Saturday, January 10, 2004

When you read that someone was lightly wounded in an attack, what does this mean, exactly?
This weekend, Yediot Aharonot’s local supplement “Tel Aviv” has the story of a local stand-up comedian called Yaron Breld. Or is it Berld, or Barald or Bralad or Barlad? You can never tell because there are no vowels, so you have to work it out for yourself. (One of the first things I did when I met Bish was to correct his pronunciation of some of the names in Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22”, whole passages of which he knew by heart. I recently read somewhere that Israeli kids are comparatively slow readers because of the vowel thing). Anyway, Yaron Whatever-His-Name-Is is described as the craziest stand-up comedian who does the most outrageous things on stage, which I am far too embarrassed to repeat here. Thing is, he apparently used to be this thin, athletic, good-looking, tight-assed jerk, who ran a model agency, went out with beautiful women, wore designer clothes and thought he was God’s gift (you know the type), and now he’s fat, dirty, smelly, never changes his clothes, and couldn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about him (as long as he can make them laugh). So what happened?

What happened was that he and his father were lynched, driving home through the neighboring (Israeli) Arab town, one night in October 2000.

An excerpt of the article (My translation):

…It was 9:30pm, completely dark, and Breld (?) and his father were driving along road 444, which connects between (the Israeli cities of) Kfar Saba and Petah Tikva. Breld: “On that day Sharon the hero decided to go up onto the Temple Mount, and that signalled the beginning of the Al-Aqza Intifada. All along the route we could see police cars and barriers, because there were riots. At one of the barriers we asked the police if it was safe to continue. The policemen said there was no problem, because most of the riots had calmed down, and we could feel secure to drive on. In our stupidity, we listened to the policemen and continued.

We suddenly saw cars stopping at the side of the road and turning round. I asked my father to go back, but he wouldn’t listen to me. I begged him, “Dad, go back”, but nothing would work. He listened to the policemen. While driving we started to see burning tires and bricks on the road, really scary. My father slowed down, and we suddenly saw 400 people, I’m not exaggerating, 400 people, running towards us. Molotov bottles, burning tires, crowbars. I am shouting at my father “Turn round! Turn round!”, but just as he was starting to turn round - boom! A brick came through the windscreen at his head. Dad lost consciousness and his ear was nearly pulled off, but for the 400 people surrounding us it was just the beginning.

I managed to escape from the car, but the mob was on my father, rocking the car and throwing bricks. I’m standing helplessly, watching them try to murder my father, not knowing what to do. I grabbed a rock and ran over to try and help him, shouting: “Leave my dad alone! Leave my dad alone!” And suddenly – boom! A brick hit my face. My jaw was shattered. All my teeth flew out. I even swallowed some of them. And then Arabs came from the direction of Moshav Sdei Hemed. One of them was carrying a hunting rifle, and he shot at them to drive them away. Our attackers thought we were dead anyway, so they left us.”

And then?
“The Arabs that came from the direction of Moshav Sdei Hemed dragged us to the moshav. My father was nearly dead anyway, he’d had about a hundred rocks thrown at him. I thought they were going to kill us. But they called ambulances and actually saved our lives.”

It’s strange. On the one hand, Arabs from Jaljuliya want to murder you, and on the other, two Arabs save you.
“You are right, it’s strange. But don’t misunderstand it, it’s not that the Arabs that saved us liked us, they just hated those from Jaljuliya and that’s why they were on our side. I promise you that if it was those who saved us who were doing the lynching, the Arabs from Jaljuliya would have saved us.”

Yaron and his father were hospitalized with wounds all over their bodies. “You can’t understand what excruciating pain I endured,” Breld says. “On the news they always say that there are wounded - badly, medium and light. They said that it was a miracle that I was only lightly wounded. I want people to understand what lightly wounded means: No lips, no teeth, shattered jaw, excruciating pain, and I’m just lightly wounded.”

Breld was in hospital for weeks. His jaw was restored, his lips sown up, and his teeth were replaced with implants in a long and painful process. His father took longer to heal, months.

When did you realize what had happened to you?
”Only when I reached the hospital. I still hadn’t really grasped what I’d been through. I thought I was in a nightmare, that it wasn’t reality. Slowly, I began to understand that my life had been saved. I’d looked death in the eye, and not just any death – death by stoning.”

What did you feel in those moments?
”When I was being attacked by those 400 people with covered faces, I began feeling a deep chill. I was afraid that my father was dead all the time. You can’t explain the feeling – it’s a nightmare, it’s a film you can’t change. And what did we want, after all? To get home. The funniest thing was that the doctor that took care of me was an Arab, and the hospital was full of Arabs that were wounded in the October riots by security forces. Israeli Arabs tried to murder me, an Israeli Arab is treating me, and in the beds beside me lie Arabs wounded in the riots.”

And besides the physical damage?
”There is also the psychological damage. I have nightmares about Arabs. I can see the picture of the 400 people with covered faces in front of me all the time, I’ve got shakes and twitches, but I thank God that my father and I survived, that’s most important.”

Is there anger?
”Yes, and I hate them. Before the event I was center, now I’m far right. You have to understand, the people who did the lynch were my acquaintances from Jaljuliya. Before it happened I was in Jaljuliya a lot - I sold my car there, I took my car there to be fixed, I went there to fill in Lotto and Toto (state-organized gambling on results of soccer games – I.J.), I even had a credit account at the store there, really chummy. And suddenly they’ve got their faces covered and madness in their eyes, rocking our car “hey hop, hey hop.” Do you get it? I can’t grasp it. A week ago I’m buying at the store there in credit, sending Lotto and Toto with them, and today they’re trying to kill me. I can’t grasp it.”

And since then, more than three years onwards, have you passed through Jaljuliya? It’s an Israeli Arab village, after all.
”No way. Since the event, I haven’t been near, and I don’t want any contact. I haven’t even paid my debt to the store.”


Here are some "before and after" photos:


Not long after

This week