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The Orient House is occupied. The Echoes and reactions have been heard throughout the world. The result? It has added more fire to an already enflamed situation in the region. In addition to the Orient House, there are several more Palestinian institutions were occupied or closed down by Israeli Army on Aug. 11th. within Jerusalem City.
At this vital moment, the Palestinians remember the faithful son of Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini. He was the paramout leader of the Orient House for many years. He has worked diligently and with great integrity to serve and look after the interests of Jerusalem City and its Arab population. The Palestinian of East Jerusalem has been suffering the consequences of Israeli occupation since 1967. The Orient House struggles and fights at all fronts; political, economical, social and educational in order to maintain the Arab character of Jerusalem City. One particular front where Faisal was always ready to defend and that was renovating Arab houses inside the old city. Settlers always prey on such cases where they take over an old house and then turn it into a strong hold castle of friction and hatred. Fasial passionately fought against that. He stopped confiscation attempts or evictions by soldiers or settlers. The city is deeply indulged into turmoil. The struggle is immense and Faisal was up to it. He, passionately, became known as the Knight of Jerusalem.
It is no wonder that such a historical responsibility was laid on the shoulders of Faisal. After all, he comes from a prominent Jerusalemite family with a long long history of defending Jerusalem, caring for Jerusalem, loving Jerusalem and dying for Jerusalem. His grandfather was a myrtar killed during the British mandate of Palestine. Faisal's father, Abdul Qader, is one of the greatest revolutionaries of Arab modern history. Abdul Qader Al Husseini was killed in the battle of AL Qastal fighting Zionist groups on the outskirts Jerusalem in 1947. When the news of his death broke out, local people from nearby towns and villages poured into Jerusalem for their leader's funeral.
A couple of Zionist groups heard that most men from the villages left to Jerusalem to take part in Abdul Qader's funeral. Immediately, the groups led by Begin and Shamir entered the village of Deir Yassin and massacred the female inhabitants and their children. The village men, later that day, came back to their grieved shock to find their families all dead. An entire village was exterminated. That's how the tragedy of Deir Yassin happened.
A generation later, the Arab population of the city, again, came out to say goodbye to their "knight" on June 21st 2001. This time to the son, Faisal. And they came to pay their respect to the man who defended them, jailed for them, exiled for them and sacrificed so much. The following day, the local newspapers reported that Jerusalem was liberated for few hours during Faisal's funeral. Palestinian national flags were flown on the walls of the Old City and Al Aqsa mosque. A rare sight not seen since 1967. The Israeli army, on that day, had to step aside to avoid the unthinkable.
The most important legacy of Faisal is the assertion of Palestinian nationalism on Jerusalem through the Orient House. The building is a clear expression of Palestinian sovereign rights over the City. The actions of Israel in the last few days are a blatant blow against Palestinian national rights over the City of Jerusalem. The occupation of the Orient house will obviously lead to more tension. To many observers of the region, the take over is simply a reckless act. It enforces occupation especially when powerful symbols of nationalism come under attack. The alternative is radicalism will surge.
What an irony? Faisal Husseini, after many years of personal and ideological growth, was the voice of sanity and reason in Jerusalem. He worked so hard to establish the institution (Orient house)as a channel of dialogue in the City of Jerusalem. Instead, it is undergoing a vicious attack and closed down. By doing that, Israel is shutting down the hope of dialogue. The Orient house was a meeting point for moderates of both sides including active, concerned and selective international involvement.
Today, Monday, August 13th. is a day of national strike in Palestine including the city of Jerusalem. Economic life came to a halt in major cities of the occupied territories. Protests were held to denounce the Orient House take over. Clashes took place all over the Palestinian cities and towns. The situation in Hebron was particularly bad. A little girl, 8 years old, was shot straight in the head. She was killed instantly. Her home is located in the center of Hebron City. There, 400 Jewish settlers have planted themselves among a Palestinian population of 120,000. That needs heavy security from Israeli army to make it possible for the 400 to exist despite the will and rage of 120,000 Hebronites.
Jerusalem holds a deep sentiment in the minds and hearts of the Palestinians. To doubt that or fight it is to shun down a core identity and unstoppable passions.
History is always the greatest witness and reference. The city of Jerusalem never ceased to introduce a Knight in any given era.
Aug 13th. 2001
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