Two Palestinian boys, aged 11 and 15, each lost sight in an eye after being shot by Israeli soldiers. The younger one has been denied entry into Israel to receive medical care because he is a ‘security risk.’ The older boy traveled to Jordan to try to save his eye.
by Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, reposted from Ha’aretz, September 16, 2022
They live a kilometer apart, have never met and probably never will. One is from a family of refugees and he lives in one of the grimmest, poorest and most crowded camps in the West Bank. The other, a few years older, lives with his mother and siblings in a relatively spacious home in an adjacent town.
The father of the former is the camp imam. The father of the older boy has been living in Houston, Texas, for the past four and a half years, in the hopes of improving his life and obtaining U.S. citizenship for himself and his family, and securing a future for his children. For the boy from the refugee camp, however, there is neither a present nor a future.
The main thing these two young people have in common, other than being Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation, is the sad fact that each of them recently lost sight in one eye after being shot by soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Safi Jawabra, the 11-year-old, lost his left eye; Ziad Abu Ayyash, 15, was shot in the right one.
Something else the two share relates to Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, one of Israel’s most wanted individuals until he was shot to death by Israeli security forces in Nablus on August 9. It was on that same day, during a demonstration protesting Nabulsi’s killing held in Beit Ummar, his town, that Ziad Abu Ayyash was wounded. For his part, Jawabra today wears a photograph of Nabulsi in a pendant dangling from a chain around his neck.
Al-Aroub evokes Gaza-like images of a refugee camp. Narrow alleys crowded with hordes of children after school, garbage rolling about in the streets, abject poverty, a hodgepodge of structures, with houses on top of each other, and jobless men, idle and listless. And as though all that weren’t enough, a fortified concrete IDF tower lords it over the camp, while troops man the checkpoints posted at each of Al-Aroub’s two entrances from Highway 60, between Bethlehem and Hebron.
Safi Jawabra lives on the second floor of a building at the far end of one of Al-Aroub’s narrow alleyways. It’s a meager home, whose entrance has also collected garbage, although a desperate attempt has been made to alleviate the drabness in the form of sofas of faded crimson velvet in the living room. Jawabra, dressed in fashionable jeans, is an appealing boy, with two dimples and a winning smile. He’s the youngest of seven in the family; it’s his father, Ahmed, 65, who is the local imam.