Yesterday i wrote about the murder of a man in Jaffa, not realizing i know the victim and his family quite well. His mother and sisters are friends and i had coffee at their place only a week ago, chatting away about this and that. Hamude's young son playing around in the living room.
The personal side of the story isn't interesting. However, i suddenly realized this is all so close by. So many young men in Jaffa have been murdered over the last few years. In a few cases i knew them personally, had seen them grow up from sweet kids to awkward teenagers to young men, sometimes angry young men, involved in things better not to be involved in.
I know their families and, in the current case, I can only try to imagine what Hamude's mum and sisters and young wife must be going through. The police state he was involved in shady car deals and i realize that may well be true. But he was their son, husband or brother, father to a little son who probably doesn't understand too much as yet.
I remember him always tinkering at this or that car, close to the family's home. Music nearby, preferably loud. Friends sitting around waiting for their car to be fixed. Hamude's legs sticking out from below the car or his back bent over the hood fixing something, while joking in a loud voice. Playing around with his son, a big smile on his face, the kid happy and excited.
This is Jaffa, this is Ajami and things often don't go here they way they should go for young guys: finishing high school, going on to further studies, starting your career or trying to figure out what you should be doing in life, trying out this and that, travelling around a little, taking up a cause. Life isn't like that in Ajami, or perhaps only for a few, the lucky few.
The public school system in Ajami is terrible. And your family doesn't have the money for private education or private teachers when you fall behind. Often you don't have the books you need, because your family cannot afford to buy them. You don't go on school trips because your family hasn't yet paid for last year's trip . (yes i know it's illegal to exempt kids from their school trips because of a debt but say that to any Jaffa school principal, or just come and see how many kids are left behind when the buses take off, half empty). At some point you drop out, thinking it makes more sense to try and make some money, not to live in poverty. But finding a job is difficult when you have little schooling. And it's quicker and easier (or so it seems) to make quick money on the streets.
Hamude loved cars and spent much time repairing them, his own, his friends', the neighbours, turning old wrecks into driving things. Slowly moving up from wreck to something far better. Cars play a big role in Jaffa's young men's status game.
And quite obviously the majority do not have the money to buy these cars, unless on credit schemes which over time will put them and their families in throttling debt and poverty. Ownership of a car with a loud and powerful stereo system is the big thing for many young men here.
It's easy to sink into street dynamics, in some cases it's unavoidable, it happens without you wanting or choosing it. If your brother is in, you are in. If your friend is in, you are in. That's how it works. Easy to get on, hard to impossible getting out. The laws of the street result in much pain and hard statistics. Hamude's has many sisters and brothers, some of them still very young kids. I fear for their future. It's a cycle and unless it is somehow (HOW?) broken, how can they get out?
Some two years ago someone shot at the family's home and that wasn't for the first time. Then someone aimed his gun at a car Hamude's brother was sitting in, wounding a friend but the brother got away unhurt this time.
Hamude's funeral is today at 12.00.