Islamic Dialogues: 2 The Martyred Son

November 28, 2009 at 12:33 AM 1 comment

Written by Lewis D. Eigen

The Setting

2004.  The home of Hassan and Fatima Geriol in the West Bank of Palestine.  The couple, together with their 23 year old daughter, Ayisha, have just said their goodbye’s to the last of the well-wishers who had paid condolence calls after the funeral of their 17 year-old son, Metin,  The day before, Metin had blown himself up across the border in Israel, killing and wounding many Israelis in the process.

The Dialogue

“Ma, just sit down.  I’ll get Papa his tea.  Here, wipe your eyes.”

The daughter handed her mother a packet of tissues as the older woman sat on the sofa of their living room.  For West Bank standards, the house and furniture were of a much better scale than average, for Hassan Geriol was a professional man—an industrial chemist by training.  Hassan was relatively well to do—at least he had been until the year before.  The Israelis had put up that hated security fence and cut off access to Israel and the company for which he had been a chemist for the last two decades.  For the first time in his life, Hassan Geriol had found himself unemployed.

With a sigh, feeling drained of all energy, he sank into his arm chair.

“I keep thinking of the Imam’s words.  Metin is better off.  As a martyr he went immediately to Paradise, but I shall miss him so.”

He had wanted to cry like his wife but instead did what was expected of a father in such circumstances.  He had screamed at and cursed the Israelis and pledged himself to vengeance—justice for his martyred son, while his dead son’s contemporaries and the Hamas officers chanted, shook their fists and fired their automatic assault weapons into the air.  Others carried and shook placards of enlarged photographs of Metin which had somehow materialized when the Hamas delegation brought Metin’s body back from the border.  At least the Israeli’s returned the body promptly out of respect for the Moslem law of burial.

“Think of Metin,” his wife chided him.  He will be among strangers.  He will miss his family—his own home.  He has always been so shy.  He has never even been away from home overnight.”

“It won’t matter that he is shy.” Hassan replied.  “He is a hero—a martyr.  God and the angels will welcome him as none other.  He has been fulfilled.”

His explanation did not satisfy the grieving mother who knew her son would never be comfortable with people he did not know, angels or not.  Tears again streamed from her eyes, even after she had thought there were no more possible.

Hassan continued, “Look how loved he was.  There were over two thousand men at the funeral.”

Such a large gathering of men for the burial was unusual for a private figure, but Metin’s single act had raised the family to celebrity status.  Fatima Geriol had never before questioned the prohibition of women going to the graveside, but in this one case she felt doubly robbed.  First her son was taken from her, and then she could not even see him laid to rest.  Instead, she replayed over and over the video tape, which the terrorist organizations had each suicide bomber make for his family.

Ayisha placed the hot tea on the table next to her father’s armchair.  Served in a glass in the Middle Eastern style, she was careful to put a coaster under the glass else her mother would be up in an instant to do it.

“Papa,” she said as she sat on the arm of his chair.  “We loved Metin, the Aweida’s loved Metin, the neighbors loved him, but let’s face it, most of the people there never knew him.  They loved what he did, not him.”

Hassan Geriol disagreed.  “A man is defined by his actions.  Metin’s actions and courage brought him glory and honor.  He will go down as a hero of the Palestinian people.  He has brought respect to the family.  I am so proud.  Metin was a good son but, I never expected he would honor us so and accomplish so much.”

It was a low voice, but Mrs. Geriol had said, “What did he accomplish that was worth his life? What, I ask you?”

“He stuck a great blow at the enemies of Islam, he did ….”

Fatima Geriol rarely interrupted her husband.  Not that he was a dominant tyrant as some Palestinian men were in their homes, but even though she was a high-school graduate—not common with women of her generation—she was brought up to defer to the male head of the household.  But her grief was turning to anger, the anger of a mother forever deprived of her son.  “And what did he accomplish?” she challenged.  “He killed an old man, a pregnant woman, a teenage couple and three children in the bus on their way home after school.  What good has that done?”

“You heard the Imam, woman.  He told you.  The Hadith says, ‘never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision.’  Metin struck fear in the hearts of our enemies.  And he has brought dignity back to our people.”

