Know More About Palestine

Tuesday Dec. 29, 2009 12:09 PM (EST+7)
Generations meet in Israeli jails

Read more: prisoners, detainees, Gilad Shalit, prisoner exchange

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Dec. 29 - Samira's husband, Fakri, was arrested by Israeli authorities 31 years ago.

In the decades of his imprisonment, Fakhri's sons have joined him in prison, their mother left to wait and wonder outside the prison walls.

She and her sons used to visit their father together, until one day, they were banned for security reasons. They were unable to see their father until they, too, were arrested in 2003, says Samira al-Barghouthi, 50.

Both her husband and his son, Shadi, were detained in their 24th year. Another son, Hadi was arrested and then released in a 2007 prisoner's exchange.

But Shadi, Hadi and their father managed to share the same cell. For their family, prison has become a place of communication and shared experience.


As a wanted man, Shadi had hopes that his father would be released as part of a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah. He worked hard to stay out of the hands of the Israeli soldiers who wanted to put him behind bars. But when his father was left behind, Shadi went to his own home, knowing he would be picked up and detained. It was the only way he knew to see his father, family members said.

Fakhri is serving several life terms after being convicted of killing an Israeli settler, injuring several soldiers and planning other attacks on Israelis. Shadi was sentenced to 27 years for killing several Israeli soldiers.

Hadi was liberated in the middle of a four-year sentence for planning several attacks.

In fact, the extended Barghouti family has more than 70 members in prison, including the longest-serving prisoner Nael Barghouthi and Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi.

“We could only meet inside the prison, says Omar, Fakhri's brother. I was arrested along with my son, father, and cousins. I was able to see my brother twice, once in 1978 and again in 2004.

At one point, we were more than 16 brothers and cousins in prison and when we were released, we cried a lot because we knew that we wouldn't be able to see each other unless we were imprisoned once again.”


Shadi was 10 months old when his father was arrested, and Hadi was in the womb. Neither knew their father well until they shared the same jail cell for four years.

Fakhri lost his father, mother, brother and two sisters while he was in prison. None were ever able to visit him.

Our journey is difficult and our stories are long, says ex-prisoner Omar. No one owes us favors. The cause demands sacrifice. We offer our sons as prisoners and martyrs, but we also miss each other. We have no way of contacting each other except to enter jail ourselves, or liberation in a prisoner's exchange deal.

Marwan Barghouthi is among the several hundred prisoners that Hamas has demanded Israel release in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit is believed to have been held for the last three and a half years in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Ministry for Prisoners Affairs says there are some 80 Palestinian detainees who have spent more than 20 years in Israeli prisons, and 25 who have been imprisoned for more than 25 years. Those sentenced to at least one life term number 800 detainees out of a total of 11,000 prisoners in the 15 detention centers in Israel.







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