My heart stopped this morning when I checked Facebook and saw this photo of Yazan Al Jundi being led away by Israeli police on his sister Asala’s page, and then on his father Sami’s page. (Sami is the Palestinian peace activist that I wrote The Hour of Sunlight with, and about)
My mind started racing staring at Yazan’s face in the photo. What happened? Is Yazan okay? Is he still being held?
Yazan is a 15-year old soccer enthusiast who lives in the Old City of Jerusalem–and I’ve known him since he was a 2 year old toddler. I feel about him the way I feel about my own nephew. I’ve watched him grow up, seen how eager he is to please everyone around him, to help whenever he can. He is sweet, and kind and loving and now….perhaps on his way to an Israeli jail?
I called Sami immediately to find out what was going on. Tears of relief when I learned Yazan was home now. He and a group of boys had been outside Al Aqsa mosque yesterday, close to where clashes had been taking place. Yazan and 10 other boys were rounded up and arrested, held for 24 hours, and then released.
Sami told me that Yazan was okay, but I don’t really know any of the details of what he endured during those 24 hours. Had he been beaten, or roughed up in any way? Had he been interrogated, or otherwise intimidated? Did his father, Sami, and his mother, Fadia, know where Yazan was held, did they have access to him during those 24 hours, did they know that he was alright? Yazan must have been frightened. Fadia and Sami (who knows what interrogation and imprisonment at the hands of Israel feels like) must have been terrified.
There’s more to say than I can really say right now, about the power dynamics that allow Israeli police to round up Palestinian youth and hold them, about the arbitrariness of whether a Palestinian teeanger is detained or not, for how long, and under what circumstances, about the number of Palestinian children who have experienced arrest and have been held for far longer, far more traumatic detentions than that which Yazan experienced yesterday/today.
For now, I’m just relieved that Yazan is home, and that he is okay. He’s probably watching the World Cup right now (soccer enthusiast that he is), and processing this episode in his brain in a file called something like: “What it means to be a Palestinian boy in the Old City of Jerusalem.”
What else to say, except for: this is not what it should mean to be a child, anywhere.