“What dignity?” his wife asked.  “I don’t feel more dignified.  I feel terrible.  And you feel as terrible as I do.  Where is the dignity in bringing to Israeli families the kind of sorrow that has been brought upon us?  And what good does it do our Palestinian cause?  Do we have back another inch of land?  Do we have better education?  Health care?  Do we have any more resources?  Does the world think better of us?”

“It’s as the Imam said.  We can all think better of ourselves,” her husband explained.

“We?  Who is we?  I don’t think any better; you don’t; Ayisha doesn’t.  I’ll tell you who thinks better.  Hamas thinks better; the Martyrs Brigade thinks better.  They have to because in over 50 years, more then my lifetime, they all have accomplished nothing—nothing I tell you.  We have gone backwards.  We have less territory now than we did at the partition when we started trying to push the Israelis into the sea.  We had total control over our own land, but no more.  Now our people are poorer.  And all they have to be proud of is the death of a 17 year-old Palestinian boy and 7 Israelis.  They find dignity in such tragedy?  It is sick I say.”

“What else are we to do?” Hassan asked.  “We have to protect Islam from those who would destroy it.  We must strengthen the Moslem people. But to do that we must first overcome those who would destroy our religion.”

“Papa” his daughter asked, “Do you really believe that the Israelis want to destroy Islam?  Before the suicide bombing you used to work in Israel.  You were there every day for almost 20 years.  I worked there in the summer a few years ago when I was on vacation from school.  Did anyone ever insult the Prophet, peace be with him?  Did anyone ever try and convert you or the other Moslems at the company?  I’ll grant you that many of the Israeli’s want our land, but they have their own religion and do not seem to be interested in bringing us to it.  They have Moslems in their Parliament.  They even pay the Israeli Moslem Imams out of their tax dollars.  They pay for Islamic schools in Israel.”

The father accepted his daughter’s observations but modified them.  “Not at the same rate, I discovered.  Moslems are second class citizens in Israel.”

“True, but the Israelis are guilty of discrimination, not of trying to destroy our religion.  And in your case Papa, there was no discrimination.  They made you the head of the testing department.  You supervised a dozen Jews.”

“And where am I now?”

“But that’s not Mr. Rothbard’s fault.  Hasn’t he told you that your job is open if you can get there?  He seemed as upset about the wall as we were.  He has to make do without many of his key employees.  And didn’t he give you the computer when I was 18.  Haven’t you and Mom been to dinner at his home?”

“Rothbard is different.  Not all the Israelis are bad.”

“And not all us Arabs are good,” the daughter continued.  But where do we get this notion that Islam is under attack?”

“We Moslems used to control this whole region.  It was an Islamic empire that controlled most of the civilized world.  Now we can’t even control our own cities—our own neighborhoods.”

“True, but it has little to do with religion.  And Papa, if the truth be told, when this region was within the great Islamic Ottoman Empire, we Arabs complained that we were under the thumb and occupation of the barbarian Turks.  If that was so great, having an Islamic empire, why did we Arabs revolt?  For freedom yes, but not freedom of religion; that’s the only freedom that we Arabs have always had regardless of who the dominant occupier was.  You know Papa, that great Islamic empire of which we love to remember in its glory, was a Turkish Empire, not an Arab one.  When I was in school in Turkey, they also talked of their glory days, but very few people in Turkey think that they lost their empire because they were Moslems or that Islam was under attack.  They lost their empire just the way they gained it.  By force and wars.”

“It was the heathen Christians, Ayisha, who brought them down.”

“Papa, even in Turkey they do not think that it was an attack on Islam.  The Turks, with their love for militarism, joined the wrong side in the great Christian struggle.  They allied themselves with the militaristic Germans—not once in World War I only but in World War II as well.  They were defeated, not because they were Islamic, but because they picked the losing side.  And we Arabs were the first to take advantage of their weakness and get our independence—from Turkey.  We removed much of the Middle East from the Islamic Empire of the Turks.  And it was the Christians who helped us.  Our fellow Moslems in Turkey were the enemy.”

