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Old women step forward as ‘martyrs’

LAHORE: In the centre of Beit Hanoun, there is nothing left of the 800-year-old mosque but the minaret. It looks like a lighthouse stranded in a sea of rubble. People whose homes were demolished during the latest Israeli army incursion sit on plastic chairs around bonfires. At night they bunk down with the neighbours. One of them is Watfa Kafarna. ‘I saw the Israeli soldiers eye-to-eye,’ she said. ‘They took my four-year-old grandson, Mahadi, who has Down’s syndrome. They shook him and yelled: “Where are the guns?” Now he is traumatised and wets the bed every night,’ according to a report in The Observer. Not his own bed – the Kafarna family is homeless, living off the charity of friends. Tears run from Watfa’s eyes as she looks at her son, daughter-in-law and grandchild huddled around a brazier.

Her husband, Diab, shuffles across the ruins towards his wife. ‘Bossa!’ he says, ‘A kiss!’ In a highly unconventional move, Diab kisses his wife on the mouth. ‘She is my heart, my eyes, my light. We have lost our house but not each other.’ During the incursion, Israeli soldiers detained all men aged 16-40, including Watfa and Diab’s sons and grandsons. The army targeted the mosque, attempting to arrest militants hiding there, the report says. The women put up their own resistance, gathering as human shields around the mosque to help the militants escape. ‘I am 72, says Watfa, ‘but by doing this I felt 20, young and useful and ready to act.’ She pulls off her long veil and holds it high in her right hand. ‘I waved my hijab as a white flag and prayed with the other women in front of the holy mosque. But the Israelis continued to destroy it.’

Two women were killed by the Israeli Defence Force that day. Watfa was bruised, as was 70-year-old Fatma Najar, hit by a bulldozer. Three weeks later, Najar blew herself up near Israeli soldiers, wounding two. In Gaza she is seen as a heroine. ‘If the Israelis came to my house to gun down my children and I had a belt, I would do the same,’ says Watfa. ‘The woman is the biggest loser here,’ says Khola, a neighbour, standing on the remains of a kitchen where flour is mixed with pulverised masonry, the report adds. Two hundred homes were destroyed in Beit Hanoun. ‘Fatma Najar, an old woman, did what many people don’t have the guts to do. If you go back and research Fatma,’ says Khola, ‘you will see her home was destroyed on top of her head, her sons jailed, her grandson killed.’ ‘I know at least 20 of us who want to put on the belt,’ said Fatma Naouk, 65. ‘Now is the time of the women. Now the old women have found a use for themselves.’
Source: Daily Times

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