The day my children were scattered
THE PALESTINIAN DIARIESKAHERA ALSADI
My days passed like dreams. My soul and my breathing were weak as I remembered the stolen past and imagined a beautiful future yet to come. I stayed in Moskobiyyeh prison. My frail body withstood an army of interrogators. If I described them as stones, I would be unjust, for even stones sometimes soften.
A small chair and filthy walls were all I had in a cell barely larger than I am. The dyspnea that choked me wasn’t a sickness or a pain as much as a longing for the landscape of life outside this living grave. I defied them many times and forced myself to conceal my tears. I thought only of my four children whom I had left behind and who were snatched away from me.
When my mind succeeded in leaving that dark room, it would fly to Sandy innocent’s face, Mohammad’s childhood, Ra’fat’s features, and Donia’s hair. They, their names and images never left my heart. I never forgot my four children who eased my body’s pain even as torture covered me in bruises.
Their pictures in my mind’s eye gave me the patience to endure the bitterness of my interrogation, which lasted three months. When my chained feet lost their feeling, I imagined I was cooking their food in our warm house. As jailers prevented me from sleeping for hours, I remembered the moments of their lives, and how they enriched my own. Even when my interrogators threw me to the floor, trampled me underfoot, and covered my body with the signs of torture and racism, I left them behind by praying and shouting to be where I wanted to be: among my four children.
A year passed, and I saw no trace of them. My many questions drove me to madness. Where were they? With whom were they staying? I worried especially because my husband, his brothers and I had all been arrested on the same day, without any of us being able to make sure that the kids were okay. I was another person, not Kahera. Although my name means ‘vanquisher’, I felt defeated, miserable and wounded, and I was desperate to see my children, even from far away.
A year later, I was told that two of my children were going to visit me. This news made my spirit fly into the sky, casting aside everything that constrained it. Something inside me, though, grabbed my heart. I felt it was the longing to see them, but as the visit came, I knew what it was. I looked at my two innocent children, full of questions, behind a dirty iron-barred window. I wiped the glass with my clothes, thinking I hadn’t recognised them yet. My mouth fell open with surprise. When I saw their faces, I remembered our beautiful past.
They were my children Mohammad and Ra’fat. They were older, and so sad they were crying. I asked them to be calm, and not to make my tears fall. “Don’t worry, I’m here, I’m okay.” My words increased their river of their tears and cries. Oh my God, what had happened to them? And why did they look like this, as if they didn’t have a house to live in?
During the short moments of their visit, I learned from them that they had lived in an orphanage since my arrest. They didn’t know where their two sisters, Sandy and Donia, were, since they had been taken to another orphanage. This drove me mad. During my detention, I had imagined my four children living in the house of one of our relatives. I couldn’t keep myself from bursting into tears. Was my loving family scattered like this? Was fate against us because of our love for our homeland?
When I realised that the visit would end soon, I shed more tears, wiping my eyes on a sheet. I mumbled sentences to make my children feel easier and more comfortable, assuring them that the coming days would bring better fortune. I said things to raise their spirits and make them feel better about my condition, however bitter it was. They smiled at me, kindling new life in my heart.
We awoke from these beautiful moments when the voice of the officer announced the end of the visit. I saw them off as if I were losing a part of my body. I waved my hands, my eyes gazing into theirs, trying to follow them as far as possible.
After the visit, I felt like a slaughtered sheep. They sent me back to the prison, a body without a soul. I entered my room, my condition worse than it was before the visit. I tried to sleep on my bed, but the inmates started asking me dozens of questions about my children. I looked at them and fell down on the ground, dizzy to the point of unconsciousness, remembering the voices of Mohammad and Ra’fat crying. I kept repeating their names as moans of pain left my breast, complaining to Allah about the injustice of the oppressors.
This is a chapter from The Prisoners' Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, a compilation of 22 Palestinian prisoners' experiences in Israeli jails. Read the second chapter The Light of Freedom here.