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XyZspineZyX
11-09-2003, 03:22 PM
November 9, 2003

Between Two Homes and Two Peoples, a Soldier Wanders

By JAMES BENNET

IMONA, Israel - During an Israeli offensive into the Gaza Strip in October, a helmeted soldier in combat gear was photographed crouching in the sand, his M-16 rifle in his right hand.

It was just another of the countless images from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from the familiar fault line where two peoples grind against each other with almost tectonic inexorability.

Yet the truths of the image were more complicated than that, at least to the anonymous soldier who recognized himself in the photograph in the pages of an Israeli newspaper.

To begin with, there is the question of his name.

To his Israeli, Jewish mother, Stella Peretz, and his few friends in Dimona, the Israeli town where he went to high school, the soldier is Yossi Peretz.

To his Palestinian, Muslim father, Adel Hussein, and those who knew him in Nur Shams, the Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank where he grew up, he is Muhammad Hussein.

To his divorced parents, when they speak of him together - and they seem to speak of little else at such times - he is simply "the child," their only one.

It may seem to an outsider that this child of twin identity - at once Muhammad Hussein and Yossi Peretz - was given a rare gift: the ability to understand both Israelis and Palestinians at a depth few reach. An outsider might see his story as hopeful, as evidence that the divide between the two peoples is not so deep, or, at least, that it does not have to be. But the soldier says he does not see his story that way. He sees it as a tragedy. He is a child of divorce, not only of his parents but also of their peoples.

He comes from a family neither wealthy nor educated. Theirs have been the small problems of any family: where and how to make a living; where and how to raise a child. But history had its own ideas for them.

For the child's first 16 years, the family was able to blend its identities, living in Nur Shams, next to the Palestinian city of Tulkarm, and freely visiting Jewish relatives in Dimona or making trips to Tel Aviv.

Then, in the late 1990's, a hopeful peace effort curdled. The boundaries around the family sharpened. The child, now a teenager, put on the uniform of a Palestinian fighter. His education, even his life, seemed at risk.

Mr. Hussein divorced his wife, because, they both said, she would not have left otherwise. With her son, Ms. Peretz returned to Dimona and to Judaism. The boy had his bar mitzvah and quickly mastered the Hebrew that his parents had spoken with him since childhood.

Mr. Hussein tried to stay behind in Nur Shams, planning regular visits with his ex-wife and son. But masked men chased him away, accusing him of being a Jew, he said. He fled to Israel and took up the life of an illegal Palestinian worker, passing as an Israeli Arab and snatching visits with his son when he could.

Now Israel has built a barrier of concrete and fencing along the edge of Tulkarm, and Mr. Hussein fears that if he is caught and sent back, he will never see his son again. He carries a picture of himself with the young man in his Israeli uniform, to show to any policeman who demands his identity.

Like his parents, the soldier, 21, does not talk much about the big issues of the conflict - about Jerusalem, or the Palestinian refugees. He talks about trying to make his way in a riven world. Although he has chosen to serve in the army under his birth name, Muhammad Hussein, he firmly identifies himself as an Israeli and a Jew. Yet he says he belongs with both his parents. His mother hears him crying in his sleep.

"Once I thought, `This is where my mom and dad are, and this is where I'll build my life,' " Sergeant Hussein said as he rode one night last month from his base in Gaza to his mother's home in Dimona. "Now my dad is over there and my mom is over here. And I don't know where I am in all this."

Lives Warped by Conflict

In telling stories of lives warped or ended by the conflict between Jews and Arabs, it can be hard to know where to start, to which first cause to anchor the ever lengthening chain of linked effects: to the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 that led to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; to the Israeli-Arab war of 1948 at Israel's creation; to Abraham's own divided family and the origins of Judaism and Islam.

All of that history was bearing down when, in 1973, two runaways from broken homes met by chance in a Tel Aviv restaurant. One of them, Mr. Hussein, then a waiter, ran away from the West Bank city of Jenin after his father pulled him out of school to tend sheep. The other, Ms. Peretz, had run away from her family in Dimona.

