The Rage of George
Rattling of Sabres
The Gods of War
In the Clouds
The Tyrant Flees
Out of Order
Doing the Patriot Act
The Little Prince
Ichor of the Gods
The Price of Peace
Dead or Alive
Across the Border
Summer in the City
Wolf and Jackal
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Haman Hataj joins his mother,
A simple meal, course bread, rice and lamb,
A cool slice of sweet melon for dessert.
They eat slowly and linger a bit more than usual.
It may be their last shared meal till paradise;
Today Salid becomes a martyr.
Eighteen, slim, dark and serious, Salid
Was not always so. As a youngster he
Was full of laughter, upbeat, good-humored.
A natural leader, charismatic.The
Other boys followed him around,
Basking in his generous style.
Things changed at 14, in the streets.
He and his friends find themselves at gunpoint,
Accused by Israeli soldiers of throwing stones.
They are roughed up, pushed to the ground.
His closest friend, Harun, speaks some Hebrew,
Mouths off to the soldiers, trying to look cool.
Harun’s Hebrew is poor; he’s misunderstood.
The soldiers take offense, he’s taken aside,
Clubbed with a rifle butt and kicked in the ribs.
He returns to the group bloodied and groggy.
On their way home, Harun goes into shock.
He dies within an hour.
Where once Salid was light and fun,
Now he’s dark and sober, no longer playful
He reads the Koran for hours, joins a study group.
Before long, he joins Hamas,
Becomes a religious soldier,
By 16 his destiny is written.
Salid’s mother, Ateer, is 36, but looks older.
Her husband died young, felled by a weak heart.
Doing laundry is her main income,
Supplemented by small stipends from Hamas
Due to Salid’s membership and loyalty
To the greater Palestinian cause.
“The lamb is good.” Salid looks across the table,
“You have always fed me well. I am blessed.”
Ateer smiles wanly back at him, weak and tired.
“Have some more, my son, eat your fill,” she nods.
“It’s not too late to change your mind,” she softly says,
“What’s so special about today, anyway?”
“It’s in the hands of Allah,” Salid
“The time is right if Allah deems it so.
If it’s not, tomorrow will do.”
He helps himself to more,
Tears off a piece of bread.
“I will miss your lamb, Mother.”
Ateer wipes her cheek. They have
Spoken for many hours about his plans,
He believes his death is only right,
A small price to pay help end the suffering of
His people forced to live amid Israeli occupation.
He will go to heaven, where he will be rewarded.
Ateer is not particularly religious,
But she respects Salid, her only son.
Saddened by the prospect of his death,
She feels pride too. His faith
Has made him strong, At 18 he is more man
Than most grown men she knows.
“I’ve washed and pressed your clothes,”
Her son must look clean and neat
On this, his special day.
Salid takes his plate to the sink, rinses it,
Places it along the others on the sideboard,
Gently dries his hands.
Ateer gives him his clothes, hugs him.
They share so many memories in
The home he’s known since birth.
He kisses her cheeks, her forehead, eyes,
Cradles her like a child in his arms,
“You will be taken care of,” he whispers.
She leaves and he changes his clothes.
His outfit is American, football jersey,
Numbered 11, Levi knock-offs, and
Some well-worn Nikes. A backpack
Finishes the ensemble, slung over his shoulder.
Like just another schoolboy's.
At Hamas he’ll fill the backpack. A wire
Will run under his long-sleeve jersey,
Another down his pants into his pocket.
When touched together,
the two wires
Will ignite a fuse within C-4 high explosive,
Obliterate his target.
Hamas greets him warmly with respect.
Martyr in making, he’s a hero. Though many
Have intentions to dedicate their lives,
Few are ready, and Hamas makes no demands.
Each member makes his own plan,
A covenant with Allah.
A green Hamas scarf is tied briefly
Around his head, then kissed.
A silent, solemn ceremony.
Mixed with pride and tears his comrades
Hug him closely one last time,
And offer prayers.
At 4 p.m., his backpacked stuffed and wired
He reviews his plan: a long walk, then board a bus.
At 6 p.m. it will be packed with people, Jews.
He will take seven breaths, say one last prayer,
Join the wires together and
Detonate the charge.
The long walk from Ramallah’s uneventful,
The countryside is quiet, almost deserted.
He joins a family with small children,
The uniformed authorities pay little notice,
No inkling that inside Salid’s backpack
Death waits to be summoned.
In the Israeli sector of Jerusalem,
The streets are crowded with commuters
Hurrying home or to market before sundown.
Few take notice of Salid, some nod or smile.
He’s just another young man rushing home,
Or meeting friends for soccer.
Salid waits to board a bus. A young voice
Beside him asks, “Do you play ball?”
Salid turns to an Israeli about his age,
The boy is smiling, carrying a soccer ball.
For a moment Salid almost forgets his mission,
Amid fond memories of soccer.
Salid shakes his head. Another boy pipes up,
“C’mon, we need a center.” He grabs
Salid’s arm, stops him from moving.
As Salid turns to pull away, hands surround him,
Arms pinned, he can do nothing and is
Forced to the ground.
The other boys, youthful Israeli security agents
Expertly remove his backpack. Salid weeps,
He has badly failed his mission.
A vehicle separates the crowd, siren blaring.
Uniformed men, guns drawn, surround him,
He’s bound and placed into a van.
The backpack is placed into a bomb container,
Within an armored van, which speeds away.
The block’s now filled with armed security,
The crowded street is cordoned off,
Traffic diverted, all civilians are interviewed
And packages inspected.
Within an hour Salid is locked in a cell.
He is not afraid of death, but does fear torture.
Hamas has told him captured martyrs are
Deprived of food and water, kept awake for days,
Forced to eat pork, given shocks
To get confessions and give names.
Salid, still young, is broken in two days.
He gives his name, address, contacts.
By day three he knows he has failed twice,
His suicide attack, and worse, his confession.
On day four, hungry, tired and deeply depressed,
He hangs himself with the sleeve of his jersey.
In Ramallah, Ateer is praying for her only son,
Assuming his mission is completed.
As she mourns she hears a distant rumble.
Within minutes the rumble becomes a roar,
Israeli tanks move within yards of her stone home,
Screaming in fear she is removed and arrested.
Her house is demolished, along with two others,
In just two hours, the tanks depart, work done.
The neighbors, confused and alarmed,
Don’t know what has prompted the destruction,
Assume that it’s Israeli revenge,
But revenge for what they do not know.
As chance would have it, one house destroyed
Was home to the el Assan family of four. Sons
Haddim 13, Sassir 15, seethe with anger,
Their family is homeless, possessions gone.
As dawn breaks over the rubble, the world
Gains two new Palestinian martyrs.