'Lynching' victim's mother: I pity the attackers

"Who could be proud of a child who does this?" asks Nariman Julani, who has been by her son Jamal’s side since J'lem attack.

Nariman Julani 370 (photo credit: Ilene Prusher)
Nariman Julani 370
(photo credit: Ilene Prusher)
Nariman Julani, who has been by her son Jamal’s side since he was brought to the hospital in a coma early Friday morning after being brutally attacked in downtown Jerusalem, sits with her recovering son and her husband on Wednesday and looks at photographs of the suspects in the Hebrew newspapers.
In the pictures, the teenagers had lifted their handcuffed hands to hide their faces.
“I really pity them,” says Nariman, a mother of seven children between the ages of five and 24, of whom Jamal is the fourth. “And I pity their mothers. Who could be proud of a child who does a thing like this?”
“As they grow up, they will probably be more ashamed and regret what they did,” she says. “They’ll go to jail, and it is their futures which will be ruined, not my son’s. Instead of learning, they’ll be in prison. Jamal became famous for a terrible attack that he did nothing to provoke, but these young people will be infamous.”
On Wednesday, a teenage girl was brought before the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in connection with the attack. The court ordered the girl held in custody for the next three days and also extended by five days the remand of a 19- year-old male, who was the first arrest made by police when he was brought in for questioning on Saturday.
Over the past four days a total of eight Jewish teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19, three of them female, were arrested in connection to the beating. On Tuesday, the Jerusalem District Court released one 15-year-old girl to house arrest.
A wan-looking Jamal, who came out of his coma on Sunday, smiles sheepishly, as any shy teenager suddenly in the spotlight would. Television crews and reporters file in and out. Well-wishers both Jewish and Arab stop by.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned the attack against him, not for the first time, and today, President Shimon Peres said the event was intolerable and filled him with shame.
That’s nice, notes Jamal’s father, Subhi, a kind-faced, blue-eyed man who does home renovations – “shiputzim,” he offers in Hebrew – for a primarily Israeli-Jewish clientele. They watch a bit of news, including Peres’s comments, on a television in Jamal’s room in the new tower of the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem. But unlike the usual government behavior when there have been terror attacks against Jews, not even one high-level official has come to the hospital to visit them, he says.
Subhi is also troubled by a story he read in today’s paper which indicated that when one of Jamal’s friends made a call to the police station minutes after the mob attack took place, an officer dismissed it as “just children” and did not dispatch someone to the scene immediately.
“Just children,” he repeats in Hebrew. “Just children who almost killed my child. In the past, when it came to crime, the police never charged a Jew like they charged an Arab. But this time, the attackers must go to prison, and not with a light sentence.”
Hussam Attiye, a friend of Jamal’s who was at the scene of the attack but escaped without serious injury, agrees.
“If I would do that to a Jew, I would go to jail for seven years,” he says, as he sits in Jamal’s room at a laptop, scanning the coverage of the incident on various websites.
Jamal and his friends spend a lot of time on their computers, says Nariman; her son is studious and not the type to go out all that much. They were only out late that night because it was the end of Ramadan and getting close to Id al-Fitr, when people who fast often go out late in the evening to enjoy a walk and shop for gifts or new clothes.
A few days a week, Attiye works at a restaurant near Jaffa Gate, and Jamal, at a retirement home in Arnona. The person Jamal worked for there, a man named Ezra who has declined requests to be interviewed at length, even came to visit Jamal soon after the attack, his parents said.
“Ezra said, ‘But your son Jamal is such a good boy, this is terrible,’” Nariman recalls. “To me, it shows that other people know he’s a good young man, that he would never start trouble.”
She is thankful as well to a young man named Amit, a medical student on the scene, who resuscitated Jamal and probably saved his life.
Jamal, for his part, does not remember a thing from the attack. He has no memory of anything between the walk with friends on Thursday and waking up in the hospital on Sunday. He is still undergoing tests to see if he might have suffered any long-term damage from the beating, Nariman says, as she feels for the raised bumps in the back of his head, where he was struck and kicked.
As his mother, she is relieved about her son’s miraculous amazing recovery so far, but still worried. He was supposed to have started school today, in this, his important senior year of high school. Most east Jerusalem schools started their new year on Wednesday, several days ahead of Israel’s state schools. Jamal is a good student and is planning to study for the tawjihi, a matriculation certificate that is necessary for continuing on to university.
Even if Jamal is a little foggy, he seems to have retained a sense of humor: When a visitor tells him he might need patience (saber) in the recovery process, he points to the cabinet near his bed where his family has stashed some snacks and fruit and says “Oh, we have saber,” – meaning sabra fruit, eliciting laughter from the others. (In Arabic, the same word has both meanings.) His mother hopes the attack is not a sign of things deteriorating in Jerusalem. But many in their neighborhood, Ras el-Amud, are avoiding downtown west Jerusalem, where the attack happened, particularly at night.
“I myself won’t go there unless I really have to, and I don’t really have many reasons to, except maybe paying a bill or going to my health care office,” Nariman says. “But we live in one city. No one wants to live in fear and be on edge all the time. How can we live like that?” “We are residents of Jerusalem and there has to be equality and justice for all of us.”
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.