‘Dad’s in prison’: A young Palestinian woman speaks

I teach writing at a Palestinian university in the West Bank. Several of my students have been gracious enough to share their experiences with +972, albeit anonymously. This is the first of four short essays.

It was a sunny day. I woke up at six o’clock to get ready for my new life because it day was a big day; it was my first day of college, so I was super excited and nervous at the same time. I wore my new clothes and asked mom for her blessing. When I arrived at the college I took some lectures and met new people. The whole day was super awkward; it is natural because it is a new thing, new experiences and finally, I went back to home. When I entered I started to yell, “hey I’m back, I am here.” But it was like nobody was there.

I thought that I would find my mother waiting for me and she would start asking about my day but that did not happen. I was like, “hello, does anyone hear me?” I went to the living room; my family was sitting there and they were sad.

I asked them what is wrong. Did something bad happen? After a while they said, your dad, Israel took him to jail after they hit him and broke his pelvis. I was totally shocked. I asked them, why? What did he do? As I know, he has a permit, right! Mom answers he had one but his permit was not extended it is not valid, so that is why. But they could give him a chance to make new one.

Oh yes, Israel does not care about these issues. If they see he has a green ID and he does not have a permit, without thinking they will take him to prison. Simple as that.

I had told him before. I told him that he should stop working there, but he always said that work in Jerusalem is much better than work in territories because there the wages are better than in the territories.

Seven months have passed without seeing my dad, without hearing his voice. My father is my hero. I cannot imagine my life without him, without his blessing. Every moment I think about him. Is he okay?

Because of nothing they took him away. I just wonder about his crime. Did he kill someone? No. Did he assault someone? No. So what was it? Going to his work for his children, in order to ensure them a dignified life? He is suffering not only because of the jail but because of his kids. He could not sleep without coming to our bedrooms and saying goodnight, sweet dreams and giving us a kiss. While I was writing this paper, I imagined his face, his smile, and I smile back.

Her story illuminates not only the heartache suffered by prisoners’ families but also the ripple effect that imprisoning one person has on all of Palestinian society. It also points toward the extreme economic pressures Palestinians face, in part due to the occupation, and the desperate measures they’ll take to try to push back against their circumstances — risking imprisonment just for work.