Hassan decided that the whole geopolitical and historical situation was too abstract.  He shifted his mind back to their shattered hopes.  “When Metin finished high school next year, we were planning to send him to college in Turkey, just as we sent you,” he said wistfully.  Abstract thinking and discussion was a temporary respite from feeling, which in personal crises always emerge dominant.

“I know Papa.  Metin knew too.  He was looking forward to it.  We were amazed that you could still afford it, with being out of work and everything.”

“I’ll always thank Rothbard for that.  The company had what they call a profit-sharing plan.  Each year they put in some of the profits for the workers, and the plan buys shares in companies all over the world.  Since I was one of the higher paid workers I got a lot.  And then we could add money and buy more shares.  Rothbard told me that whatever else I did I should put my savings in that profit-sharing account and not in a bank here.  I was suspicious at first, but one of the accountants was also a Moslem, and he explained that our banks don’t pay as much.  That they use the excuse of Islamic law limiting their ability to earn or pay interest.  He told me that in reality, corruption and kickbacks make our banks less successful.  So I put all our savings in the Israeli profit sharing account along with my share of the company profits.  Some earned interest and some was invested in shares of stock of companies all over the world.  I had enough money to pay for Metin’s tuition and costs in Turkey even if I was not working.  I felt a little guilty about the interest—as interest is against Islamic law.  But then Rothbard and the Moslem accountant showed me all the Saudi princes who finance things all over the world and collect all kinds of interest.  Some do it outright; others go through a fiction of calling the interest something else, or transforming it to a capital gain.  They buy a bank and let the bank receive interest for lending the money.  The rich Saudis invest their money in America because they earn more there and it is safer.  Then they turn around and start Islamic banks in the Middle East where they pay less to us.  Rothbard explained that the Jews have the same religious ban on interest as we do.”

“Then how do they pay interest, Papa?”

Background

Allah curses he who requests usury and who gives him usury, the one who writes down the usury transaction and its two witnessesThose who devour interest will not stand except as stands one whom Satan has driven mad by his touch

Muhammed, 571-632
Prophet and Founder of Islam
Surah al-Baqarah & Sahih Muslim

“That’s where the Israelis are like the Americans, and like the Turks for that matter.  They keep their religious morality and their government policies separate.  The Chief Rabbis say it is against the word of Allah to charge interest.  Everyone hears them, but only a few follow.  The Israelis set up banks and even have foreign banks.  They compete for who can pay the highest interest.  The Jews who are orthodox have their own institutions which are like ours, but they, like ours, are not as good for the person depositing the money.”

“I kept a bank account in Turkey that paid interest,” the daughter confessed.  But the Turks have a constitution that says that it is a secular state, and religious law is not state law.  I thought that Israel was a Jewish state.”

“I never could understand it then, and I don’t understand it now,” said Hassan Geriol.  “All the Israeli’s insist that Israel is a Jewish state, but only a small percentage of their population act like it is.  And the Government doesn’t enforce even their religious laws.  You know they actually keep and raise pigs in some places even though their Bible tells them ‘Thou shall not raise pigs on the land of Israel’.”

Mrs. Geriol decided to try and participate in some conversation that was not focused directly on her dead son.  “I thought that, like us, it is forbidden for Jews to eat pork.”

“It is,” her husband explained, “but many Jews do it anyway.”

“And their mullahs do nothing?”

“Oh, they complain alright, but the government seems to pay little attention to the Rabbis, and most of the people pay no attention whatsoever.  Only the orthodox.”

“It’s the same in Turkey,” Ayisha added.  The imams all complain about the restaurants that serve pork, and especially all those that serve alcohol, but the government pays little attention.  Most of my classmates drank beer and wine and ate pork and other haram foods.”

“Even the Moslem students?” the mother asked incredulously.

“Almost all the students in Turkey are Moslems, Mom.  They are the ones doing the drinking.  We had one Christian in our class, and he didn’t drink.  But he and I were about the only ones who didn’t.”

Ever since she had found out that her son was a suicide bomber, Fatima Geriol, had wanted to confront her husband and daughter.  She took the plunge.  “Hassan did you know that Metin was mixed up with Hamas?”

