He did not complain
because his goods were toppled over, nor about those others who threw it
to the ground, smashed it, or about them hitting him. He complained
about one thing only, that Rabbi Nachman had insulted him.
On a recent Thursday, last November, Kamaal Ubayd called. I have
something terribly important to tell you, he said.
No, not on the phone. Come over some time, we’ll talk. Come soon. His
voice was muffled and that was odd.
Are you okay? Shall we come now?
No, never mind now. I’ll be alright. But come. We’ll sit quietly.
So that’s how it was. On Saturday soon after that, we went to him, Tamar
and I, to Nabi Smauel النبي صموئيل, and sat
by his grocery inside the village, and he brought out coffee and talked.
Wanted to tell you about something that happened to me with someone. He
comes here every day to the grave (Samuel’s Grave) to pray. So on that
day he came with his car. I was at the vegetable stand by the tree and
he rammed into my crates. Everything was smashed down to the ground.
I’m not saying he did it on purpose. Probably wasn’t looking.
After he did that, he stopped. He stayed inside his car. I went over to
him and said, What have you done, Nachman? Because I know him.
He said, what did I do?
I said, you smashed everything.
He said, so what can I do?
And I said, at least one should be sorry about such a thing.
And he said, you shouldn’t be here.
And I said, instead of apologizing that’s what you tell me?
And he went away, no apology, nothing. It was a Thursday. I called the
police, told them this and that happened, but they never came. I knew
they wouldn’t. I picked up my stuff. And went on as usual.
The next day was Friday. I was at the stand as usual. And people were
buying. There was even a busload of people who come to pray at the
grave, and after prayers came over and bought my vegetables. Lots of
customers. I was glad. And that same person came. Rabbi Nachman. He
stood there, staring.
Then he said to them, how can you buy from an Arab? Why do you buy from
an Arab? Who, whenever there’s a terrorist attack, starts applauding and
breaks out in a dance.
That’s what he said.
People heard him and began to throw my wares to the ground. Whatever
they were holding. Two of them who had already paid wanted their money
back and I gave it to them. And he kept yelling like that, and cursing
too. And I told the people, don’t believe him.
I even said to his face, aren’t you ashamed? You wear a skullcap, you
have a beard, you pray and you’re lying. You yourself were my customer.
How can you explain that?
But no one believed me… They, too, began to curse me. I can’t repeat
those words. I cannot repeat them to you. Just can’t…
There were some youngsters standing by, whom I didn’t know. They were
there for the first time, and they started cursing me. I said, why are
you cursing me. If you want to believe him, go ahead. But don’t swear at
Then they began to beat me up. 4-5 young guys. They said, what kind of a
mouth do you have, telling us what to do. Because I told them not to
swear at me.
They hit me in the face. In the body. I told them I would call the
police, and finally they left. Rabbi Nachman left too. I phoned the
police. Yesterday I called and you didn’t come, I told them, and that’s
And the police came. They were here close by, I think, and they came
I went up with them and showed them Nachman and they went over and had a
word with him. I don’t know what they told him. They came back and said,
go to the police station. To Giv’at Ze’ev (a settlement). And gave me a
piece of paper that I could go there.
It was Friday, so I went to the police Sunday to lodge a complaint
against the person who made a terrorist.
Is that what the complaint is about? Not about the goods?
I’m not talking about the goods… What hurts me is that this person tries
to make me look like a terrorist. That’s what counts the most. That’s
what I said to the police, the most important thing for me was the words
and curses. The beating too, but the worst were the words he said about
It’s important to you because it offends you, or because you’re worried
about what will happen as a result? We asked him, Tamar and I.
It took me a week to calm down, he said. I’d started talking to myself.
I got sick. I wasn’t working well. And my wife said, what is it with
you? You see, a person gets upset... I’m such a… How could he say about
me that I made such trouble. How could he… To say about me that I
applaud after a terrorist attack… And I’m against such things. How could
I possibly applaud.
And you make me into a terrorist?
How can he say such a thing. That I’d do such a thing after an attack.
I even saved two children. On the road up there. Three, even. Three
children. And everyone knows this. Everyone knows I helped.
That’s who I am. That’s Kamaal.