"It was a very big love," Ms. Peretz said, speaking here in her humble apartment, decorated with porcelain dolphins and pictures of Moroccan rabbinic sages.

Mr. Hussein, who had come to relish life in Tel Aviv, had applied to convert to Judaism and been turned down by the Israeli religious authorities. So Ms. Peretz converted to Islam for the two to have a state-approved marriage.

Although such Israeli-Palestinian marriages were rare, those were days of openness between Israel and the occupied territories. Israel issued special identity cards to Palestinians, but there were no fortified army checkpoints, no fences.

The newlyweds moved to Tulkarm. They also rented an apartment in Tel Aviv, less than an hour's drive away.

In the Nur Shams camp, the Husseins built a three-story home with a ceramics factory in the basement and a patio on the roof. Today, Ms. Peretz, a dignified woman of 48, credits her ex-husband with teaching her to speak Arabic as well as to read and write her native Hebrew. Having run away at 10, she was illiterate when they met.

After nine years of marriage, the couple had Muhammad. They gave up the Tel Aviv apartment and settled in Nur Shams.

Both parents said that, as children of unhappy marriages themselves, they were intent on a loving, intact home.

"My father didn't look after me," Mr. Hussein said. At 52, he is a slender, confident man with a shock of white hair and pale blue eyes. He was speaking in the home of a family in an Israeli-Arab village where he was staying, hiding from the Israeli authorities and working in a restaurant near Tel Aviv. He asked that the village and restaurant not be named. "I don't like politics," he said, more than once.

All three family members spoke of their early years together in the West Bank with a nostalgic tenderness. Still, there were jarring incidents.

Ms. Peretz recalled how, during the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980's, a passing Israeli soldier hurled an insult at her through her open window. She said she ran out of the house, calling for the commander in Hebrew to protest. "My husband ran after me, with my slippers in one hand and my veil in the other," she said.

It was around then, during that first uprising, that the young Muhammad began chasing after Israeli soldiers with stones in his hands, Ms. Peretz said.

In Nur Shams, Palestinian residents remember the family well. They knew that the mother was originally an Israeli Jew, but they said they accepted her and her son, a claim the family confirms. "She was considered a Muslim," said Omar Issa, 19, who said he remembered Ms. Peretz coming to cook with his mother.

Like others, he said he recalled one quality clearly about the parents: The way they hovered lovingly over their only child.

Sergeant Hussein remembers hikes with his father through nearby pine forests. He remembers dreams of becoming a doctor. He remembers the Sony Walkman his father bought him as a reward for a stellar report card.

For his 15th birthday, on Aug. 24, 1997, his parents threw a party on the roof patio. A lengthy family videotape of the party shows him in a black suit, white shirt and silver tie, dancing in a circle with Palestinian youths, arms over one another's shoulders.

Ms. Peretz is there too, with matronly amusement coaxing a young boy through some dance steps. In a gray suit, Mr. Hussein, the proud host, father and husband, beams as he takes it all in.

Yet Ms. Peretz said that it was as early as the first Palestinian uprising that things began to go wrong.

Mr. Hussein traces the trouble to the Oslo peace effort that followed that uprising, and to the arrival in the occupied territories of Yasir Arafat and the rest of the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The societies began sharpening their edges; the refugee camp became more hopeless.

"Before they started with this peace, we were living in peace," he said.

The family, and residents of Nur Shams, say the Husseins steered clear of Palestinian politics. Mr. Hussein said he never belonged to any of the factions and tried to keep his son out of them.

Sergeant Hussein that he used to read pamphlets he was given extolling factions like Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He would ask his father about them and be told, firmly, to stay away. Then, one day, he showed up in the Palestinian uniform.

The next Palestinian uprising was some three years off, but violence, though sporadic, was increasing. Hopes for a new Middle East were fading. As usual, Mr. Hussein's worries were more personal: "I saw my son deteriorating. I have only one son. I have nothing else."