“Not really.  I knew that he had been doing some reading tutoring of the younger students in a school that Hamas ran, and that seemed a good thing.  Our schools are so terrible.  With the graft and corruption, there is little left for the teachers and students.  But I didn’t know that he had friends at Hamas.  I certainly would not have allowed him to get mixed up with those people.”

“But you never said that Hamas was dangerous; you never taught him to stay away, from their violence.”

“In the Mosque, the Imam preaches that Hamas fighters are heroes, that they are doing the work of Allah.  I could not say no.  If I taught that to Metin he would have been in trouble.  You know how they organize the youngsters so early.”

“Yes, that’s why I never let him go out and throw the stones at the Israeli soldiers.  You agreed with me then—it was too dangerous and accomplished nothing.  I always told him that Islam is a religion of peace—peace.”  She was silent for a few seconds.  Then she began again.  “You should have warned him more, Hassan.  You should have spoken out more here in the home…when we were watching Al Jazeera and the news on television…that’s when you should have warned him.”

“And then he would have been at risk for us being collaborators.  People knew that I worked in Israel; they were always suspicious because I made such good money.”

“Papa, why were people suspicious of you.  Tens of thousands of us Palestinians used to work in Israel; that’s where the best jobs are – or were until we could no longer get there.”

“But I didn’t have just any old job, Ayisha.  I was an executive, a supervisor.  I made much more money than most others—more than most of the Jews.”

“You were much more qualified Papa.  You had a college degree and a Masters degree.  You have several publications in the chemistry journals.  Your work won a prize in America.”

“Yes but so few of our people have any education.  And in our culture unfortunately people don’t get jobs based on qualifications.  It’s relatives, friends, bribes.  So few of us have any, training and qualifications that anyone wants or needs, that when one of us does get a good job, it is inconceivable to most that it is because of qualifications.  Do you know how many times I have been accused of being a spy for the Israelis?  People figure that is how I am paying for such a terrific and easy job.”

“Easy!” his wife interjected, “don’t they realize how much work you used to take home.  Journals, your computer printouts, reports.  How can that be easy?”

“If you have to dig or lift bricks all day, it’s a hard job; if not, it’s an easy job.  If you are outdoors in the hot sun, it’s hard.  If you are inside with air conditioning, it’s easy.  I always told people that I had to give one-third of my salary to my Jewish boss and that he made me do his work too.”

“That’s ridiculous, Papa.”

“Yes, but that they believed and understood.  They had to have some explanation that was consistent with their view of reality.  I have found that our people take the worst of our society and ascribe that to the Jews.  And the Jews assume that all of us Arabs behave or would behave like the worst of them.  I was always afraid that Metin would be hurt if he said anything that might show he was not a loyal Palestinian.  Remember what happened to Sedat, the journalist’s boy.  The mullahs told everyone that he was becoming an innovator.  In the rest of the world that is a compliment, but with us, it is a religious crime.  One day Sedat got into an argument with another boy whose uncle was a Hamas big shot.  He called the boy some name.  They found Sedat almost dead, beaten to a pulp with a sign saying ‘Refutation of Heretics and Innovators’.”

“What did that mean?” his wife asked.

“It’s a quotation from al-Ashari, a ninth century cleric who told the faithful not to try and argue with heretics and reformers or as we call them, innovators.  Action only refutes the heretic, the innovator.  The point is that with their suspicion of the father, they took it out on the son.  It’s an old desert tribal thing where the family is a single unit.”  His two hands went to both sides of his head.  “May Allah forgive me, I didn’t want him to be labeled an innovator or a spy or a heretic or a traitor.  With suspicion on me, I just wanted him not to stick out, not to be different.  If I had warned him more, I might have saved him.  But he never seemed involved in politics; he never said anything about Hamas or any of the other groups.  I didn’t know!”  Hassan paused and then continued.  “He did ask me about why I had to go through the Israeli checkpoints a lot.  The only thing that I ever saw him really upset about was when we had do go through a checkpoint where a boy just slightly older than he could determine whether I and my son could pass or not.  It is humiliating, for the head of a family, but we all get used to it.”

