Living and Dying in The Golan Heights ~ a Must Read


PNN – Palestine News Network – 21.06.11 – 10:24

Majdal Shams- PNN Exclusive -Victoria Delacroix- Ameer Jabal was born and grew up in the town of Majdal Shams, in the Golan Heights.  He was born under occupation and died under it. When he was only four Ameer stepped on a mine, a mine that had been placed by the Israeli army in the town.

Thirty minutes outside of Kiryat Shimon, the winding roads of the Golan Heights begin.  They cut through vineyards, fields and orchards. Before the 1967 War all of these fields were part of Syria. Now they are under Israeli occupation.

As one field ends, another one begins, except that this orchard is not full of cherries, olives or wild flowers. A small yellow signs hangs on the barbed wire fence, “Danger Mines.” This is the reality of the Golan under Israeli occupation. This is the reality that the people of Majdal Shams live in.


Mine fields in Majdal Shams

The town of 10,000 is inhabited mostly by the Druze. The white stone houses dot the narrow roads that lead through the town. In the town square there are two monuments dedicated to famous Syrian heroes and fighters.

Atop one of the hills in the town, sits the local cemetery. The quiet of the hill, overlooking the town below and the fragrant wild roses that grow here make it seem like the perfect final resting place. Unfortunately, this hill is also the site of the Israeli military outpost that looks over the village.

Another small yellow sign hangs on a dilapidated barbed-wire fence warning of mines. The mines and barbed wire that encircle the military outpost are only feet away from the graves. One must take care to not trip over the barbed wire while visiting a loved one’s grave and set the mine off.

The explosives are planted in between the wild flowers and tall grass, here in order to secure and protect the Israeli soldiers. From what and whom, is unclear. It seems unlikely that any local would try to storm the military compound while there are fully armed soldiers with M-16 assault rifles.

Nonetheless, the deadly explosives sit in the middle of this scenic town. Other mines are planted in between homes and cherry trees. It would only be a matter of time when a child would find themselves playing in the tall grass and flowers, or perhaps picking cherries from a nearby tree, that they would be the ones to become the first and most unnecessary causalities of this conflict.
Ameer was the apple of the eye for Safeia Abu Jabal and her husband. The little boy had been born after a long and harrowing time for the family, especially since Safeia’s husband had been imprisoned by the Israelis for 12 years.

“His birth and his presence among the family created a new happiness for the family,” Safeia said.

He was an energetic, clever and cheeky child. As young as three, Ameer was one of the brightest children in the home.

“He knew all that capitals of the states, all the continents of the world. We encouraged him and we loved him more,” she said.

The day was like any other. The young boy had noticed that there was a carpet caravan in the town. Like any child who sees something colourful or new, he rushed to his mother to tell her about the carpet caravan.

“What I will never forget in my life, is that day. It was about 3 or 4 in the afternoon. The baby rushed to me to say that there is carpet seller,” Safeai said.

But Safeai told the anxious boy that she had enough carpets for the time being. Never the less Ameer was keen enough to point out that all the carpets in the family home had been bought before he was born and he wanted to be able to have a carpet at home, that he himself picked up with his mother.

“I want to share in choosing one of them,” Ameer told his mother.

Safeai relented and went along with her son go to see a man about a carpet. Unfortunately, by the time both of them arrived at the carpet caravan, the man was already packing up his merchandise. Safeai reminded Ameer that she also had to go get milk from his grandmother for the family.

“I want to go with you,” Ameer told his mom.

Looking back on those events today, Safeai believes that if she had nagged the carpet caravan man to unroll the carpets and show them to her, Ameer may have died with more dignity. He would have died with her.

Safeai went back to the house and met with her daughter for a short while. Ameer also came home and finally found a playmate – one of the neighbour’s daughters. The two scampered off to play. Within moments Safeai heard an eruption behind the house, no more than 100 metres away from it.

“I was afraid that the baby would be scared of the eruption, so I told my [other] son Halid to go and look for Ameer,” she said. “Everyone was calling him but there were no replies. Then I noticed my neighbours rushing to the hill.”

Safeai frantically asked her neighbours what all the commotion was about, people told her that a mine had exploded. Up until this moment she had no idea that her son was there. She rushed up to the hill with her neighbours, and as she did she noticed a little girl rushing back from the mines. Safeai asked if Ameer was on the hill somewhere, but she already knew the answer.

“I knew the accident happened to my son,” she said.

But Safeai could not go and find her son’s body, hold his hand or carry him. No one could get near the young boy because his body now lay in a mine field. Safeai and everyone else had to wait over an hour until an Israeli army helicopter came and collected the boy’s body. But as soon as Safeai had reached the helicopter, it was already taking off.

“This happened 22 years ago, this day I will not forgot. I cannot remove the images from my eyes, from my mind,” she said. “The only thing I can think about is that I was raising him in love and in a warm family.”

“In one stupid moment, one stupid explosion, because the [Israeli] army put mines beside my house, I lost him. There is nothing more to think about.”

ImageSafeai says that she blames the Israeli army for killing her son.

“Of course they did,” she said.

Even if the Israeli army would come to Majdal Shams and ask for forgiveness, the word sorry does not mean much.

“What can you say after this? The Israelis will not express any sorrow. If they want to express sorrow, they should clean all the mines from here,” Safeai said.

But no matter what, Safeai still sees little Ameer. When she sees Ameer’s friends in the village, all grown up, she sees her son in them.

“When I see his friends in the village, several of them got married, I see my son Ameer. I see him getting married and having his own family now,” Safeai said. “If Ameer would be alive today he would be out there protesting for freedom and equality, like on Naksa or Nakba Day.”

Today, Safeai has another son named Ameer, in honour of the child lost to the brutalities of military occupation. The living Ameer has done his parents proud, going off to Damascus University, becoming a well-skilled young man.

“Life itself keeps me going,” Safeai said. “I have suffered much in my life and if I were to give up, I would have to have given up a long time ago.”

“This is the order of life, to survive, to continue.”


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