He sent the boy and his mother to Dimona.

Together and Apart

A handful of places in the desert town of Dimona were refuges for the boy from the West Bank who, at 16, ceased to be Muhammad Hussein and became Yossi Peretz.

One of them is a small park of palm trees and rose bushes that frame a curving pool. In the pool are four fountains, a large and small one standing together and two others separated at the pool's extremes.

The first time he saw the fountain, Sergeant Hussein said, he thought of a father and son. "Here they are together," he said, pointing at the two mingled fountains on a recent balmy evening. He pointed at the two other fountains: "Here they are apart."

Less than a three-hour drive - checkpoints excepted - from the windswept West Bank hills where Muhammad Hussein once hiked with his Palestinian father, Dimona stands in the Negev Desert, built upon sand, hammered by the sun.

It is a place where, in apartment houses of crumbling concrete, Israel has settled poor Jewish immigrants. In recent years, Moroccan names have given way on the mail slots to those of Jews from Russia and Uzbekistan.

Though his story was stranger than most, Yossi Peretz found himself an immigrant trying to assimilate alongside other immigrants. He mastered Hebrew with other new students at a special language school within the high school.

He had family waiting for him in Dimona, an advantage over some other immigrants. He took to attending Friday night prayers at the synagogue with his grandfather, who lives in the apartment next door to his mother's.

Having attended schools in the West Bank that were segregated by sex, he was startled to find himself in class with girls, some of them in snug clothes. He wondered at first if he was considered stupid, he recalled, because he had a woman for a teacher.

He won an award for an antidrug play he produced. He received a certificate for teaching Arabic. But, he also struggled in a new school system, and, as his mother confronted a new poverty, his hopes for a medical career died.

Eventually, he found a Russian girlfriend - and learned Russian. He hung out and smoked cigarettes with other teenagers, on a rise from which they could easily see approaching teachers.

Yet, even there, the young man sat a little apart. Other immigrants had switched societies. He had switched sides.

He was also leaving behind the man he considered his role model and best friend. At one point, he did not see his father for at least a year.

Mr. Hussein said that, when he sent his family away, he thought he would remain behind in Nur Shams and regularly see his son and ex-wife. But local Palestinian officials demanded that he bring back his son. He said that when he refused, masked men showed up at his house and shot at his door.

His house was partly burned and smeared with graffiti accusing him of being a Jew. Since then, he has lived the fugitive life of an illegal Palestinian worker inside Israel. Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel have been executed in the streets of Tulkarm.

Today, the steel door of the house is puckered with seven rusty indentations that may have been caused by bullets. Two six-pointed stars in faded red paint appear nearby.

In the refugee camp, residents acknowledge the attack on the Hussein home, but they give a different reason for it. They say that, after his wife departed, Mr. Hussein took in as a tenant a married woman, a violation of local mores.

"He's not a collaborator," Ibrahim Nimr, 32, the head of the local services committee, said of Mr. Hussein. "But this is a conservative society."

Ms. Peretz also says she believes that her ex-husband got involved with someone else. "I love him," she said, "but I can't go back to him." Mr. Hussein denies any other relationship and says he hopes to reunite with Ms. Peretz some day.

A Turning Point

In Sergeant Hussein's narrative of his own life, his father's flight from the refugee camp marks a turning point. He had been anxious at the prospect of having to join the Israeli Army, but the way his father was treated changed his feelings.

"I was considering if I could face the people I grew up with most of my life," he said. "But when they burned down our house, and wrote that graffiti on the walls, it made the decision very easy."

When he was called up for army service, his father encouraged him in his desire for a combat role, Sergeant Hussein said.

Mr. Hussein said of his son: "I tell him `If they post you at a checkpoint, and you see me, and I'm not supposed to cross, then you should stop me and not let me through. You should do your job with total loyalty.' "

He said he did not think of his son as fighting against Palestinians. Rather, he viewed him as "guarding his own land."

Pressed as to how it felt to yield his claim on his son's identity, Mr. Hussein said he had no choice, given the times. His son could no longer divide his home or loyalties.