Ayisha, the daughter, said, “Papa, I don’t think you realized that Metin was not like the other boys.  He spent most of his time in the house, rarely going anywhere except to school and his tutoring.”

“But that was where he was most safe,” his mother said.

“Yes, but what did he do Mama?”

“He read, worked on the computer, and watched television?”

“Right, and remember he was always flipping back and forth between Al Jazeera and the Israeli Arabic Television Channels.”

“But lots of people watch the Israeli TV.  We don’t talk too much about it, but our television is terrible.  Before Al Jazeera, there was little else in Arabic that was any good.”

“And no one trusts the news on our channels.” Hassan added.  “We learned more about the truth of things from the Israelis, but it was always from their point of view.  Al Jazeera brought us our own—good quality and reasonably trustworthy.”

Ayisha continued.  “Now that I think about it, he was exposed to a constant diet of our Arab-Israeli conflict.  And remember, his English was very poor, and he loved the Internet.  But what could he surf to?  Most of the Internet is in English, and the rest is a mixture of all the other languages, but there is very little in Arabic, and almost all there is comes from the fundamentalists and the war mongers.  If someone only understands Arabic, the Internet is not place where there is a wide diversity of opinion.  Sometimes I have gotten sick to my stomach.  They were showing the poor kidnapped victims in Iraq getting their heads cut off.”

“They show such things?”  Mrs. Geriol was incredulous.

“Yes Mama and they say the most horrible things.  What they say Islam means is nothing like the Islam we have learned to love.  Their ideas are a barbarian throwback to the Middle Ages.  And that was what Metin was exposed to.”

“He must have done something else on that computer.  He used to spend hours on it.  I thought it was good for him, that he would learn a lot,” Fatima Geriol said.”

“Mama, he used to look at girls too.”

The back of Fatima’s hand rose to her mouth.  “That’s where the Christians and Jews are really perverted.  I’ve seen the immodest ways they dress on the Israeli television.  It’s not fair to expose impressionable young boys to that—their bodies and minds are changing at that age.  But how do we stop it—no television, no computers?  Then we go back to the Middle Ages.”

“We can’t Mama, but in all these other cultures boys and girls go to school together, talk together, it is not all so much of a mystery.”

“It’s terrible.  Young girls do not belong with young boys.  They both are too vulnerable.  Children get ruined going to school together.”

“Mama, I went to school in Turkey, remember!  There were boys in my classes.  It’s not such a big deal.  Everyone gets used to it.”

“I never liked to think about it—you with boys.”

“But Metin thought about it all the time.  I’m a psychologist, remember.  I mostly do psychological tests on people, but I know that teen-agers think about each other all the time—especially in our culture where they get no first hand contact with the other gender except in their families.  Right Papa?  The boys all talk about it too, didn’t all your friends Papa?”

“Yes,” the father slowly admitted.  But we never acted the wrong way.”

“But everybody wonders at that age.  Since Metin had no close friends, he had no one to talk to about it.”

“He could talk to us,” the mother observed.

“Not really Mama.  Metin once started a conversation with me about dating in the West.  But he was too embarrassed to continue.  So he was easy for other men, especially more mature men, to influence.”  She paused and thought for a minute.  I really think it was the tutoring that changed him?

“The tutoring?” her father asked.

“Yes, he had to get trained, get his assignments, and report on the children’s progress.  He was exposed to the people running the tutoring program.”

“That was Hamas!” Hassan almost hissed.

“Yes and we never realized that there was a lot more than tutoring going on …”  She walked to another chair, sat down, and covered her eyes with her hands starting to cry a little.  “But I think that I did realize, but I did or said nothing.”  All three of them were feeling guilty as they reflected on opportunities that had existed but were now gone forever.

Her mother rose and walked to her daughter’s chair and put her arms around her for comfort.  Hassan insisted, “What do you mean, Ayisha?”