We kept still for a bit after he said all this because he was terribly
upset. Even though some time had gone by, and it was strange there. For
everything around is falling apart. In this oppressed village hardly 180
persons have remained, clinging to the place against all odds, facing
the Occupation forces that try to remove them in practically any way
possible since they demolished most of the village since 1971. They are
not issued construction permits, or allowed to install sanitation, or
build latrines for the school. Absolutely nothing. To make their lives
And here his nephew tried merely to repair a roof, an existing roof, and
already a demolition order hovers, and his other nephew is in jail for
he wanted to work and was caught in Jerusalem, and he has not seen his
son for 13 years now because they won’t let him back in from Jordan, in
order to pressure him, or build another room in his tiny dwelling – he’s
already given up trying after it had been demolished again and again.
And in the background stands the home of the collaborator who attempts
to sell the village lands to please the oppressor, and everything looks
so lost… And he went off and brought some tea, and we drank it, and old
Hajje Shukriya (whose black dog would not leave the house when the
Occupation forces demolished it, and died inside the rubble and turned
into the village’s main myth) came and went, and some more quiet and
pleasant and sad time went by and then we asked, Kamaal, what actually
happened with those children? Because he had never told us before.
The children I rescued? He asked.
There was once a guy in the village who had a horse. You don’t know him,
Kammal said. And he was standing close by, with his horse. And Hajje
Shukriya was with me on that day. We were standing, no, actually sitting
under the tree. And someone came along and picked up his kids, two
little ones, and placed them on the horse. I was looking when suddenly
the horse began to… jump. Up on his rear legs. And these kids were tiny.
They would have fallen off immediately. So I jumped up and picked them
off the horse so they wouldn’t fall. And they didn’t fall. And they were
scared, they were such little kids.
And even their mother and their father didn’t know what to do.
And people stood around there, look look, an Arab saves a Jew. And I
said to one of them, shame on you! What are you talking about? At such a
time no one thinks about such things, that this is a Jew and this an
And their father and mother couldn’t thank me enough. So that’s that
The second time, there was some woman with a children’s stroller. You
know, the place where I stand with the vegetables, there’s a steep
slope. She didn’t notice it. She left the stroller and came to open her
car trunk. Suddenly the stroller rolled down and I ran off and managed
to catch it. And I caught the stroller.
And the kid’s mother wanted to kiss my hands. She said, give me your
name and I’ll thank you through the newspaper of something. I said, no
need. Thank God nothing happened to your child. And that was it.
Was the woman with the car someone who came to this grave to pray?
They all come here to Samuel’s grave. They’re all religious. I saw her
again, that woman. She brought her husband. Because that first time he
wasn’t with her. They came and she told him, this man saved our child,
and so on. Told him about what had happened…. He even handed me a 100
NIS note and said, here, take it. I said that from God we get more than
100 NIS, go with God’s blessing, I said.
And if I hadn’t been here, what would have happened to these
children? That’s what I ask.
And after all of this, that’s my reward. That such a man comes and calls
me a terrorist.
At first I couldn’t understand how he could be so offended from this,
under the present circumstances. Somehow it didn’t seem proportionate in
his collapsing world. And I wondered whether he really thinks seriously
about suing that man for having said about him that he dances and
applauds when there’s a terrorist attack. Doesn’t he understand, doesn’t
he know it’s absurd, and that it’s more important to save his energy
which is depleted in his daily struggle with the various Occupation
forces who try to steal his land and expel him and the rest of Nabi
And what’s the significance of that specific, normal typical racist in
all of this. Who clearly punishes him for having demanded an apology,
for having expected an apology. Perhaps because Kamaal’s assumption that
he deserves an apology from the person who upset his stand even if not
intentionally, is in fact a statement that he is a human being. One
human asking another human to apologize. Thus saying they’re equals.
Equally human. And for that, Rabbi Nachman punished him. For
transgressing his inferior role.
And how is Rabbi Nachman different from all the other oppressors
trampling Kamaal day in day out? Micha of the Civil Administration, and
all the other soldiers and policemen, and the illegal laws of Israel.
Has Kamaal lost his sense of proportion, I thought. Is he losing his
And then I realized, suddenly, that Kamaal’s feeling offended is also
his rebellion, and his uprightness.
The fact that Kamaal got up and went to complain to the police that
Rabbi Nachman offended him and called him a terrorist – I regard this as
Kamaal’s refusal of the fate which this junction in history dictates to
That is his power, that is also his triumph.
And when I realized this, my heart was really torn asunder.
Aya Kaniuk. Translated by Tal Haran.