.
When I first arrived in Palestine, I participated in one of Ni’lin’s weekly demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall.  Like Bil’in, the Wall there consisted of barbed wire, military-only roads and electric fence, all “protecting” the illegal Israeli settlements built onNi’lin’s land.
Last Friday, I decided to return to Ni’lin, to visit old friends and again participate in the demonstration, but things have changed since I last came.  As we marched to the Wall, Palestinian flags in the air and chanting with impassioned voices, I couldn’t see the electric fence… or the military road below – both were blocked by newly-constructed, eight metre high concrete blocks.  The Israeli Occupation Forces are trying everything in their power to impose Apartheid onto the people of Ni’lin, but they will never crush the resistance.
After hours of protesting in the fields, I returned to Bil’in at around five in the afternoon.  I went straight to the community centre, where I expected to find Haitham uploading footage of the demonstration here.
“Where’s Haitham?” I asked Hamde, another brother in the struggle.  I’ve been sleeping on Hamde’s sofa for aweek.
“In jail man!” he replied.
Haitham’s bravery commands huge respect – despite his position as a journalist, Haitham too faces the constant dangers of injury or arrest.  Last Friday, that danger was realised once again.
At around 2am, after twelve hours in police custody and the confiscation of his video footage and gas mask, Haitham was released.  As soon as he was home, I went and knocked on his door:
“Joooody!” he shouted, giving me a big hug.  Even after just twelve hours, I had missed him a lot.
“I love you man,” I told Haitham.
“No Jody, I love you more.”
We sat on the floor and ate chicken, rice and bread.  Then we went out, to watch for invading soldiers again.

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