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Lutfiyeh, Hurriyeh

by Ed Mast

We spent last night with Lutfiyeh and family in Ramallah.

Linda and Lutfiyeh are sisters of the heart, and it’s a deep pleasure to watch the joy that Linda’s simple presence brings to Lutfiyeh’s grim weary life. Husband Mahmoud is gracious and gentle as ever, limping slightly on a wounded toe. Soldiers, we ask? No, he stubbed it on a stairway. When we arrived at their home in Ramallah, they were fiddling with a newly-installed ramshackle kerosene heater, like a big lantern in the middle of the main room of their apartment, attempting to supply heat in freezing cold winter when gas and electricity are unreliable. At this moment the electricity is on, enough for us to watch TV and see an Arab singer named Edward sing the popular song “Linda, Linda.”

Older daughter Raya is away at university near Jenin, so the only child at home is young Hurriyeh. When I first met Hurriyeh years ago, she was a little girl with only one primary expression: a radiant cheerful friendly smile. She still likes to smile and giggle, but the smile is varied by other expressions now: a sad look, a puzzled look, a look of intense worried total concern. This last will come suddenly, when an APC drives by, when her mother Lutfiyeh begins to talk about Majd, or even when the phone rings, because it might be Majd calling from Ashkelon Prison.

One whole wall of the apartment has nothing but photos of Majd, the 19-year old son who was arrested in April along with all the other males in his builing. Lutfiyeh speaks slowly when asked about him. Hurriyeh travels every Sunday across Israel to visit her older brother in prison for one hour. 13-year old Hurriyeh is the only family member allowed to visit Majd. As it happens, she was born in Jerusalem, so she shows her birth certificate and is allowed to travel across Israel. Also, since she is not yet 16, she does not yet have the compulsory ID card that all Palestinians in the Occupied Territories must carry. In three years, Hurriyeh will be forced to carry the Palestinian ID, and her visits to Majd in prison will end.