When the young man joined the Israeli Army, he insisted on retaining the name on his birth certificate, Muhammad Hussein. An officer tried to talk him out of that, but he replied, "If you don't like what I am, I can't change it." He serves in a unit largely drawn from Israel's non-Jewish, Arabic-speaking minorities.

The family is seeking legal status for Mr. Hussein in Israel, arguing that he chose to provide Israel with his son.

"He did the right thing when he divorced me and gave our state a man who has a head on his shoulders," Ms. Peretz said. "It's not possible that a man gives his blood and his soul to this country and they won't come forward to help him out."

In letters to the Israeli government, Sergeant Hussein has mused that Israel will let his father legally see him only if he dies in combat. "Through no fault of my own, I live without Father that is, the most vital thing in the life of a person," he wrote in one of two letters in March to the interior minister, Avraham Poraz.

Israel has recently tightened its already strict rules governing "family reunification." The government says that Palestinians were using sham marriages to Israeli Arabs to move from the territories into Israel, threatening security.

Now, father and son seldom see each other. When they meet they do so, Mr. Hussein says, like two thieves. Mr. Hussein is so anxious, he did not visit his son when a foot problem put the soldier in a hospital for a month.

Sergeant Hussein is defending Israel against Palestinians, while fighting with his government to accept his Palestinian father. Maybe that is why he speaks sometimes with such bitterness of both societies he has known.

"I saw the life here, and I saw the life there," he said. "It's the same thing. Everybody's looking out for their own interest, and that's it."

Mr. Hussein imagines a future in which he helps buy his son a restaurant, then works there himself, always keeping his eyes on the child. Ms. Peretz says she will mop floors to help the child pay for a medical education.

But Sergeant Hussein says he does not know what he will do, or even where he will live. Maybe, he said, he will try to build a life in another country.

His father seems to wonder how his son identifies himself, deep down. "I can't tell you what's deep in his heart," Mr. Hussein said. "What I keep telling my son is, it doesn't matter. Respect the old and guard the young, and be loyal. There are Jews who love Arabs and Arabs who love Jews, and God above everything. Everything else is secondary."

There are rare moments when everything else does seem secondary for Sergeant Hussein. On his own, he is a sad, lonely young man. But in the presence of either parent, he blooms. Meeting or parting from his father - he has seen him three or four times in a year - Sergeant Hussein weeps.

When he saw him here for the first time in several months recently, he shook with sobs: a burly Israeli sergeant in olive fatigues, a star of David on the chain around his neck, clutching his Palestinian father on a Dimona sidewalk, not letting go, defying his state, defying, it seemed, the centrifugal conflict itself.

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/11/08/international/sunsetp1.jpg
Sgt. Muhammad Hussein, a soldier in the Israeli Army, is the son of a Palestinian Muslim father and Israeli Jewish mother.


http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/11/08/international/goodbye.jpg
Sgt. Muhammad Hussein embraces his father, Adel, a Palestinian, in an illegal reunion in the town of Dimona.


http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/11/08/international/father.jpg
Muhammad's father, Adel Hussein, left, lives illegally as a Palestinian worker in Israel. He fears that if he is caught and sent back, he will never see his son again.


http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/11/08/international/photo.jpg
Lacking proper Israeli identification papers, Adel Hussein carries instead a picture of his son in an Israeli uniform.


http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/11/08/international/window.jpg
Stella Peretz, left, at home with her son, Sgt. Muhammad Hussein. In Israel, Sergeant Hussein is also known as Yossi Peretz.


http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/11/08/health/birthday.jpg
Muhammad, right, joined his friends for a small birthday party. He says he sees his story as a tragedy. He is a child of divorce, not only of his parents but also of their peoples.

Source: The New York Times

XyZspineZyX
11-09-2003, 03:22 PM
November 9, 2003

Between Two Homes and Two Peoples, a Soldier Wanders

By JAMES BENNET

IMONA, Israel - During an Israeli offensive into the Gaza Strip in October, a helmeted soldier in combat gear was photographed crouching in the sand, his M-16 rifle in his right hand.