BackgroundThe issue of Moslem tolerance to other religions is complicated by the fact that Muhammad, the Moslem Prophet, ordered that two classes of non-Muslims be allowed to practice their religion.  The largest of these were the “People of the Book.”  The book was the Old Testament and thus Christians and Jews were historically allowed to practice their religion in Moslem lands provided that they obeyed the law and paid a special tax.  The tax was in lieu of the Islamic obligation to support the poor with charity.  The other class that was included was the Zoroastrians—those who followed the ancient religion of pre-Islamic Iran.  In effect, the Prophet “grandfathered” the major religions of the Middle East.  However, when Islam expanded, they found other religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.  These they did not allow and were totally intolerant towards them as they conquered large land masses containing them.  To this day, this is the source or the enmity towards Moslems by Hindus.  Over time some Islamic nations have become less tolerant than what the Prophet taught.  Saudi Arabia for example, allows no organized worship by Christians or Jews.  Non-Arabic Islamic nations tend to be more tolerant of the religions of people other than the Christians and Jews, as they are in large numbers in their countries—especially Buddhists.

She regained her composure and spoke in a low voice.  “I was cleaning his room one day, and I came across some of the school books that the Hamas tutoring school was using for teaching.  They were strange.  There was a map of our region.  Israel was not on it?  Just one big Palestine.  Here is the biggest problem we Palestinians have, coping with this adjacent state, and the Hamas do not even admit that it exists.  Those books said terrible things about Jews and Christians.  I was always taught that they are ‘People of the Book’ and the Prophet, blessings be on him, allowed them to live in Moslem lands and practice their religion.  There were Jewish and Christian Viziers to the Caliphs, physicians to the Sultans, generals in our Armies, but these books had none of this.  I met Jews and Christians in Turkey—I had one Jewish and two Christian professors.  I understood why they were allowed and welcomed into our Moslem societies; they were great teachers.  But there was none of this in the schoolbooks.  It was just one evil depiction and hateful example after another.  According to them, we are at war with the Jews who want our land, and the Christians who want to destroy our religion, defile our women, humiliate our men, and blaspheme Allah and our Prophet.”

“Did you discuss this with Metin?  What did he say?” her father asked.

“I tried.  I tried to tell him about our history …. But …”

“But what …”

“But he didn’t believe me.  He said that these were lies and stories planted by the Christians and Jews.  I told him that I learned about these things in Turkey—a Moslem land.  He then lashed out at me in a way that I had never heard him before.  He was always such a nice little brother.”

“What do you mean?”

“He was shouting at me, calling me a dupe.  He said that Turkey was not an Islamic country.  It was worse than the Christian lands.  They were heretics and apostates…he went on and on.  They drink wine and all kinds of alcohol.  Girls and women go about half naked.  They ignore God’s will about commerce.  They do not respect their imams.  They follow the majority and not the word of Allah.  On and on.  He was almost crazy because his friends at the tutoring school told him that there were girls’ soccer teams in Turkey and the girls ran about half naked while thousands of men came to leer.  I told him that these were sports teams, and people came to watch the game—not the girl’s legs.  One thing after another, he said the Turkish men were weak because they had been emasculated by women, pork was in food everywhere.  I tried to tell him that while you could get pork in Turkey, most people didn’t eat it, and I never ate it in the 3 years I was there.  Do you know he called me a liar?  His Hamas Imam had told him that I could not be trusted, that in Sharia law a woman’s word alone is not to be believed anyway, and in Turkey I probably ….” She paused.

“What?”

“Went with men!”  He accused me of going with men.

“May Allah forgive me for even hearing of such a terrible thing,” Mrs. Geriol implored.

“I started to cry, and he did change his tone.  He became his sweet self again.  Then he brought me one of the school books and showed me that the books had the imprint of the United Nations on them.  That if these things were not true, why would the UN allow untruths.”

Hassan was frustrated.  “They took advantage of him.  The UN has supported the Palestinian refugees for  decades.  They supply the food, the medicine, and print the schoolbooks, but they don’t write them.  The Jews yell at the UN and say the same thing.  How can they let these books get printed with UN money when they are so extreme?  The UN people are caught in the middle.  Do you think the Palestinian Authority would use books written by the UN?  Most of the books originally come from Jordan, and they are edited by our own people.  The UN just prints them… Metin was so young and so naïve.  I will never forgive them!”

