The Washington Post

Trapped between war and peace

-

The banner hanging over the doorway of the cinder-block building in central Jenin bears the photograph­s of four men, all young, all smiling, all dead. They were killed a day earlier by Israeli border police conducting an armed raid.

Within hours of their deaths, the pictures had been gathered, the banners profession­ally printed and then distribute­d around town. The mechanics of mourning are well practiced in the West Bank city, a hotbed of Palestinia­n nationalis­ts located less than a four-mile drive south of the Green Line along Route 60.

Palestinia­n men file into the building. They have come to pay their respects to the family of the dead, as they have done often before. The wide room is crowded with men on plastic chairs, smoking and sipping coffee. Hundreds of framed photograph­s of those who were killed previously are mounted across the walls.

The mourning tent is an Islamic custom. In Jenin, the “tent” feels as permanent as a Rotary Hall.

Here, what negotiator­s a generation ago had envisioned as an interim phase between conflict and a final resolution of the Israeli-palestinia­n dispute also feels permanent. It is neither war, nor peace, but an inexorable bloodletti­ng that has become a choreograp­hed routine on both sides.

As the vision of a different future fades, this is all that people like Ziad Abu Saif can see.

Abu Saif sits near the front door, bent low, his arms resting on his thighs, but straighten­ing to shake hands whenever a newcomer stops to greet him. His 21-year-old son Raed is one of the faces on the banner.

“Allah yerhamo,” they say. “God have mercy on him.” One man leans down: “You should be happy you are the father of a martyr. He will be your companion to heaven.”

Abu Saif nods without speaking.

On the August night that Raed was shot, Israeli forces had entered the city to arrest suspected militants and opened fire when they were confronted by Palestinia­n gunmen and rioters, an Israeli military official said. The three men killed along with Raed were terrorists, the official alleged, but he did not say that Raed was.

Abu Saif says his son had nothing to do with militant cells, that he had never been in trouble, that he was a waiter at Al Bustan Restaurant on his way home from work when he joined a crowd to see what the noise was all about. “My son was just standing and watching with everyone else, and they shot him in the lung,” Abu Saif says, shaking his head. He was one of many Palestinia­ns who said Israeli snipers fired on the crowd from rooftops.

“When I was his age, I thought I would someday live in a free country,” he says as the well-wisher moves off to join the murmuring crowd. “Then I thought, my son will live to see it.”

“I am 60 years old, and I have seen this my whole life,” he continues. “Now they have killed my own son. Even now, I know nothing will change.”

A few blocks away, another banner bearing the images of Raed and the other dead men hangs outside Jenin’s city market. Below, shoppers press along the crowded street, holding their children’s hands, looking at phones. They take little notice of the new batch of faces portrayed overhead.

 ?? ??
 ?? PHOTOS BY SALWAN GEORGES/THE WASHINGTON POST ?? CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: A roundabout on Route 60 in Nazareth, Israel. Ziad Abu Saif, father of Raed Abu Saif, speaks to those who have come to pay their respect in the West Bank. Relatives of Imad Khaled Hashash, 15, weep as his body is returned home in the Balata refugee camp.
PHOTOS BY SALWAN GEORGES/THE WASHINGTON POST CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: A roundabout on Route 60 in Nazareth, Israel. Ziad Abu Saif, father of Raed Abu Saif, speaks to those who have come to pay their respect in the West Bank. Relatives of Imad Khaled Hashash, 15, weep as his body is returned home in the Balata refugee camp.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States