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When home isn’t home anymore

Jerusalem24 Hala Zuhairi – “We shared everything,” says 24-year-old Roaa, the eldest of the Rimawi children, who until last month numbered six.

“The three of us loved to stay up late, and then have mom wake us up angry in the morning at how lazy we were.”

Roaa is speaking of her two brothers, 22-year-old Jawad and 19-year-old Dhafer, who were shot and killed by the Israeli military raided the village of Kafr Ein northwest of Ramallah at dawn on 29 November.

When news broke out of the Israeli military storming of Kafr Ein – about a 10-minute drive away Beit Rima, the Rimawis’ hometown – Jawad and Dhafer headed to the village with other local youth to confront the soldiers.

The Rimawi family first received news that Jawad and Dhafer were “lightly injured”, and she and her parents went to the hospital to check on them.

“We headed to see them thinking that their injuries are light,” Roaa tells 24FM. “I asked where their injuries were and was told ‘in their legs’, which reassured me that they would survive.”

“So we didn’t bring my younger siblings with us, since we were heading out to bring Jawad and Dhafer back with us – not to say goodbye.”

But Jawad and Dhafer’s injuries weren’t light. Dhafer was hit three times in the chest with live ammunition, while Jawad was targeted with an explosive bullet (the type of ammunition used by Israeli snipers, which wreaks havoc on soft tissue) in the pelvis which penetrated his intestines and caused severe bleeding.

According to preliminary investigations, the Israeli army was firing live ammunition at the youth who were throwing stones. When Jawad was shot in the pelvis, Dhafer went to evacuate his injured brother and was immediately shot in the chest.

The brothers were transferred to separate hospitals and the family had to make a decision about who would stay with Jawad, who was undergoing surgery in the emergency room in Salfit Hospital, and who would go with Dhafer to Ramallah Hospital, some 45km away by road. Roaa got in the ambulance with Dhafer, and their father stayed with Jawad.

“Dhafer’s condition was stable,” recalls Roaa. “I stayed focused on the monitor and his vital signs.”

“When we arrived at the hospital, Dhafer went into cardiac rest. While the doctors tried to resuscitate him, I got a phone call saying Jawad had died.”

“I don’t want to get used to a life without them”

“Nothing replaces the void left after Jawad and Thafer, no words or prayer,” says Roaa.

Everyone in the Rimawi family is dealing with the loss differently, she says.

“People’s visits and support have been helping my parents cope with the loss… But the moment the house is empty they feel it all over again. They’re going in and out of thise state of brokenness…”

Rand, the youngest daughter, doesn’t express her feelings and keeps things to herself. Twin boys Mohammad and Awas, are each in their own world: the former acts as if nothing had happened, sings, goes to school and plays; the latter constantly looks like he’s about to explode.

Roaa says that she tries to help them get over the loss by expressing their feelings, and crying if they feel the urge to do so.

“Would crying bring them back?” they ask.

Why Roaa chooses to write

Roaa says her brothers were the “light and joy” of their family.

“They loved life, and both of them were full of dreams. They were planning on going to Turkey next month.”

Jawad was in the early planning stages of launching his own business project, and Dhafer, who was very good in accounting, “used to show off that skill which he said would allow him to take us all over the world.”

The brothers loved football and used to watch matches with their friends. “Their room is full of medals,” says Roaa.

She recounts how she used to make fun of them when they sang: “They were beautiful until they started singing.”

Jawad is a year and a half younger than Roaa, but “we were like twins,” says says. “We shared a room until I was twelve.”

Along with Dhafer (who is five years younger than her) the three siblings “shared everything.”

In the face of this immeasurable, unfathomable, unqualifiable loss, Roaa writes.

“I write because my brothers were executed. I write because we are being killed everywhere, even if we are inside our homes or on our rooftops, or even if we throw a stone. I write because I want the world to know what it meant to lose Jawad and Dhafer. I write because I don’t know what to do now and how to go on with my life without them.”

“Home isn’t home anymore”

One day can change your whole life forever, and the thought is terrifying, says Roaa.

“This isn’t our home anymore; this isn’t our family. When people tell me to move on with my life… how am I supposed to do that? We shouldn’t be feeling all of this pain.”

“We don’t want to adjust to life without them. It’s too early to adjust to life without them.”

The original version of this article appeared on, Jerusalem24’s sister station. Translation by Nadeen Alshaer.

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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