This Thing Called Courage

Thursday, July 31, 2008

From Sojourners Magazine

By Philip Rizk

On March 19, Israeli forces rounded up Assad Salach and his sons, Fahmi and Salach, and Assad's brother Sa'id and his son Ghassan -- along with more than 300 men age 16 and above -- along its northern border with the Gaza Strip. It is not the first time Israel has arrested the male members of the Salach family.These days when militants launch homemade Qassam rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, they are usually launched from within the cities, not these border areas. Thus, it makes little sense for these men to be arrested solely for security purposes. Rather, it seems to be a method of pushing the families inhabiting the border areas into the cities and deserting their only source of income, their land. Israel is successfully destroying the potential of the fruit basket of the densely populated Strip. The once-luscious green land is now reduced to an arid no-man's-land, easily overseeable by Israel's security towers and drones overlooking it all. The economic crisis caused by this ongoing, intentional de-development of Gaza's economy is destroying the society's makeup.The Salach's main family home was destroyed in 2001. Eight Israeli bulldozers crossed the nearby border and flattened the fields. Shortly thereafter, they came back and flattened the home with some family members still inside. That day Abu Assad, the Salach family grandfather, had a stroke, and he and his wife, Om Assad, were taken to the hospital. By the end of the day, Om Assad had lost her husband, her home, and the trees that had adorned the family's fields. She moved half a kilometer down the road to her other son's home. Today, Israel has taken him as well.
Despite a cease-fire, five of the Salach family members remain imprisoned without even a court case. Their fields still lie in ruin as the Israeli army fires at them when they try and approach it. Their old home remains demolished while the memories of the past continue to haunt them daily.
Assad and Sa'id used to collect the tank shells, things of ugliness, which Israel fired on them as they tended to their goats and fields. They would paint them, fill them with flowers, and turn them into vases -- things of beauty. "The day they started doing that the Israelis almost completely stopped firing at us," Assad's wife told me. As soon as the media spread pictures of their act -- turning death into life, ugliness into beauty -- the shells stopped falling. When the men were detained, so were the vases.

Philip Rizk is an Egyptian-German Christian who lived and worked in Gaza from 2005-2007. He is currently working on a documentary film, which is described at


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