An honorable and noble death
New clothes for Ramadan and being a martyr - these
were the dreams of Saber Brash, 15, who was killed at
the Ayosh junction last week
By Amira Hass
At the start of the current Intifada, when the schools were still closed
by order of the Palestinian Education Ministry, Saber Brash, 15,
decided to take advantage of the opportunity and work in a butcher
shop in the Al Ram neighborhood, north of Jerusalem. Like many
from the Al Amari refugee camp on the outskirts of El Bireh, Barash's
father, who is 45, has a hard time finding permanent employment.In
the last two months, Saber divided his time between the "City Inn
Intersection" (the Ayosh, or Judea and Samaria, checkpoint), the site
of daily confrontations with Israeli soldiers. Saber earned NIS 700 a
month. He gave NIS 100 to his father and NIS 200 to his mother.
With the rest of the money, he announced, proud of his
independence, he would buy clothes for his 15th birthday, which took
place on November 7. His birthday came and went and his father
asked him about the clothes. "I decided to wait until Ramadan [which
starts at the end of November], and then buy clothing," was the
laconic answer given by his son, who rarely spoke about himself.
Now the father shows the four folded bills and weeps. His son was
killed at the intersection on November 14.
The previous day, he left the house and had still not returned by
midnight. "I waited for him until one," relates the father, who went to
bed worried. In the morning he went into the children's room and for
the first time in years kissed his sleeping son on the forehead.
Relatives now say, "as if he knew the boy was going to die." As in
many Palestinian homes these days, especially the poorest ones, the
plans and expectations for Ramadan are mixed with other wishes.
Saber's brother Ibrahim relates that Saber would walk to the
checkpoint rather than paying a shekel for a taxi, like many others. It
was not to save money; he treated the walk to the checkpoint as if it
was part of his participation in a jihad. He spent time alone, going to
the mountains to pray. His friends relate that he spoke of his desire to
be killed, to become a shahid (martyr), at the same time imagining the
sneakers he would buy with the money he had earned.
A sweet death
On several occasions, his father tried to pull him away from the
roadblock or keep him from getting too close to the soldiers, but the
boy managed to get away and insisted on remaining at the junction
even after his friends had already left. "A few days before his death he
was photographed alone on the road, facing the jeeps, using a
slingshot to throw a rock at the soldiers."
The father and the brother relate this with pride. The photograph
decorates a poster printed in his honor. Guests who come to the
home are served dates - sweet things are served in the home of a
martyr, because his death is considered sweet.
The father says proudly that before his death, Saber brought a friend
who had been shot to the hospital and then returned to the site of the
confrontation. As far as they know, he was killed 50 meters away
from the soldiers. A vehicle had just arrived and unloaded Molotov
cocktails and stones.
At first it sounded as if he had been in the car and got out of it, but the
speakers clarified what happened: He helped unload it in order to
supply ammunition to the youngsters who were facing the soldiers.
But the family does not really concern itself with the details; it is hard
to tell what was magnified or distorted. The boy was killed, and as in
every such home, people speak of an honorable and noble death.
Some even talk about the Paradise that awaits him, even while they
are hurt and angry.
The women are always more blunt. One aunt who lost a son in the
first Intifada, is furious: "They drove us out in 1948, they occupied our
land, they conquered us again in 1967, closed us off, and now they
are killing our children."
The family is originally from the village of Abu Shusha, near Ramle.
"That's our land there," said one relative defiantly. In 1948 some of
the family fled to Gaza, others ended up elsewhere. Today they live in
the refugee camps and neighborhoods of Khan Yunis in the Gaza
Strip, in Nablus and in Amman.
None of them were able to come to the funeral or to pay a
condolence call, due to the "encirclement."
L. was the last person to see Saber alive, and was able to provide
precise details about his death. L., who is older than Saber, was
injured by shrapnel in both legs on November 1. He is still recovering,
still limps, and has already gone back to throwing stones and Molotov
cocktails. He was with Saber facing the soldiers on November 14
from about noon. "They threw tear gas," he relates. "We ran away
from the gas. We went up the hill." That's when the shooting started.
The hill is about 180 meters north of the "City Inn" intersection,
named for the nearby hotel. It contains an office furniture factory and
residential buildings. From this hill, where witnesses said the boys
were standing, there is no possibility of seeing the soldiers at the City
Inn junction, let alone hitting them with a firebomb or a rock - they are
separated by a residential building.
The shooting began suddenly. L. and Saber hid behind a large metal
container on the hill. L. believes that the shots came from the hill
across from them, at a distance of 400 to 500 meters, near the Beit El
command post. There are army jeeps on that hill and the soldiers are
equipped with binoculars as well as weapons. "They shot with a 500
Rifle" [a special, very powerful, sniper rifle that fires 0.5 inch caliber
bullets]. How did you know it was a 500 Rifle? "From the sound," L.
responds. A worker in the furniture factory conjectures that the
shooting came from the City Inn hotel, on which an Israel Defense
Forces position is located.
L. and Saber bent down. Saber read verses from the Koran. The
shooting continued. Then one bullet hit the container (the bullet hole in
the wall of the container is visible), traveled through it for three
meters, penetrated Saber's chest and exited through his back - as was
discovered at the hospital. A visit to the site makes it clear that neither
Saber nor L. could have endangered the lives of any soldiers. L.
fainted at the sight of his dead friend. It was about 2:45 P.M.
'There is one "ra'is" whose son was killed'
Saber was the third casualty in the Al Amari refugee camp in this
Intifada. The funeral took place on Palestinian Independence Day,
November 15. Thousands of people marched from the camp to the
hospital to the Gamal Abdel Nasser Mosque to the cemetery in El
Bireh. A few dozen were armed and masked. They shot into the air,
although the Fatah movement requested that such shooting be
avoided. A versifier, who usually composes rhymes for weddings and
other happy occasions, stood on a slow-moving sound truck and
described the Palestinian struggle, the suffering, the enemy, the hope,
in rhymes he composed on the spot. After every sentence the
marchers responded with the words "hula" or "mashi," in a rhythm that
could have briefly been mistaken for joy.
Senior Fatah members were swallowed up in the crowd, not
marching at the head. The marchers shouted: "The Intifada is the
decision of the people," or "the people have decided." There was no
trace of official representation from the Palestinian Authority. "They
are ashamed," said an official in one of the Palestinian security
organizations afterward. "They are ashamed before their people for
not doing anything for them in the past seven years, and now its sons
are being killed and they don't know what to do."
Inside the camp, people complained that the Arab states and
representatives of PA ministries come and offer money to the families
of the dead and wounded. "It's not money that we need, butstruggle
and support for us," they say. Someone says that according to the
Oslo Agreement, all of the honored leaders, the true fighters, were not
allowed to enter the country.
Someone else declares that the Koran says the Jews are infidels and
therefore do not deserve this country. A woman curses the Jews and
then curses the Palestinian leadership: "Those who are being killed are
sons of the people, not the sons of the leaders." And then someone in
the room makes a correction: "There is one ra'is [leader] whose son
was killed, Hassan Nasrallah of the Hezbollah."
The IDF Spokesman's Office said that the investigation into Brash's
death has not been completed, and issued the following statement:
"On Tuesday, November 14, during violent incidents at the Ayosh
junction, a Palestinian vehicle was seen unloading firebombs near
rioters. IDF forces in the area fired toward the vehicle's tires. The
IDF cannot determine, given the available facts, the cause of death.
The IDF has proposed to its Palestinian counterparts, several times in
the past, that joint investigations of the various incidents be
conducted. To date, our offers have been rejected or ignored by the
Palestinians, as also occured in this case.