Palestinian families wait impatiently for midnight

Mother of jailed Palestinian: Our son is an accessory who happened to be there, but we send our condolences to the family of the settler who died.

Mother of released Palestinian prisoner 370 (photo credit: NIDA TUMA)
Mother of released Palestinian prisoner 370
(photo credit: NIDA TUMA)
RAMALLAH – On the way to Deir Jarir, a village to the northeast of Ramallah, taxi drivers hung photos of the imprisoned Palestinian Esmat Mansour on their cars. The entrance of the village was decorated with pictures of Mansour, who was arrested at the age of 16.
Mansour is expected to be in the first group of the 104 Palestinian prisoners Israel agreed to release during the nine-month period of peace talks.
He was convicted of being an accessory in the murder of 30- year-old Hayim Mizrahi in 1993. Two of the other assailants were sentenced to 99 years, while Esmat’s jail time was 22 years. He served 20 years of the full sentence.
Mansour helped subdue the victim, who was on his way to buy eggs from an Arab-owned farm near his home. Mizrahi’s body was stuffed into the trunk of his vehicle, which the perpetrators used to flee.
In front of the Mansour home, a tent was erected in preparation for the celebration.
His mother, Um Mu’tasem, had just had a moment to sit and relax after two days of preparing for her son’s release.
“I have received dozens of journalists in the past few days. I didn’t sleep or rest, but it’s all for Esmat’s sake,” she told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
The mother paused for a second to wait for a nearby bulldozer to stop working, when Ali Mu’tasem, Esmat’s cousin, continued: “We’re preparing a stage when Esmat arrives. If he arrives Tuesday night, then we are going to celebrate. Otherwise, we’ll party Wednesday night,” he told the Post.
It’s been 20 years since Um Mu’tasem was able to hug her son. She was granted a visit on Id al-Fitr – the festival that marks the end of Ramadan – on Thursday.
“This was the first time in 20 years I wished my son a happy holiday on the [festival],” she said.
Um Mu’tasem displayed her hands, decorated with henna, and described how she was able to have her first handshake with her son, as she was usually separated by a glass barrier.
“I wanted to put henna on the walls to express my excitement,” she said, in reference to the tradition of women staining their hands with the dye during festive occasions.
She still can’t believe her son will be released on Tuesday night.
“I will not believe it until he’s here in the house,” she said.
She continued to say that during the 2011 prisoner swap for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, she was disappointed that her son was not going to be released.
“She was expecting her son to be among the people who would be freed. When he wasn’t on the list, she lost consciousness,” Wafa, Esmat’s sister- in-law, told the Post.
“Esmat always used to tell me that it’s better for those who are spending longer terms to be released before me,” Um Mu’- tasem said.
When the news was released that Esmat was on the list, all of her relatives rushed to give her the news, which caused her to faint out of excitement. The family danced, sang and celebrated the news on Sunday night.
On Monday, the women joined in the celebratory preparation at the house Esmat grew up in. His cousin, Esrar, was one of the relatives most excited to soon meet her cousin for the first time.
When her mother was pregnant with her, Esmat asked to name the baby girl “Esrar,” meaning “determination.”
“I want to ask him ‘what does determination [mean] and why that name?’” Esrar told the Post.
Both parents don’t wish for Esmat to be involved in politics but instead to get married and to enjoy life.
Esmat’s father, Mansour, doesn’t want him to work in the family’s car rental business.
“Our job is too stressful. I want him to have a simpler life. He’s gone through enough,” he added.
“We paid our prices, and they did too,” the mother said, referring to the Mizrahis, who lost their son.
“No mother likes her son to be away from her for 20 years,” she said, denying any knowledge of her son’s role in killing Mizrahi.
“Our son is an accessory who happened to be there, but we send our condolences to the family of the settler who died. We’re humans and hate killing.”
Mansour told the Post that the family will go to the Presidential Headquarters in Ramallah Tuesday night to bring their son home.
“I can’t express my feelings unless I see him, I don’t know how I will react,” the father explained.
While many relatives asked to host Esmat for lunches, the mother refused.
“His stomach can’t handle heavy Arabic dishes such as mensaf or musakhan. We asked everyone to give him time to relax and get adjusted to the new life,” she said.
The family members believe their son will be positively surprised with the new changes in the village and family.
“We have... 60 new members who were born into the family after he was detained,” the mother said.
Esmat’s brothers and sisters are coming from the US on Wednesday to welcome home their brother.