In the early hours of November 29, heavily armed Israeli soldiers raided yet again the village of Kafr Ein in the occupied West Bank, just a few kilometres from where we live, in Beit Rima village. They started shooting tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition at the local people. My brothers Thafer and Jawad joined other youth in defending the community, throwing stones at the soldiers. This cost them their lives.
The Israeli soldiers first shot my little brother, Thafer. Then, when Jawad ran to help him, Israeli soldiers hit him with an explosive bullet, too. At 5am, my mother woke me up screaming that Israeli soldiers had injured Jawad and Thafer, and that they had been taken to the hospital in the nearby town of Salfit. Jawad was rushed into surgery, with arteries and intestines destroyed. Thafer needed to be transferred to a different hospital in Ramallah where there was a thoracic surgeon able to operate on him. My mother stayed with Jawad while I went in the ambulance with Thafer. My brother was bleeding to death in front of my eyes and while our priority was to keep him alive, everyone in the vehicle was fixated on finding a route without military checkpoints. If we were to encounter a checkpoint, we would be stopped by Israeli soldiers for questioning and risked my brother dying as we waited to be let through.
As we arrived at the hospital 20 minutes later, my mother called me to tell me that Jawad had been pronounced dead. Thafer was without a pulse and doctors performed CPR on his lifeless body, but despite their efforts, he tragically died, too. I remember my mom telling me over the phone, “Jawad is gone. Jawad died. He is no longer alive. Please tell me that Thafer is okay. I can’t take losing them both,” she begged. That’s when it hit me that Thafer would never wake up, either. How could he? He never left Jawad’s side. We had lost them both. My brothers will never come home.
For the foreign media this was yet another episode of “clashes” in the West Bank, the victims being nameless, faceless Palestinians. But these clashes are in reality asymmetrical confrontations in which young men and children, with rocks and slingshots, face off with one of the strongest armies in the world. Many, like my brothers, pay with their lives. Some outsiders ask why Palestinians throw stones when they know they may be killed for it. Instead, the question should be: What else would you do if you were born under a brutal occupation and suffered its violence all your life?
Israel’s military brutality makes up my earliest memories. I remember killings by Israeli soldiers, I remember our family fearing that our house would be bombed, I remember hearing gunshots and explosions at night, I remember walking past Israeli snipers positioned on rooftops or under the barrel of an Israeli soldier’s gun. When I was three years old, the Israeli army raided our village with tanks and helicopters; five people were killed and several houses demolished. When I was five years old, Israeli soldiers burst into our house, arresting and blindfolding my father in front of us. Jawad, who was four at the time, hid behind my back and cried. Those moments of dread never left me or my brothers. All Palestinians living under the longest military occupation in modern history have experienced them.
When you witness injustice, the loss of loved ones, and wars, what choice do you have other than to try to defend yourself because you know that no one else will? To say I lost my brothers on November 29 is not enough. I lost my closest friends, my favourite humans, two amazing boys with kind, sincere souls, beautiful in every way. Now my family and I will wake up every day for the rest of our lives without them.
Jawad had graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2021 with dreams of opening a business. Thafer’s dream was to travel the world. But because they were boys born in Palestine, their lives were always in jeopardy. Jawad was killed at the age of 22 before starting his own company and Thafer at 19, having never left the country.
I am a doctor and before November 29, I dreamed of becoming a paediatrician. That seems trivial now that the Israeli occupation has murdered my brothers. But in this dreadful darkness, I choose to search for the light. I choose to have faith in humanity and in the human urge to speak up against oppression. I dream that people reading this will demand justice for Jawad and Thafer and for the people of Palestine.
The killing has to stop. The world loses so much of its potential each time a young, smart, and caring individual is brutally killed by the Israeli army. Palestinians deserve to live in dignity without being oppressed, and without constantly losing their loved ones. Those responsible for killing my brothers must be held accountable. The Israeli occupation must end and its war criminals must be taken to court. How many more tragedies does the world need to see in order to act?