It was just another of the countless images from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from the familiar fault line where two peoples grind against each other with almost tectonic inexorability.

Yet the truths of the image were more complicated than that, at least to the anonymous soldier who recognized himself in the photograph in the pages of an Israeli newspaper.

To begin with, there is the question of his name.

To his Israeli, Jewish mother, Stella Peretz, and his few friends in Dimona, the Israeli town where he went to high school, the soldier is Yossi Peretz.

To his Palestinian, Muslim father, Adel Hussein, and those who knew him in Nur Shams, the Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank where he grew up, he is Muhammad Hussein.

To his divorced parents, when they speak of him together - and they seem to speak of little else at such times - he is simply "the child," their only one.

It may seem to an outsider that this child of twin identity - at once Muhammad Hussein and Yossi Peretz - was given a rare gift: the ability to understand both Israelis and Palestinians at a depth few reach. An outsider might see his story as hopeful, as evidence that the divide between the two peoples is not so deep, or, at least, that it does not have to be. But the soldier says he does not see his story that way. He sees it as a tragedy. He is a child of divorce, not only of his parents but also of their peoples.

He comes from a family neither wealthy nor educated. Theirs have been the small problems of any family: where and how to make a living; where and how to raise a child. But history had its own ideas for them.

For the child's first 16 years, the family was able to blend its identities, living in Nur Shams, next to the Palestinian city of Tulkarm, and freely visiting Jewish relatives in Dimona or making trips to Tel Aviv.

Then, in the late 1990's, a hopeful peace effort curdled. The boundaries around the family sharpened. The child, now a teenager, put on the uniform of a Palestinian fighter. His education, even his life, seemed at risk.

Mr. Hussein divorced his wife, because, they both said, she would not have left otherwise. With her son, Ms. Peretz returned to Dimona and to Judaism. The boy had his bar mitzvah and quickly mastered the Hebrew that his parents had spoken with him since childhood.

Mr. Hussein tried to stay behind in Nur Shams, planning regular visits with his ex-wife and son. But masked men chased him away, accusing him of being a Jew, he said. He fled to Israel and took up the life of an illegal Palestinian worker, passing as an Israeli Arab and snatching visits with his son when he could.

Now Israel has built a barrier of concrete and fencing along the edge of Tulkarm, and Mr. Hussein fears that if he is caught and sent back, he will never see his son again. He carries a picture of himself with the young man in his Israeli uniform, to show to any policeman who demands his identity.

Like his parents, the soldier, 21, does not talk much about the big issues of the conflict - about Jerusalem, or the Palestinian refugees. He talks about trying to make his way in a riven world. Although he has chosen to serve in the army under his birth name, Muhammad Hussein, he firmly identifies himself as an Israeli and a Jew. Yet he says he belongs with both his parents. His mother hears him crying in his sleep.

"Once I thought, `This is where my mom and dad are, and this is where I'll build my life,' " Sergeant Hussein said as he rode one night last month from his base in Gaza to his mother's home in Dimona. "Now my dad is over there and my mom is over here. And I don't know where I am in all this."

Lives Warped by Conflict

In telling stories of lives warped or ended by the conflict between Jews and Arabs, it can be hard to know where to start, to which first cause to anchor the ever lengthening chain of linked effects: to the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 that led to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; to the Israeli-Arab war of 1948 at Israel's creation; to Abraham's own divided family and the origins of Judaism and Islam.

All of that history was bearing down when, in 1973, two runaways from broken homes met by chance in a Tel Aviv restaurant. One of them, Mr. Hussein, then a waiter, ran away from the West Bank city of Jenin after his father pulled him out of school to tend sheep. The other, Ms. Peretz, had run away from her family in Dimona.

"It was a very big love," Ms. Peretz said, speaking here in her humble apartment, decorated with porcelain dolphins and pictures of Moroccan rabbinic sages.

