I am in Palestine on a week-long-trip to attend a conference. As always, I will try to convey to you as much as possible of what I've been witnessing.
First and foremost, I wanted to bring you the greatest news that Abeer and Hanna Al-Khdier were released from the Israeli prison yesterday! Abeer had been wrongly imprisoned for a whole month, and Hanna for 10days. I went to visit them this afternoon.
Their home was crowded by tens of happy visitors - men, women, young and old. Both Abeer and Hanna greeted everyone with smiles and coffee, and looked great and in good spirits - except that they both grew so so thin. They were in a bug-infested solitary confinement for the whole time (Hanna's skin was covered with bug bites). Prison food, which was kicked into their cells by guards, was cold and unclean after being deliberately left outside for hours. They couldn't bring themselves to eat even after becoming too frail to stand straight (Hanna told me how her lawyer would peel and push into her mouth pieces of chocolate). After 18days of a 12-hour-day interrogation (6days for Hanna), during which Abeer was tied to a small chair in uncomfortable and painful position for hours, she was left without seeing anyone. She told us how those moments of solitude drove her crazy, while hugging her youngest son who was practically glued to her.
Both Abeer and Hanna were wrongly accused of being involved in a military operation. Nassar, Abeer's husband, remains in a prison cell for the same reason. Hanna's being a US citizen brought an attention of US Consulate and Senators, but it did not stop the Israeli authority from confiscating her American passport. A US Consulate staff person, who appeared at the military court to offer her protection, was physically pushed around and denied of access to information by Israeli authority. Similarly, Abeer's Jordanian passport has been confiscated, and both of them are prohibited from leaving Jerusalem. The violation will cost them a 15,000NIS-fine (approx. $3750).
Despite all the efforts of their interrogators to break them down physically and psychologically, they did little to the defiant spirits of Abeer and Hanna. With grace, will, wit, and sense of humor, Abeer and Hanna survived those moments of deception, humiliation and pain. Abeer described how her interrogators repeatedly mentioned her children to make her feel weak. In return, she'd say "are you finished?" then pretended she's playing a violin while humming a sad tune, proceeded to hand out tissue paper and invited them: "please, cry with me." Having grown up as cousins and best friends, Abeer and Hanna always spoke of staying together all their lives. "So we were jailed together too!" they'd say it with pearl of laughter, turning the experience into their newest joke.
I was overwhelmed by deep admiration for their courage and strength, and by getting another glimpse of flourishing humanity in this land of sorrow called Palestine.
*** due to the bad connection, i can't open my address book to send this to everyone i wish. please forward to as many people as you think would be interested. thank you!***