Yesterday, August 9, before the news of the suicide bombing in Jerusalem came in, Dheisheh camp was having a long, sorrowful day of grieving, as one of its boys finally came back after being away for 4 weeks. Ibrahim Wahadna, 19 years old, returned home with hundreds of friends and family marching alongside of him but not being able to embrace nor kiss any of them, as his body lay quietly on a stretcher, draped in kaffiya and Palestinian flag.
Waves of people filled the main road as they marched to Dheisheh from Hussein Hospital in Bethlehem, where his remains had been returned from Israeli army's custody the night before. Four weeks ago in the dark of the night, Ibrahim left Dheisheh and crossed into Jerusalem. A bomb
he had planned to set to Maccabiah (Jewish Olympics) exploded prematurely far before reaching the stadium, killing his young life and ambition instantly. Masked Tanzeem fighters fired in the air to honor the dead, while the crowd - from small children to elderly women - chanted and waved colorful assembly of flags from all Palestinian political factions.
The marchers went off the main road and were now squeezed into the camp's alleys as they approached the mosque. In the crowd I saw so many of my teenager friends - classmates, playmates, cousins, and neighbors of Ibrahim. Instead of throwing me those open and adoring smiles, today they sent me glances that reflected all that was inside of them. And the same look was all around me - the narrow, muddy alley was filled with pain. I saw it in the eyes of very old women in traditional dresses and in the eyes of fathers holding young children in their arms. Dheisheh was grieving the death of its son, as voice of the prayer fell on us from the mosque's minaret - and above the minaret, from higher in the sky, fell the sound of an Israeli military jet.
From the ceremony in the mosque, the march continued on to the martyr's cemetery, recently established for victims of this Intifada. In the burning sun the people marched on, even though they won't be able to shower to wash off sweat and dust, for most of the houses in Dheisheh have not had water for weeks. While more shots were fired in the air, Ibrahim joined 4 of his friends to rest on a quiet hillside overlooking a scenic village of Artas and Israeli settlement of Efrat, that continues to encroach upon Dheisheh from the south. A 15-year-old Mahmoud grabbed my head lightly in passing and said over his shoulder cynically: "hey Shirabe, are you very sad today?" Mahmoud too almost died several months ago in a stone-vs-M16 clashes, when a high velocity bullet tore through his lower abdomen. After days in coma and months in a hospital, three fractured pieces of the bullet still remain in his body.
The marchers returned to the camp, and to go on with their daily routines. A group of young people prepared for a mourning tent and evening gathering - assembled with accustomed ease and speed, for sending off youths is such a part of life in Palestine. "Of course it's not like I can stop the Israelis by throwing stones or suicide operations," I recalled a conversation with 16-year- old Mohammed. "But I want to do something to fight the occupation. I want to feel I am doing something." Ibrahim left Dheisheh, but his face is everywhere in flyers posted on the walls. He left without ever knowing freedom, which he yarned and fought for all his short life.