Mr. Hussein, who had come to relish life in Tel Aviv, had applied to convert to Judaism and been turned down by the Israeli religious authorities. So Ms. Peretz converted to Islam for the two to have a state-approved marriage.

Although such Israeli-Palestinian marriages were rare, those were days of openness between Israel and the occupied territories. Israel issued special identity cards to Palestinians, but there were no fortified army checkpoints, no fences.

The newlyweds moved to Tulkarm. They also rented an apartment in Tel Aviv, less than an hour's drive away.

In the Nur Shams camp, the Husseins built a three-story home with a ceramics factory in the basement and a patio on the roof. Today, Ms. Peretz, a dignified woman of 48, credits her ex-husband with teaching her to speak Arabic as well as to read and write her native Hebrew. Having run away at 10, she was illiterate when they met.

After nine years of marriage, the couple had Muhammad. They gave up the Tel Aviv apartment and settled in Nur Shams.

Both parents said that, as children of unhappy marriages themselves, they were intent on a loving, intact home.

"My father didn't look after me," Mr. Hussein said. At 52, he is a slender, confident man with a shock of white hair and pale blue eyes. He was speaking in the home of a family in an Israeli-Arab village where he was staying, hiding from the Israeli authorities and working in a restaurant near Tel Aviv. He asked that the village and restaurant not be named. "I don't like politics," he said, more than once.

All three family members spoke of their early years together in the West Bank with a nostalgic tenderness. Still, there were jarring incidents.

Ms. Peretz recalled how, during the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980's, a passing Israeli soldier hurled an insult at her through her open window. She said she ran out of the house, calling for the commander in Hebrew to protest. "My husband ran after me, with my slippers in one hand and my veil in the other," she said.

It was around then, during that first uprising, that the young Muhammad began chasing after Israeli soldiers with stones in his hands, Ms. Peretz said.

In Nur Shams, Palestinian residents remember the family well. They knew that the mother was originally an Israeli Jew, but they said they accepted her and her son, a claim the family confirms. "She was considered a Muslim," said Omar Issa, 19, who said he remembered Ms. Peretz coming to cook with his mother.

Like others, he said he recalled one quality clearly about the parents: The way they hovered lovingly over their only child.

Sergeant Hussein remembers hikes with his father through nearby pine forests. He remembers dreams of becoming a doctor. He remembers the Sony Walkman his father bought him as a reward for a stellar report card.

For his 15th birthday, on Aug. 24, 1997, his parents threw a party on the roof patio. A lengthy family videotape of the party shows him in a black suit, white shirt and silver tie, dancing in a circle with Palestinian youths, arms over one another's shoulders.

Ms. Peretz is there too, with matronly amusement coaxing a young boy through some dance steps. In a gray suit, Mr. Hussein, the proud host, father and husband, beams as he takes it all in.

Yet Ms. Peretz said that it was as early as the first Palestinian uprising that things began to go wrong.

Mr. Hussein traces the trouble to the Oslo peace effort that followed that uprising, and to the arrival in the occupied territories of Yasir Arafat and the rest of the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The societies began sharpening their edges; the refugee camp became more hopeless.

"Before they started with this peace, we were living in peace," he said.

The family, and residents of Nur Shams, say the Husseins steered clear of Palestinian politics. Mr. Hussein said he never belonged to any of the factions and tried to keep his son out of them.

Sergeant Hussein that he used to read pamphlets he was given extolling factions like Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He would ask his father about them and be told, firmly, to stay away. Then, one day, he showed up in the Palestinian uniform.

The next Palestinian uprising was some three years off, but violence, though sporadic, was increasing. Hopes for a new Middle East were fading. As usual, Mr. Hussein's worries were more personal: "I saw my son deteriorating. I have only one son. I have nothing else."

He sent the boy and his mother to Dimona.

Together and Apart

A handful of places in the desert town of Dimona were refuges for the boy from the West Bank who, at 16, ceased to be Muhammad Hussein and became Yossi Peretz.

