In an ideal world there are no tragedies. But this isn’t an ideal world and tragedies do occur.
A boy killed in a traffic accident is a tragedy. But even in our not-ideal world, when the boy who was killed is to be buried far away and his parents are not allowed to accompany him on his final journey and weep over him in accordance with the demands of their religion and their hearts – there’s no word for that.
A twelve year old boy was killed in a traffic accident in Gaza. That sounds like the end of the story, but it’s only the beginning.
The story isn’t about the boy. The story is about the mourning parents and the dead boy’s final journey.
The father and mother, a man and a woman who were born, raised, married and bore six children in Mazra’a village on the West Bank, have for a year and a half been forcibly exiled from their home.
The man, who had been released from prison in the Shalit deal, was exiled to Gaza as a condition of the reduction of his thirty-year sentence. His wife and their six children joined him.
And when their boy was killed, they decided, according to tradition and in obedience to the wishes of the family’s elders, to bury him in the family plot in the village of his birth. The boy began his journey alone. The father, exiled, is forbidden to return to the West Bank, and the mother was afraid to ask the Israeli authorities for a permit to attend her son’s funeral lest they refuse to allow her to return to her husband and the five remaining children - mysterious and unpredictable are the decisions of the occupying power.
At three in the afternoon an ambulance from the occupied territories already waited on the Palestinian side for the body. Some family members, men only, came and also waited. But though they’d been notified from Gaza that everything had been arranged and the body was on the way, the ambulance that was supposed to bring the boy failed to appear. As time passed, the circle of waiting relatives widened. They were told over the phone: Any minute now, but nothing happened. Three hours went by and the ambulance, the ambulance driver and the men stood and waited and telephoned and were promised that it would arrive right away, and watched the road along which the boy’s body was to travel, and saw it filled with traffic but not the vehicle they awaited.
And, at the same time, a back-to-back procedure was underway between a Jerusalem ambulance and an ambulance from the West Bank which had brought a patient from Tulkarm: “He’s scheduled to be operated on tomorrow morning at Makassed,” said the paramedic.
From the perspective of the dead boy’s relatives, who’d waited many hours, a half-hour delay of a sick, anguished man, who grimaced with pain every time he moved, seemed but a few minutes.