On Mother’s Day, Palestinian mothers dream of saying goodbye to their sons
Zamzam stood holding a picture of her son, Mahmoud Ahmidan, 27, who was killed by Israeli soldiers in 2021. It will be two years since he was killed this September, and his body is still being kept at an Israeli morgue.
On Tuesday, which is Mother’s Day in the Middle East, Ahmidan’s mother organized a group of Palestinian mothers to stand in the center of Ramallah, hold up pictures of their children, and demand the transfer of their bodies. Rights groups say Israel is holding them back as part of a policy of collective punishment.
“Mahmoud was detained in Israeli prisons for six years, and two months after his release, Israeli soldiers killed him near his hometown of Beddo, northwest of Jerusalem. To my pain and sorrow, Israel refuses to hand over his body to us so we can say goodbye to him and bury him,” Zamzam told MEE.
Israel is currently detaining hundreds of Palestinian bodies and denying their families access to view or bury them, adding to the pain of losing them after their deaths at the hands of Israeli soldiers. According to the UN, Israel has the bodies of 325 Palestinians and refuses to hand them over.
On this Mother’s Day, the only wish these mothers have is for the bodies of their children to be handed over to Israel. Their greatest wish is to be buried in graves close enough to be able to visit them from time to time and grieve.
Israel has a longstanding policy of withholding the bodies of Palestinians killed while allegedly trying to attack Israeli targets. Israel has used this tactic on and off for many years and resumed the practice eight years ago after ending it in 2004.
According to reports, Israel is keeping the bodies of Palestinians in secret graves known as “cemeteries of numbers”, allegedly established to bury them.
About two months ago Israeli soldiers killed five young Palestinians after storming the Aqabat Jaber camp in the city of Jericho. Israel took their bodies and they still are.
It was also announced that three young men were arrested after being injured, including Alaa Awadat, whose mother went to the hospital to sign papers. After she reached her room, she was surprised to find that it was not her son in the room, but his cousin, who was announced to be among the five killed.
This means that Alaa could be the fifth Palestinian to be killed and not his cousin, but Israel has so far refused to reveal his fate to his family, causing his mother, Nuha, great pain.
“Why don’t they tell us his fate? Why don’t they want us to know what happened to him? I want to know where my son is. Is he martyred or wounded? Is this too much for a mother who can’t sleep from crying?” Nuha said.
Next to her, Maha stood holding two pictures of her two sons, Raafat and Ibrahim Awidat, who were among the five killed.
Adla Ghattas from the Deisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem took the microphone and spoke about the feelings of mothers, especially those whose bodies are being withheld due to the Israeli occupation.
Her son, Fadi, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers several months ago, and his body is still being withheld by Israel, as they refuse to hand it over to his family.
“Our demand is simple, to visit the graves of our children, put jasmine and roses on them. We want to close their open graves that await their return… At home, I am afraid to open the refrigerator because I imagine my son’s body in the Israeli refrigerator. I feel it’s cold and I wish I’d put a cover on it,” Adla said amid an audience visibly disturbed by her words.
The families say this policy is part of a collective punishment practiced on Palestinians.
Lawyer Muhammad Elayan, who is pursuing this issue in the Israeli courts, says that it is a method used by Israel to put pressure on families and act as a deterrent.
“Despite this source, Israel refuses to hand over these bodies in accordance with the decision it took in 2015 to keep them in the morgue, and now the list of martyrs whose bodies are being withheld is growing and he includes women and children, although he refuses. to reveal the burial place of hundreds of martyrs in the secret tombs,” he said.
According to Elayan, the policy to keep the bodies is inhumane, because Israel keeps them frozen at seventy degrees below zero, which changes their features and causes significant changes in their bodies – to the extent that some families do not recognize their children own. when they are handed over.
Amjad Abu Sultan, 15, from Bethlehem, was shot by Israeli soldiers near a military checkpoint, and his body was kept for a year. When he was handed over, his body was frozen and his family did not recognize him.
Standing with the rest of the mothers, she shed tears when she saw the other people’s pictures. When we asked her why she came, she said that she knows how much pain mothers feel when their son is still in the morgue.
“The pain, of course, does not end with the burial of the body, but at least I know where my son is. I visit his grave and put flowers on it. I don’t care that he is frozen because the mother feels that her son is cold even when he is dead,” she said.