One of them is a small park of palm trees and rose bushes that frame a curving pool. In the pool are four fountains, a large and small one standing together and two others separated at the pool's extremes.

The first time he saw the fountain, Sergeant Hussein said, he thought of a father and son. "Here they are together," he said, pointing at the two mingled fountains on a recent balmy evening. He pointed at the two other fountains: "Here they are apart."

Less than a three-hour drive - checkpoints excepted - from the windswept West Bank hills where Muhammad Hussein once hiked with his Palestinian father, Dimona stands in the Negev Desert, built upon sand, hammered by the sun.

It is a place where, in apartment houses of crumbling concrete, Israel has settled poor Jewish immigrants. In recent years, Moroccan names have given way on the mail slots to those of Jews from Russia and Uzbekistan.

Though his story was stranger than most, Yossi Peretz found himself an immigrant trying to assimilate alongside other immigrants. He mastered Hebrew with other new students at a special language school within the high school.

He had family waiting for him in Dimona, an advantage over some other immigrants. He took to attending Friday night prayers at the synagogue with his grandfather, who lives in the apartment next door to his mother's.

Having attended schools in the West Bank that were segregated by sex, he was startled to find himself in class with girls, some of them in snug clothes. He wondered at first if he was considered stupid, he recalled, because he had a woman for a teacher.

He won an award for an antidrug play he produced. He received a certificate for teaching Arabic. But, he also struggled in a new school system, and, as his mother confronted a new poverty, his hopes for a medical career died.

Eventually, he found a Russian girlfriend - and learned Russian. He hung out and smoked cigarettes with other teenagers, on a rise from which they could easily see approaching teachers.

Yet, even there, the young man sat a little apart. Other immigrants had switched societies. He had switched sides.

He was also leaving behind the man he considered his role model and best friend. At one point, he did not see his father for at least a year.

Mr. Hussein said that, when he sent his family away, he thought he would remain behind in Nur Shams and regularly see his son and ex-wife. But local Palestinian officials demanded that he bring back his son. He said that when he refused, masked men showed up at his house and shot at his door.

His house was partly burned and smeared with graffiti accusing him of being a Jew. Since then, he has lived the fugitive life of an illegal Palestinian worker inside Israel. Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel have been executed in the streets of Tulkarm.

Today, the steel door of the house is puckered with seven rusty indentations that may have been caused by bullets. Two six-pointed stars in faded red paint appear nearby.

In the refugee camp, residents acknowledge the attack on the Hussein home, but they give a different reason for it. They say that, after his wife departed, Mr. Hussein took in as a tenant a married woman, a violation of local mores.

"He's not a collaborator," Ibrahim Nimr, 32, the head of the local services committee, said of Mr. Hussein. "But this is a conservative society."

Ms. Peretz also says she believes that her ex-husband got involved with someone else. "I love him," she said, "but I can't go back to him." Mr. Hussein denies any other relationship and says he hopes to reunite with Ms. Peretz some day.

A Turning Point

In Sergeant Hussein's narrative of his own life, his father's flight from the refugee camp marks a turning point. He had been anxious at the prospect of having to join the Israeli Army, but the way his father was treated changed his feelings.

"I was considering if I could face the people I grew up with most of my life," he said. "But when they burned down our house, and wrote that graffiti on the walls, it made the decision very easy."

When he was called up for army service, his father encouraged him in his desire for a combat role, Sergeant Hussein said.

Mr. Hussein said of his son: "I tell him `If they post you at a checkpoint, and you see me, and I'm not supposed to cross, then you should stop me and not let me through. You should do your job with total loyalty.' "

He said he did not think of his son as fighting against Palestinians. Rather, he viewed him as "guarding his own land."

Pressed as to how it felt to yield his claim on his son's identity, Mr. Hussein said he had no choice, given the times. His son could no longer divide his home or loyalties.

