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The Power of the Word over the Gun
Last uploaded : Thursday 16th Jan 2003 at 19:46
Contributed by : Mohammad Sawalha


Eid is the festival that ends Ramadan, our month of fasting. Here we spent it under curfew. It was ironic that, as one set of loudspeakers was announcing the beginning of Eid, the loudspeakers on the tanks were announcing the curfew.

During Eid, after nine months of being under siege in Nablus, I managed to visit my family five kilometers away in my village. Here's what happened.

The curfew was still in effect, but I drove my car as close as possible to my family's village. I started climbing down a hill that was about a kilometer high, where I found other people trying the same route. We all had one question: Would we meet soldiers? No one knew.

I continued climbing down the hill ahead of everyone else. I was very happy - first, because I was going to see my relatives and second, because I was out of Nablus for the first time in so long and my eyes began to see different
colors and images. I continued walking quickly. Using my mobile phone, I gave a call to my brother and to my sister's husband telling them to come and pick me up because I was very close to reaching the critical point where they
could meet me.

Just at that moment, I saw a soldier in the olive trees. I continued walking, showing no signs of fear. I looked at him and said, "Hello." He didn't reply. Then, in Hebrew, he said, "Bo!" (meaning, "Come here.") The people behind me
stopped when they saw that I was stopped by the soldiers. An officer approached me with an M-16 rifle in his hands. He asked me, in Hebrew, where
I was going. I responded in English that I was going to visit my family in my village. Speaking in very weak English, he told me that I had to return to Nablus. I told him that our Eid was that day and that people visit each other on
such occasions.

He said he was aware that it was the end of Ramadan, but he could not let me cross over to my village.

I decided to continue talking to him because I have the right to cross over to my village to see my family. I asked him what he would be feeling if someone prevented him from seeing his family in a similar situation. He replied that he was not with his family now. I responded that this was not his Eid, his festival, and that he should make a gesture indicating that there is a place for peace. He told me that peace can only be achieved between peoples. But it must start between individuals, I replied.

He told me that he is a soldier in uniform, and that his job is to obey his orders. "You must return to Nablus," he said, "and tell the others that they must also go back."

"I am talking with you as a human being, not as a soldier in uniform," I replied. I asked him to use the opportunity to make a gesture for peace.
"Guns and hatred can create nothing but agony," I took the initiative to say.

At that moment, a car approached from the other side, and a man got out. The officer left me and went to see who was coming. I saw that the man was my sister's husband - the one whom I had just called on my mobile phone. I called to the officer and told him that the man was my sister's husband, that he was coming to pick me up, and that his name is Izeddin. The officer forgot
his questions and his mission and asked the man for his name. When the man responded, 'Izeddin,' the officer turned toward me and said that I could pass.

When I passed the soldier, I told him not to forget our dialogue and not to forget the power of the word over the gun. I asked him to tell his family about our encounter, and he said that he would.

When I finally reached my family, another story of love and warm feelings began.

Mohammad Sawalha is the Director of the Palestinian House of Friendship in

JewishComment is grateful to Common Ground News Service for securing copyright clearance for this article.

e-mail: cgnews@sfcg.org

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