A touching story by Manuela Dviri a journalist, playwright and writer whose son, Jonathan, was killed by a Hizbollah rocket seven years ago. She received the 2005 Peres Reward for Peace and Reconciliation for her involvement with Saving Children, an Israeli-Palestinian project which refers Palestinian children to Israeli hospitals for free treatment.
They are here, and still alive, because they changed their minds at the last moment, because they were arrested, or because, like Wafa, they did not succeed. They are kept in a kind of labyrinth, behind seven, or perhaps eight, iron doors and gates, at the end of long corridors to which few people are allowed access, and which are reached after climbing and descending one flight of stairs after another.
Their unarmed guard, a young, calm-looking blonde woman, calls them her “girls”. “There are 30 of them, between 17 and 30 years old, some of them are married and others aren’t, some of them have children,” she told me. “Their stories come out of the Thousand and One Nights. Some of them did it to make amends for a relative who was a collaborator, others to escape becoming victims of honour killings, and for the psychologically frail or depressed it was a good way to commit suicide and at the same time become ‘heroines’. Personally, I don’t judge them or hate them, because if I did I wouldn’t be able to look after them any more.”
One question has bothered me since my visit to that prison. The parents and the relatives of these failed martyrs, what happens to them afterwards? What do they feel after the tragedy, with that knowledge? I decided that I would ask Wafa’s father, Samir al-Biss. Samir is the owner of a tiny, shabby grocery shop. For many years, before the intifada, he worked as a day labourer in Israel. After the initial shock of his daughter’s martyrdom mission, he disconnected the telephone and now will not speak directly to anyone.
He has, however, allowed Wael, Wafa’s cousin, to answer on his behalf. “Wafa’s father is still in a state of shock,” Wael said. “He wishes to say that he can’t bring himself to believe that his daughter was going to blow herself up. He believes that she was put up to it and exploited by someone and that it’s not fair that the whole Palestinian population should be punished for what she has tried to do. The Palestinians don’t have to pay for her act,” he added sadly.
I tend to agree with him. Neither the Palestinian people nor the Israelis should have to pay for the fanatical acts of their extremists.