Mornings in Jeniin

Mornings in Jenin, by Susan Abulhawa

This is one of the most disturbing stories I have read. I visited Israel in 1967, shortly after the Six Day War ended. I remember the Israeli taxi driver boasting about how quickly they had won that war, gleefully pointing out captured tanks and other military vehicles at the side of the roads we travelled, and feeling rather disgusted at his smugness. Surely all war was horrible, surely all war implied suffering and death? My 20-year old self was horrified, not impressed.

Susan Abulhawa tells her story with passion and pain. It is the story of a family which grew up in the peaceful village of Ein Hod, occupied by Israelis after the partition of Palestine in 1948, and then was forced to relocate to a camp in Jenin. After bombing, burning, killing, maiming, plundering and looting, soldiers came to claim the land the family had lived on since distant times.

It is nothing short of devastating to read of families torn apart, of life in a refugee camp, of loss, destruction, and oppression.  I will never forget the horror I felt reading about a mother having her baby son torn from her arms, lost to her forever to be raised by the enemy.

The story begins in a peaceful, ancient village, and ends with the massacre of so-called terrorists, an incident denied in the US press. One of the soldiers gives the narrator water to drink during the siege, but it’s ‘not enough to wash a mother’s blood from her daughter’s skin.’ Earlier, she felt a strange desire to be a fish, to live ‘inside the water’s soothing world, where screams and gunfire were not heard and death was not smelled.’

It is impossible to read this story without feeling, to quote: ‘sad for the youth betrayed by their leaders for symbols and flags and war and power.’ And sadder still, to know that the conflict rages on.

 

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