Rage and Restraint: Duma's Third Funeral

First Ali, then Saad, now Reham: Third Dawabsheh family funeral held in the village, where a terrible silence still grips the house that was burned down.

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The funeral of Reham Dawabsheh in Duma, September 7, 2015.Credit: Alex Levac

It’s probably the only school in the world named after an 18-month-old baby; on Monday, the third funeral in about six weeks set out from there, this time of the mother of the baby after whom the school is named. The yard of the Ali Dawabsheh School, named only a few days ago and a commemorative sign already hanging on its wall, filled with mourners while the autopsy on the newly deceased was still being conducted in the hospital in Nablus. It was afternoon by the time the Red Crescent ambulance bearing the burned corpse of Reham Dawabsheh, wife, mother and teacher, whose family now has only one survivor, 4-year-old Ahmed, still hospitalized in serious condition at Sheba Hospital, Tel Hashomer.

Reham Dawabsheh died Sunday on her 27th birthday. Saad, her husband, died four weeks before her on their wedding anniversary. Their son Ali died shortly after the terrible fire took hold of his body, a fire set deliberately in the Dawabshehs’ home.

A heavy smell of smoke still wafts over the house, a few steps away from the school named after Ali, as if the flames were still licking it. It is a simple, small, cube-shaped house – a living room, kitchen and children’s room, in which the young couple were raising their children and dreaming of a life. The bottle of death was thrown into the room where the children were sleeping, cutting off the dream of the little family, of which now only dust and ash remain.

In the center of the children’s room Ali’s Infant stroller still stands, covered in a Palestinian flag, like a memorial to the boy. All the rest is completely burned: The television melted, the microwave charred, the curtains shredded, the windows smashed, the rugs disintegrated. The remnants of a bag of laundry soap and a bottle of dish soap are there, all ash, like a small shrine in memory of the family.

Not one stone upon another there / not one branch to gather / no coal for the stove / no bread / no fire / no water / there are handfuls there / only of ash. – Moshe Tabenkin, “Beyom Masa” (“On the day of reckoning”).

Silence

There is oppressive, terrible silence in the house that is difficult to face unmoved. A few young men sit in the doorway, as if to protect it from another disaster. Only a drawing on the hallway wall is new: a hand with a blue Star of David lights a fire in a crib, surrounded by skulls. In a little while, when the funeral procession starts, the young men will call out rhythmically: “Israel is a terror state, Israel is a terror state,” and their call will echo back from the village homes.

Above Ali’s stroller is a family portrait: mother, father and baby, in faded black and white. Now they are all dead. A baby’s cry rises from the neighbor’s house. Duma is waiting for its latest deceased. A remote Palestinian village, almost in a direct line from Tel Aviv toward the Jordan Valley, a place hardly anyone had heard of until the triple murder. Dozens of Duma’s young men stood there Monday afternoon, some in scout uniforms, the anger and frustration etched clearly in their faces. A military roadblock on the main road stopped Israelis with the claim that there was stone-throwing on the road. We didn’t see a sign of it. Somewhere, on one of the hills far from the village, are no doubt the murderers of the Dawabsheh family. They have yet to be arrested; it is doubtful they will be.

A poster in the schoolyard reads: “The occupation is the greatest crime.” At the bottom of the poster, a hashtag: “#they murdered the family.” Here too, mourning marches side by side with progress. The boys and girls of this school will remember from now on this poster every day when they come and go. Mourning verses from the Koran are being played constantly from the loudspeaker of the village mosque, wrapping us in an even grimmer mood. Fatah flag-bearers from the Nablus district, two or three Hamas flags, a red flag and one flag of the Popular Front all are carried here together. Palestine is united for a moment. Sheikh Hassan Yusuf of Hamas in the West Bank and the father of the “green prince” (the Shin Bet agent who converted to Christianity and emigrated), is here too, in the row of dignitaries in the schoolyard. The announcer says the body has left Nablus and is on its way to Duma.

About a half hour later, the ambulance arrives and the cries of the young men rise, together with their rage – “In spirit, in blood,” they call. Six Palestinian soldiers armed with ludicrously old rifles bear the body, wrapped in a brown synthetic fur blanket and hastily draped with a Palestinian flag. It is set on the ground in the school basketball court. Silence, the funeral prayer is said, and then the body is taken to the village’s neglected cemetery close by. Reham’s face was not uncovered, as is the custom, although that was the only part of her body that was not burned. She had been in an induced coma and on a respirator since the attack.

On a plastic chair at the side sat Hussein, the father of the deceased woman, whose bearded face has became famous in Israel since he did not move from the beds of his daughter and grandson at Sheba. The signs of the past two weeks are clear, he looks exhausted and in shock, even from the expected death of his daughter, who was in critical condition from the beginning. This is his third funeral this month, and he has to hurry back to the bed of his 4-year-old grandson, who has only his grandfather left now.

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