Meet Sa’ide (Sigh-Yee-Duh). She lives here in Hebron with her family: her aunts and uncles and grandparents. She arrived here three days ago after sneaking out of Gaza and onto the canvas covered flat bed of a pick-up truck due east for Jerusalem. Through the elaborate networks of Israeli Defense Force checkpoints and the sharp military vigilance, Sa’ide made her way, unseen, to her family’s home in Hebron. They live behind this blue-grey door below, right there on the left.
Three days ago, while she ate breakfast with her younger brother and sister, her two parents and some of her older cousins before attending Mass and then a mass funeral for those who had been killed in the recent Israeli bombings, the kitchen exploded into a roaring cauldron of warzone. Seconds before the very moment of the destruction, Sa’ide had made everyone laugh recounting how she saw the vendor, Ahmed, across town whose shop was blown up into a pile days ago but still continued to sell merchandise out of the seat of his motorcycle. As if nothing had changed. He smiled and welcomed pedestrians as if he were in front of a standing shop full of scarves, rich in smells of incense and antiques, swirls of colors streaming across the side and back walls. Today, he gestured and winked: “Come on in! I have the best prices.” Her father, Dr. Tamer Janajri, needed the laugh. He was expected to report to the hospital right next door to Ahmed’s now-makeshift shop. He really hoped to not see another mutilated child in the hands of a few frantic men, rushing through the emergency room doors. But Ahmed! He still sold shoes, tea pots and even sold those four-pieced multicolored chandeliers that no one would ever buy!
Sa’ide was twelve years old. And jumping down from her seat to the floor to mimic Ahmed’s hospitable gestures and bobbly headed grins saved her life because as soon as she did this, her laughing loved ones, partially blocked in view by the table, vaporized into debris.
And then the flame’s blaze droned on horribly and yet Sa’ide was barely scathed. Surrounding her were large crumbles of concrete bright with lashing embers. The light of day was crawling distance away. At the moment she could see safety from an upside down view. She would have to roll from her back to her belly without getting burned.
Sa’ide had hitchhiked before. But only with family or friends and acquaintances of her family. The man who picked her up didn’t even know that he had. But he was a construction worker due east to Jerusalem to help refurbish the Old City walls.
Looking at the past consume the road from the flat bed speeding east, Sa’ide may not have been able to consume the entirety of what had just happened to her. It wasn’t at all easy escaping Israeli blockades and then crossing the country alone.
Her whole life of twelve years, she had learned that the Israeli people hated her. They lived on the other side of the wall wishing Hell to deluge upon her and everyone and everything she knows. That’s what she had learned.
Stepping swiftly, not even breathing, beneath the barrel of an opposite-direction-moving M16…
…and then around the corner, down a ways through the marketplace, fearful at the sight above…
…and then a right turn down the stairs brought Sa’ide to her family: her aunt, her uncles and her grandparents. She knocked and the door opened with them all to greet her. Relieved, they ask her: How are you, my dear?!?!
“Alhamdullilah” little Sa’ide said. Meanwhile behind her, IDF soliders walked about on the other side of the fence in the designated Jewish section of town. Turning her head to see what’s making those noises on the ground behind her to find that they were the black-booted march of Israeli soldiers, she gazed at their gaze, they gazed at her’s. For years to come, each would remain the Other to each other. Sa’ide and her family would remain occupied.
Look to the right…