I met a young man yesterday over nescafe and herbal tea. I'll him S.
S is 22 years old. He's been injured 7 times during this Intifada, with shrapnel still lodged 2.8 centimetres from his lonely heart. But you would never know. He walks without so much as a limp, and has a childish coyness about him, an earnest persistence to achieve something, anything, and only the highest expectations. He is dream and despair in one.
S is from Khan Yunis, formerly a member of one of the many renegade armed Fateh off-shoots. Most likely, for lack of anything better to do. AT 19, without a family income, without college, without work, without a father, and with a love he had neither the approval nor the money to marry, he joined the brigade. He soon found himself the target of a helicopter gunship missile attack.
His two closest friends died instantly, next to him. He was hit with shrapnel in the brain and chest and leg. Death was scattered all around him-17 to be exact that day. Medics took him for dead as well, and placed him in the hospital morgue for 3 days. When it came time to bury the dead, they noticed his lip quivering, his blood still warm. He was very alive, but unconcious. Death left him for another day.
This young, boy-man I sat down with. Who smiles as if he has nothing and everything to live for. How can you comprhend this? How can you understand this life? What does it mean? What does he do now? And where does he go from here? He travels with difficulty, if at all. He is in the category of of the condemned: young Palestinian men between 16 and 35. In order to be eligible for a permit to travel to the West Bank, or work as a laboror in Israel, Palestinians must be over 35 years old and married with children.
Where do the thousands like him go and do. He learned French for a while in Egypt. Fell in love; is still painfully in love and his eyes look distant when he speaks of her. "Tragedy is all around me, what do I do? tell me?". But he smiles nonetheless.
Who are these men, these boys? These ones whose eyes we sometimes see through polyester masks; whose angry muffled voices we may hear; who have nothing to cling to but a perhaps, perhaps a dream. Any dream. Of a legacy, any legacy. of intoxicating heroism. who die like slaughtered lambs. 15 this week.
Who are they, these men, these boys?