‘I know she is in heaven’

The mother of Lamis Hamdan, a four-year-old killed in a Jerusalem bus crash, mourns.

By NIDA TUMA
February 17, 2012 00:44
4 minute read.
Onlookers at the site of the bus accident.

bus accident jerusalem crash 390 R. (photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)

“I think our child is dead. All I want now is you by my side,” the mother of Lamis Hamdan, a four-year-old pupil, sobbed to her husband over the phone.

Lamis’s father was desperately searching hospitals, hoping to find his daughter among the surviving children of the Jab’a bus crash on Thursday morning.

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“I know that she’s in heaven now,” her mother cried as she stood in front of the ER at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah. Other women stood to comfort her, saying that her daughter might be alive.

“Why wouldn’t they tell me if she is still alive?” she asked.

Lamis’s grandmother, Majida Juwailes, told The Jerusalem Post that her granddaughter was a very lively child.

“Her mother is always frightened that something will harm Lamis. She’s always playing and moving,” she said. “I don’t know who is responsible for [the accident].
I just pray to Allah that we find her safe.”

Lamis’s fate was still unknown at press time, because the Palestinian Health Ministry declined to publish victims’ names before their families identified them.

Dozens of Palestinians rushed to the medical complex as news spread that the hospital was in a need of blood donations.

In the children’s section, the names of the injured were written on papers hung on room doors.

Families who had found their children sat next to them while others frantically searched for their children’s names.

Mohammed Amireh returned to the ER fighting the urge to cry, when a policeman asked him whether his daughter had a necklace with a key in it. He sadly nodded his head in approval.

“She had two braids,” he said.

The policeman, now certain it was Amireh’s daughter, took him to the morgue to identify his daughter.

“Some of her features were clearly visible, and the house key was laying at her side,” the father said, only a few hours after he drove his daughter to the school bus.

Marwa, five, was the youngest of four siblings and always the first one to arrive home from school. She would usually sit at the computer and wait for her brother, Amireh said.

Marwa was buried in Anata cemetery Thursday evening.

Across the hallway, another family anxiously awaited news of their loved one.

Ola Julani, a 37-year-old teacher from Shuafat, has taught at the Anata kindergarten for the past three years. She drives her car there daily, but had accompanied her students on the trip. Her sister Abir, 29, came running from the children’s section to the ER. Her nephew had survived the accident, but her sister’s fate was still unknown.

Abir sat next to her mother, Laila, as other family members asked an official to allow them into the ER to identify Julani. Laila whispered a few prayers, “May God forgive the driver if he was speeding.”

Searching through West Bank and Jerusalem hospitals, Naser, Julani’s tearful husband, could not find his wife anywhere.

Laila asked her family members to comfort Julani’s husband. “He loves Ola to death, don’t leave him alone,” she said.

Julani was married four years ago and was planning to start a family. Her father, As’ad, told the Post that his daughter, the eldest of five siblings, was the stepmother of two daughters.

Laila said she could still hear her daughter’s laughter. “Why did she have to go today? Why did the school principal allow the trip?” she asked.

“Don’t say that, mother,” said Abir. “We are believers [in God].”

(Islam requires believers to never question God’s will, which is considered blasphemy.) The stressed family quarreled with TV crews who wanted to film them awaiting the news.

Hours later, Ola’s husband and father were taken to the morgue to identify the body. “She was severely burned,” her husband said slowly. “It’s very difficult, but no one fails to recognize his wife,” he added, in tears.

Naser remembers his wife’s last words: “She told me I am going on a trip. I said have fun, but what can I say? Thank God for everything.Alhamdulillah [praise be to Allah],” he told the Post.

In the evening, Julani’s body was taken to the al-Aksa Mosque to be prayed upon and was buried in Jerusalem.

Anata Mayor Ibrahim al-Rifai officially confirmed the death of Milad Salameh and Zaid Nimr, two five-year-old students. He said he was awaiting official confirmation on the deaths of two other children: Salah al-Dweik and Lamis.

The sadness caused by this accident was reflected on Facebook and Twitter, where many Palestinians posted black photos expressing their grief and calling Thursday a sad day in Palestinian history.

Some blamed the delayed Palestinian ambulances, questioning the readiness of the Palestinian state.

Another widely-shared photo was of some Israelis’ Facebook comments about the accident.

Some of them praised it, and one comment read: “Thank God they’re Palestinians; I hope there is a bus like that every day.”

Other Israeli comments attacked the the racist remarks and condemned the writers, but the first shared photos only had a translation of five Hebrew remarks expressing joy for the accident.

Many media programs were canceled Thursday, and a Palestinian singer scheduled to perform that day canceled a party in the Ramallah Cultural Palace.

Fatah official Tawfik Tirawi postponed his son’s wedding, which was scheduled for Thursday in Ramallah.

“We were waiting for a white, snowy day, not a dark, black day,” someone commented on Facebook.

Two other children were killed today in separate car accidents – one near Bethlehem and one in Hebron.


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