There was silence after that pronouncement.  Then Ayisha raised her head and tentatively tried to speak.  “Papa, do you think…could they possibly…”

“Possibly what?”

“With Metin… you know… women?”

Her mother gasped.

“Papa, we all hear things.  They say that the young boys are rewarded for volunteering…rewarded by having access to … to women.  You know, to get them to really want Paradise.”

“What craziness is this daughter?”  The mother was shocked.  “Surely no Moslem would ever do such a thing.  And no young man would be induced by that.  Don’t talk that way!”

“Mama, open your eyes.  Papa just came from the funeral.  What did the Imam say?  That martyrs like Metin go directly to Paradise.”

“Yes”

“And they are given the choicest accommodations.”

“At least we have that to be thankful about.”

“But what about the 72 virgins, Mama, what about them?”

“That’s just fancy speech.  You know how our people love poetry and very flowery language—we tend to exaggerate.”

“72 Virgins, Mama.  The martyrs get 72 virgins.  That’s what he said.  That’s what they always say.  That’s what Hamas tells these boys.  Tell her Papa! Tell her!”

“She knows child.  Just give Mama time.”

The young woman continued.  “They take these young boys, the loners, and they indoctrinate them in violence and hate.  And just to make sure that the boys won’t come to their senses, or have a sense of personal survival, they promise the 72 virgins.  But what does a young Palestinian boy know about virgins, for him he does not know why that is good?  So they give him a little sample, and at the age where his hormones are raging and seeking more, they tell him that right after he sets the charge off, he has eternity with 72 of what he has just tried.”

“It sounds so terrible,” Fatima told her family.  “It is so hard to believe.”

“Fatima,” her husband asked. “Didn’t you ever wonder why the suicide bombers are always young men and not mature ones.  If the Hamas leaders felt so strongly, why do they not blow themselves up in order to terrorize the enemy.”

“Why doesn’t the Imam go for Paradise and enjory the 72 virgins himself?” Ayisha asked.  “Because he is not a vulnerable, sexually inexperienced boy with raging hormones and dreams that can easily be shaped.  That’s why?  They don’t believe what they say for one minute.  If they did, the Hamas leadership would not be scurrying about complaining that the Israelis are targeting them and killing them off.  They want to be soldiers and kill the enemy until they are targeted.  Then they don’t seem to appreciate their own impending martyrdom.  If they really believed what they tell the boys, they would not wait for their martyrdom, we wouldn’t have one suicide bomber every few weeks.  We would have hundreds, thousands of imam’s and politicians attacking every Israeli village and then going to Paradise themselves.  And they have the experience to appreciate 72 virgins.”

Ayisha surprised herself.  Ever since she heard of how Metin had died, she had over and over thought how she might have averted the calamity.  She couldn’t see how, and that made her feel even more guilty.  It was her inadequacy, her inability to use her education and training, her inability to influence her younger brother.  The responsibility would always be hers.

Fatima realized her daughter was right.  Metin was the perfect target.  She looked around the room…the chair in which he usually sat, the telephone on the table that he would always answer but it never was a call for him, the TV set where he liked to use the automatic channel changer, the closet where he kept his books.  She realized that life was tragic enough and that she never could bear to live out whatever years Allah had planned for her with these constant reminders.

“Hassan.  Remember we talked about moving to Ramallah.  Perhaps this is the time.  Everything I look at is another memory of Metin.  I just want to remember his smile, his youth, his love, in my own way, at my own time.  Virgins or not, I know he is in Paradise because in his short life all he ever did was try and please us and others .,.try to help his people.  Allah is merciful for those who are ignorant of what they do and are well intentioned.  Allah understands little children.”

“We could go to Ramallah.  I would be sad to leave this land.  This little plot of land has housed my father, his father, and his father before him.  But we all look too much to the past.  To reach the future, we must walk forward, and in order not to stumble, we must also look forward..  Besides your sister and her family is in Ramallah.  My cousin Adil lives there also.  Perhaps that would be good for us all.  Ayisha?”

