Death of Hajj Suleiman

January 18, 2022

More than words, a silent moment is needed now. And still I write.

Rather than addressing these words to someone, I write them to myself. Perhaps they will help quieten my stormy spirit, my upsetedness, so that I can meet the pain without escaping it.

Hajj Suleiman died yesterday (Monday). Today he was buried in the earth on which he had lived and which gave him his bread. “We only want bread and peace”, he used to say when we visited Umm al-Khair, his village.

During our frequent visits at his home, he would lecture to us, down to the minutest details and in total control, about the political state of Israel, the region, the world. It was no mere political knowledge. It was Sliman’s howl against injustice, and his uncompromising search for a sliver of justice being trampled further by the occupation’s boots.

We have walked alongside Suleiman for many years. 

A while after meeting him, he told us he had worked for years as a hired hand for the JNF, and did not see a penny’s severance pay when he was fired. He asked us to help him receive what he deserved by law and logic. “I worked there with all my heart”, said Suleiman. “What naivete, expecting justice from the most racist organization in Israel”, I thought to myself.  

For years, Suleiman’s voice took on a special tone when he asked me, “Danny? Danny?” to inquire about my partner who had undergone numerous catheterizations.

“Rain? Rain?” he would ask, in a different tone, wanting to know whether we had seen rain during the long years of threatening drought both in the South Hebron Hills and in our Negev lands. Before our Passover holiday, he would ask us to bring him matzos. He loved them, and their Biblical story.

Last Ramadan was hard on Hajj Suleiman. I reminded him of the lighter conditions that Islamic law assured elderly people. Suleiman looked at me, astonished. How can one even suggest such a thing to a faithful, brave warrior? 

Umm al-Khair has seen many demolitions under the occupation. Hajj Suleiman would protest – speak, then shout, then scream at the destroyers. His words fell on deaf ears and blind hearts. How much inner strength does a man need to resist injustice without slipping into violence. Suleiman reached the edge of this capacity, never lifting a single stone. He never hit anyone. He, who preached and educated non-violent resistance, practiced what he preached. 

Suleiman did not die of old age, nor of sickness. 

It was the Israeli occupation that ran him over to death. 

The occupation servants would often beat him, arrest him, and threaten him when he protested.

But Suleiman, whose personality was made up of a combination of innocence and a burning aspiration for simple, basic human justice, could not have imagined that the servants of occupation could go so far as to kill him without batting an eyelash.

Dear Suleiman, you are now united with the earth you loved, your spirit finds its place in higher spheres, and in the spirits of those who knew you. 

Lines by Jacques Prevert suit you:

I met him 
At the stonemason’s
Where he was measured
For the future generation.

Erella

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