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Salamat Sahbi Akram

It was meant to become one of those reports about these surrealities, you probably only can find in Palestine. About the tension of a nightly visit to an internet cafe, which ended up surrounded by security forces. A story about the absurdity of a night, where every passing Jeep spit more disguised men on an extinct street, who wished a friendly as-salem alaikum with pointed Kalashnikovs. About the humor of a night, where inspite of fighting lasting for hours, nine year old children could be seen passing by on pink bicycles. And it was meant to become a report about the tragedy of an evening, where once again Palestinians fought against each other.

But on the next morning nothing is left but tragedy. My friend Akram is dead, he died last night.

It was Thursday about 10 pm, when members of the Palestinian security forces in Jenin routinely stopped a car in order to check its registration papers. The people inside were members of Islamic Jihad and they don’t like to be checked so easily, even less so by the disdainful security forces. Just some few dozen meters lie between them and Jenin refugee camp. The place where they have the power, the place where security forces are not admitted. Clashes break out, verbally, when Akram joins the scene to arbitrate. Seconds later he lies on the street with two bullets in his chest.

Akram Ibrahim Abu as-Sba’, the man who I always took for two when I became acquainted with him, cause I didn’t recognize him in his uniform, was brought to Jenin’s government hospital and died there a little later. Killed by fighters of Islamic Jihad. Murdered because of a stolen car.

Barely 24 hours before we were sitting comfortably in his little store, lounging in two blue plastic chairs. This small DVD store in the center of Jenin, where he probably never sold a single movie, but where you could always find him after 12. Where we so often spent time together in aimless conversation. About the confusion of Palestinian policy, about alcohol and our work. About the invasion last night, about girls and stolen cameras.

But much more then our conversations, his person stays in my memory. How he, always grinning, lingered behind his desk, nothing ever on top except an ashtray and a pack of cigarettes. How he didn’t understand my questions, because he had had one glass of Arak too much. Or how this man who spoke English fluently, always questioning himself after every second sentence, if his chosen words really had the intended meaning. How, when I moaned that I needed to meet this leader or that chairman, he simply, without promises lasting for weeks, looked up the suitable number in his mobile and placed the desired person next to me minutes later.

Always when the daily life in the camp, the hospitality, became too much, when the people became too pushy for me, I came to visit him. To get away for a while from what is so special here, but often also hardly bearable in this city. That is not to say that Akram wasn’t a typical inhabitant of Jenin, a typical Mucheiemi, but he was never too extreme. He was faithful to Fatah, but did not hate Hamas. He was a member of Abu Mazen’s Force 17, but he respected the militias. He had this typical Arabic hospitality, but you didn’t have to beg him to refuse a coffee. Some years ago the Israelis destroyed his house, but he didn’t hate those who once again turned his family into refugees.

If they give me Mucheiem I am happy, he said once while looking at the prospective shape of a Palestinian state. And if you know him, you know that this was probably not far from the truth. Akram was a happy man. He was happy as a husband, happy as a father of four children and just happy sitting behind his big desk in his small DVD store.

Now some more dozen posters are added to the thousands on the house walls of Jenin. Now also Akram lies here besides all the others in the martyr graveyard of the refugee camp of Jenin. The occupation is not exciting. The occupation is not an accumulation of bizarre everyday situations. And even if it seems to be absurd, it is never comic. Not even if it lasts 60 years. Occupation means suffering and dying – everyday.

But of the few things that are left under this occupation, we at least have friendship. In Mucheiem Jenin there is hardly a guy to find, who can be called such a one by so many people. He was a great friend. Salamat sahbi Akram.