“Yes Papa, that would be fine.  I can get work at the UN clinic there.  They asked me to come a few months ago.  And you could still commute to the plant in Israel if we can get some change in the war situation.  I have some money saved from my salary to help with the move.”

Mr. Geriol beamed.  “Allah be praised for giving us such a wonderful daughter, but money will be no problem.  We have the money in Israel.  Metin will need no college now.  I’m sure that Allah is taking care of all the education he wants.  There is even more than that as there is the profit sharing for 18 years and the high Israeli interest.  I have not needed to work for money, but it is for my soul.  I have contributed much to the world in some of my scientific techniques.  Next to my family that is most important to me.”

All three of them were silent but their thoughts had all turned to the same thing.  The thick envelope on the hall table.  The one the Hamas man had left for them.  They had avoided dealing with it, but could no longer.  Without looking they had all known what it was:  A large amount of cash.

Hassan wondered aloud, “The ‘gift’ from our Saudi brothers—to help with our hardship.  Or was it to pay for our loss of an able male.  Or was it to expiate the guilt of those who killed our child.  Or was it to keep the parents of suicide bombers from publicly complaining.  Or was it to motivate additional young people who in one instant of commitment could provide their family with a small fortune.  Everyone knows that it is about $25,000.”

That was over a year’s of salary for Hassan Geriol, chemist.  For the average Palestinian it was more money than they would be paid in a lifetime of work.

“Papa.  What will you do with the money?”

“I have though on it, daughter.  Fatima, what do you think?”

His wife was clear.  “I don’t want their blood money.  I could not enjoy anything that we would do with it.  Could I wear a dress dripping with the blood of my son?  Cook in an oven of his body?  It is cursed money?  But it is you who must decide Hassan.”

So be it.  Then I will take the curse off it.  In the Israeli bank we can get interest of $1500 a year on that money.  Ayisha, what is the annual tuition at the Turkish University these days?”

“For a Palestinian, about $900 including room and board.”

“Then we will establish the Metin Geriol Scholarship Fund—for young Palestinians to study in Turkey.  The interest will cover the tuition and some of the expense.  Metin no longer needs the education, but others will.  Perhaps with sufficient education, our young people will no longer be able to be duped by politicians, demagogues, revolutionists, or others.  Every year forever—we send a young man to school in Turkey.”

“Or young woman Papa,” his daughter reminded him.

“Or young woman.”

Epilogue

The family began to organize their packing.  Even if they didn’t want to move to Ramallah, they would have to move.  They all knew that.  Even if they wanted to, it would not be possible to live in their house much longer, because their house would no longer be there.  The Israelis, having no good solution to the problem of suicide bombers, adopted a bad solution, but one which enabled them to avoid the reality of impotence on the one hand and the cruelty and barbarism of killing 7 random Palestinians in retaliation on the other.  Their culture would not allow the desert tribal blood vengeance of killing the family of the perpetrator.

So the young Israeli soldiers would be coming soon.  A polite young officer would read his warrant.  The family would be given time to get their personal effects moved out.  There was no way of the Israeli’s knowing whether the Palestinian families of the suicide bombers were the ones who taught the hate that would cause them to butcher innocent civilians or were in effect selling their own children’s lives for the Saudi Arabian money.  Or perhaps there were some Palestinian families who would have done everything they could to have stopped their children if they only knew.  It was too hard to tell.  Too complicated.  So the military bulldozer of the Israeli Defense Forces would level the offending home—that which nurtured the monster who was out of the reach of justice or revenge.  After what has almost become a ritual, the Israeli solders would return to their barracks cursing their bad luck that such an assignment would fall on them that day.  The commanding officer would write his report as if something meaningful had been accomplished, the government officials would again review the national policy for dealing with suicide bombers to try and find something better.  The family who used to call the rubble “home”, would add the grief of ancestral land separation and change to their complex feelings of grief and guilt.  All the actors of this tragedy, forever changed, would then walk into the future.

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Entry filed under: History, Politics. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. EMBAMIINOBE  |  December 11, 2009 at 9:29 PM

    Amazing – really fantastic theme. I will write about it also!!

    Reply

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