When the young man joined the Israeli Army, he insisted on retaining the name on his birth certificate, Muhammad Hussein. An officer tried to talk him out of that, but he replied, "If you don't like what I am, I can't change it." He serves in a unit largely drawn from Israel's non-Jewish, Arabic-speaking minorities.

The family is seeking legal status for Mr. Hussein in Israel, arguing that he chose to provide Israel with his son.

"He did the right thing when he divorced me and gave our state a man who has a head on his shoulders," Ms. Peretz said. "It's not possible that a man gives his blood and his soul to this country and they won't come forward to help him out."

In letters to the Israeli government, Sergeant Hussein has mused that Israel will let his father legally see him only if he dies in combat. "Through no fault of my own, I live without Father that is, the most vital thing in the life of a person," he wrote in one of two letters in March to the interior minister, Avraham Poraz.

Israel has recently tightened its already strict rules governing "family reunification." The government says that Palestinians were using sham marriages to Israeli Arabs to move from the territories into Israel, threatening security.

Now, father and son seldom see each other. When they meet they do so, Mr. Hussein says, like two thieves. Mr. Hussein is so anxious, he did not visit his son when a foot problem put the soldier in a hospital for a month.

Sergeant Hussein is defending Israel against Palestinians, while fighting with his government to accept his Palestinian father. Maybe that is why he speaks sometimes with such bitterness of both societies he has known.

"I saw the life here, and I saw the life there," he said. "It's the same thing. Everybody's looking out for their own interest, and that's it."

Mr. Hussein imagines a future in which he helps buy his son a restaurant, then works there himself, always keeping his eyes on the child. Ms. Peretz says she will mop floors to help the child pay for a medical education.

But Sergeant Hussein says he does not know what he will do, or even where he will live. Maybe, he said, he will try to build a life in another country.

His father seems to wonder how his son identifies himself, deep down. "I can't tell you what's deep in his heart," Mr. Hussein said. "What I keep telling my son is, it doesn't matter. Respect the old and guard the young, and be loyal. There are Jews who love Arabs and Arabs who love Jews, and God above everything. Everything else is secondary."

There are rare moments when everything else does seem secondary for Sergeant Hussein. On his own, he is a sad, lonely young man. But in the presence of either parent, he blooms. Meeting or parting from his father - he has seen him three or four times in a year - Sergeant Hussein weeps.

When he saw him here for the first time in several months recently, he shook with sobs: a burly Israeli sergeant in olive fatigues, a star of David on the chain around his neck, clutching his Palestinian father on a Dimona sidewalk, not letting go, defying his state, defying, it seemed, the centrifugal conflict itself.

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Sgt. Muhammad Hussein, a soldier in the Israeli Army, is the son of a Palestinian Muslim father and Israeli Jewish mother.


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Sgt. Muhammad Hussein embraces his father, Adel, a Palestinian, in an illegal reunion in the town of Dimona.


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Muhammad's father, Adel Hussein, left, lives illegally as a Palestinian worker in Israel. He fears that if he is caught and sent back, he will never see his son again.


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Lacking proper Israeli identification papers, Adel Hussein carries instead a picture of his son in an Israeli uniform.


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Stella Peretz, left, at home with her son, Sgt. Muhammad Hussein. In Israel, Sergeant Hussein is also known as Yossi Peretz.


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Muhammad, right, joined his friends for a small birthday party. He says he sees his story as a tragedy. He is a child of divorce, not only of his parents but also of their peoples.

Source: The New York Times

XyZspineZyX
11-09-2003, 04:40 PM
I think this proves the fact that there isn't really an inherant problem between Palestinians and Israeli Jews (I have to make that distinction because there are many Christians and Muslims living in Israel). It is simply a minority of idiots who ruin any possibility of peace with violence, and this goes for both sides. As little as people know, there are Jewish terrorists too, that fight against Muslims, but they are not as many as the Palestinian terrorists, but never-the-less, until we can stop all of these terrorists killing innocent people, we'll never have peace in the Middle-East.

<hr>
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Teal'c: "Booby?"
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--"War is not about who's right, it's about who's left." -Anders Russell