Al-Ahram WeeklySpecial pages commemorating
50 years of Arab dispossession
since the creation of the
State of Israel
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

1948-1998
50 Years

 

So many prophets

The last entry in Ahmed Abdel-Aziz's diary

"I sighed and touched the gun hanging from my belt. I asked myself: 'What if the Jews advance on this area?' The answer surfaced in my mind: 'I'd fight, even if I had nothing left but my gun. I'd leave the last bullet for myself.' I looked around. The beautiful, ancient Monastery of Mar Elias stood ahead of me at the end of the road. At the top of the mountain on which it stands is the village of Beit Jala. The river-bed was beneath our feet. Wild flowers exuded a magnificent fragrance. Their colours seemed to be swimming on liquid waves of sunlight.

"My hand tightened on the gun. I thought: 'These are our most critical moments.' I recalled the people back home. 'What are they doing now? I wonder if they know?' Another minute passed. I muttered something to myself. A checkpoint officer heard me and said, 'At your service, sir.' I returned to my thoughts. 'No. I know that they will remember this day. They will commemorate us as martyrs and say, 'Those were the finest moments of their lives.'

"I asked myself, 'Are we going to die?' A tape recording was running at top speed inside my head. I imagined what would happen when the officer beside me called the next checkpoint on the radio and said: 'The major has died, sir.' What would happen to my officers and soldiers? How would the people back home react? And my family? How would they take the news? I asked myself the strangest question: 'And me... what will I say when I die?' I laughed. 'You won't be saying a word, son. You'll be dead. You'll be in another world where you won't be able to say a thing.' A voice inside my head demanded: 'How is it that I won't even know how the battle plays itself out? I have to know!'

"I took another look around me and thought, 'What a beautiful place for fate to seal the play that was my life.' I noticed a stone bench next to the road. It was there for people to sit on in times of peace. They could rest their feet when they got tired of walking in the late afternoon on this idyllic road between the river-bed and the mountain. I thought: 'Good, people who want to visit my grave will be able to sit there. They'll be able to take a rest after climbing the mountain. From that bench they will look at my statue.

"My statue? Of course, they will have to make a statue of me. Right here. Or at least they will put up a plaque with my name and the date of my death written on it. Yes, a simple plaque will do; no need for a statue. There will be many visitors.

"My son, Khaled, will come. He will be a man by then. He won't sit down, because the climb to my grave will not have tired him out. He'll stand with his head bowed and say proudly, 'This is where my father died. He died a hero.' And he won't cry.'

"The word, hero, reverberated in my mind. I recalled Nietzsche's words: 'The hero is the man who knows how to die, when to die and where to die.' I looked around me again. I took in the river-bed, redolent with the fragrance of wild flowers with their radiant colours, the scenic mountain road bordered by olive trees, the lofty mountain peak. Mar Elias was ahead of me. Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, was behind me. Behind that was Al-Khalil -- the tomb of Abraham, surrounded by so many prophets. I thought, 'Yes, Nietzsche would like this spot'."



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