Hungry for freedom (Part 2)


23 Feb 2023 10:00am
A Palestinian national flag hangs on an electric cable in the Arab neighbourhood of Silwan in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem on Feb 17, 2023. - (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
A Palestinian national flag hangs on an electric cable in the Arab neighbourhood of Silwan in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem on Feb 17, 2023. - (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The ‘game of courage’ we played was a minefield that began with ash and ended with flowers. But nothing we did in prison to relieve our suffering could equal even a moment of freedom.

Our dream of freedom was always accompanied by an agony of soul as our imaginations transported us from the darkness of the prison to the light of our stolen homeland.

I’ll continue from the point where my brother Ibrahim Shabana stopped while telling the beautiful and terrible story of our prison life. After our efforts to dig the tunnel with primitive tools, we started working our way to the outside wall.

I still remember feeling the lack of air while digging, and how it made me so dizzy that I nearly lost my balance. A night later, I laboured from sunset until 2:00a.m, armed with images of freedom and of life outside the prison’s living graves.

We succeeded in opening a small gap a few meters from a military watch-tower, and we communicated by certain signs so that we wouldn’t alert the watchmen on patrol near the location of our digging. The dream became more real as we got closer to the wall.

When the time was right, Ibrahim, another brother and I emerged together from the gap, into the outside air. Walking with quick, light steps, we crossed some metres outside the wall, hoping our dreams were about to come true.

Overjoyed with our liberty, we were surprised by dogs that saw us and started running toward the wall, drawing the soldiers’ attention to us.

They shone bright lights at us, so we threw ourselves onto the grass, only to discover it was as dry as stones, making a noise that increased the soldiers’ suspicions. They surrounded us so quickly we couldn’t escape. They encircled us with their guns, and with disbelief, we surrendered.

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They drew closer to us, already beginning their usual abuse.

We tasted enough torture to send us to martyrs’ graves. We hadn’t even recovered from the shock of capture when the sticks and rifle butts started hitting us.

Abbas Shabana
Abbas Shabana

They left bruises on every part of our bodies, mixed with blood and signed with malice. The painful reminders of that day reached every cell of our bodies. The soldiers took us to their vehicles. We agreed to take responsibility for the operation to avoid implicating our comrades.

When they sent us back to the prison, doubled numbers of soldiers awaited us. Each one of us had ten of them waiting to teach him a lesson. They threw us down. Guns again bruised us, and their feet kicked our handcuffed bodies.

They attacked us the same way three times, making the already deep wounds on our chests, backs, hands, and legs bleed even more, while denying us any means to defend ourselves.

By then, we could barely maintain our balance. Waves of questions pelted us as they tortured us. But the toughest thing was watching the dream of freedom fade away, remembering that we had been sentenced to life, with little or no hope of freedom.

The measures taken by the investigators were again redoubled after we were sent once again for interrogation, wearing the same muddy clothes for 20 days.

They then isolated us in Be’ir Alsab’e, a prison in which sunlight does not shine, for a year. In the end, five months were added to our original long sentences. After that, we were returned to our cells with the description ‘dangerous’ marked on our cards.

But we recognised it as a badge of honour and a story that we will tell our grandchildren, as we remember our eagerness for freedom, not to mention the pain that was born after our hopes were dashed.

By Allah’s grace and our fighters’ hands, we left the prison with our heads held high and this time not by tunnels. Our bodies embraced freedom with the taste of victory in a way that we will never forget as long as we live.

Palestinian Abbas Shabana took part in a prison break from the Israeli jail with another Palestinian Ibrahim Shalash and each of them wrote one part of the story.

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 first part of Hungry for Freedom here.

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