You dreamt of playing with your friends in the streets and alleys of Palestine, you dreamt of playing without fear of F-16s and tanks, you dreamt of playing without blood and tears. You dreamt of running in the streets, up the hills and on the beach. You dreamt of playing hide and seek in a world where playing wars and soldier and civilian would be just a game, an uninteresting game. You dreamt of a Palestine that is free. You dreamt of Hebron, Haifa and Al-Jalil. You yearned for Jerusalem ; spoke to its ancient houses and beautiful arches, you wished you were a bird to fly over its old city, kiss its sky and touch its hills, caress its houses, its mosques and its churches, and hug the city you love so much.
You stood steadfast in your land, the land of your parents, your grandparents and the generations that were before them and those that will follow. You confronted the occupier with your bare body, stood tall in the battlefield, armed only with a stone and the just cause. You stood in the face of the coward soldier hiding behind a killing machine, afraid of the truth that you incarnate, the truth that is moving to sweep away the occupation, the oppression and Zionism. You refused to accept the status quo, you refused to be intimidated by armed soldiers, you refused to forget. You refused to accept the lie, refused to accept the distortion of history, you knew that the land is ours no matter how many massacres the occupier commits, no matter how many times the occupier bombs our homes, no matter how many of our villages the occupier deletes. You stood up to a Zionist soldier and told him in a strong clear voice : what are doing here ? This is my land !
You feared Zion not, feared no merkava, no F-16 and no bomb. You knew no fear, for you are the owner of the land, the son of the land, and the land knows you, the land is part of you. You confronted the fully-armed soldier of Zion, you refused to be harassed or ordered around in your own country by a colonizer, a Zionist soldier whose hands are stained with the blood of your siblings, your friends, your comrades, your neighbours. You refused to be oppressed by a Zionist land-thieve whose alien caravans are built on the ruins of the sitting room and playgrounds of Palestinian families. You feared this soldier not. You refused to be intimidated by his gun, by his tank and by his warplane. You held your little stone, aimed and shot, and watched as the fully-armed soldier fled in fear to hide behind his tank. You stood steadfast as the Zionist soldier watched you from behind his fortress, trying to threaten you with his tank. You stood steadfast facing his fortress, armed with your thirst for freedom and your little stone. You saw the realization in his eyes ; that this is a war the Zionists will never win, that this is a land the Zionists will never have, that this is a people the Zionists will never break, that this is a land that will never be anything but Palestine, that this is a people willing to fight to the last drop of blood for the sake of this land.
You stood facing the fire, saw your homeland, stood within your homeland, stood on its sacred soil and knew that no fire, no matter how strong, would be able to swallow up the courage in our heart, nor be able to erase the little home with the orange tree printed in your mind. You refused to run away, you refused to fear them, but stood tall and walked. And with every firm step you took, with every resolute look you gave them, you marched towards Nablus, marched towards Haifa, marched towards Al-Jalil, marched towards Jerusalem. You marched between the killers, you marched and saw the fear and cowardice in their eyes as you passed them, you marched and marched until you saw the blue sky over Jerusalem and knew that the stone has triumphed.
You believed in the strength of a stone, a tiny stone capable of shaking the thrones of Zion. You held the stone in your little palm, caressed it and kissed it for it is a weapon more powerful than bombs and tanks and warplanes, and in your heart there is more courage than is in their army of cowards. Your words are painted in our books, are carved on the walls of our homes, printed in the sand along the Palestinian shore and mixed with the oil running through the olive trees decorating Palestinian hills. Words your little mind memorized, words your little heart often sang, words you left us for safekeeping until return : even if they break my bones I am not afraid, even if they demolish my home I am not afraid.
You taught the world that had long lost its conscience the meaning of determination, courage and dignity. You taught the world that is hypocrite to the bone the meaning of steadfastness in the face of oppression, that rights are never begged, that the oppressed can never be equated with the oppressor. You showed the world that speaks a thousand tongues that for courage there is only one name, and for freedom there is only one name, and for the land between the River and the Sea there always was and will always be one name : Palestine. You forced the blind world to open its eyes and see you walk in confidence, full of determination towards your oppressors, confront them, dance the Palestinian dance of resistance, of victory and show them who owns the land and to whom the land will always belong. You forced the blind world to open its eyes and see your sling confront the Zionist merkava and defeat it. You forced the deaf world to open its ears and hear your words about a little boy who wanted to know no fear of bullets that come raining every day, the words of a boy who wanted to know no fear of flying monsters that bomb homes at night. You forced the world to hear your songs about a little bird that wants to fly high over the sky of Jerusalem, wants to kiss Al-Aqsa and the Holy Sepulcher, wants to engulf the smells of the Jerusalem’s old city and swim in its colours. You forced them to listen to your voice, the voice that was louder than the fire, than the tank, than the occupiers, than the collaborators and the sellers and the bidders.
You challenged them all, showed them who is the owner of the land, whom the lands welcomes and embraces and who it vomits and rejects. Your only weapon was your heart, your love, your belief in the just cause that is ours. Your only weapon was your little stone, your constant companion in all the battlefields. With your weapon, the little stone, powerful than any other weapon, you confronted the occupier, you challenged their killing machine, your challenged the whole blind and deaf world. You showed them that your stone, your weapon, the weapon of a fighter for a just cause, is much stronger and powerful than all their weapons.
And as you lie on the ground, your blood streaming to water the sacred soil, your little heart beating slower and slower, you smell the poppies of Palestine, you feel the sea breeze in Akka, you see the blue sky over Jerusalem and you know that Palestine is forever yours.
They left you to bleed to death. They watched as your innocent soul left your little body. They watched as your little loving heart stopped beating. They did nothing to save you. They feared you. They feared the little boy who stood up to their might, stood up to their tyranny, stood up to their killing machine and feared it not. They feared you because you are the generation that should have forgotten Palestine, that should have forgotten Jerusalem, that should have forgotten how sacred a stone is. They feared you because with your little heart and your little stone you told them a reality that haunts them : you won’t be able to delete our memory no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to delete our history no matter how hard you try. We are here to stay and Palestine will forever be from the River to the Sea.
You dreamt of freedom and you got it, you reached for freedom and you got it. You snatched it from the mouth of the monster, you snatched it for it is your right. You are free.
And as Jerusalem fills our hearts, and as Palestine thrives with our steadfastness, you will forever be remembered, you will forever live in our hearts, in our minds and in our Palestine.
You will forever remain, Faris Odeh, the 15 year old Palestinian hero who confronted the Zionist tank with his little stone and won.
Reham Alhelsi is a Jerusalem-born Palestinian. She has worked extensively in the Palestinian Broadcasting Company and since 2000, when she moved to Germany, has trained at various radio and TV networks including Deutsche Welle, SWR and WDR. She is currently writing her PhD in Regional Planning with a focus on Palestinian Land Management and local government.