The Petroleum Lamps

We were lucky; we had two petroleum lamps in our home. I remember these two lamps. One of them hanged from the wall, and the other one was fixed on the window. We used one of them, keeping the other one for emergency cases.

My mother took care of these two lamps: in the morning she would clean the one we had used during the night. In the evening she filled it with some new petroleum for lighting. This all took place around the year 1965.

My mother never cleaned the lamps before closing the shutters of our house; my father had painted the window panes in blue dark before we installed these metal shutters. My parents were careful to not let anybody see light coming from inside our house. We lived on Al-Hawooz street at that time, part of the main street of “Beir Al-Sabaa”, near one of the posts of the Jordanian military police.

The precautions of my parents were due to the Jordanian spies. During the nights the Jordanian police walked in the streets and used to approach lit windows to listen to what the people were talking in their homes. My mother had told us that the walls have ears, and that we should be quiet at night and to sleep early. She meant that we should be careful about the Jordanian police, who were listening behind the doors and the windows.

On Al-Hawooz street there were few houses during that time. Our house was one of them. My parents built this small house after they had become refugees in Hebron. At that time the refugees usually had to live in the basements of other people’s houses, under the ground. My mother told us that there was usually more than one family sharing one room of a basement. She said that there was a donkey in the same room she had to share other 25 people. The situation was horrible in that basement. It had a foul smell, the people were dirty and full of lice. “We lived without water and other sanitary services”, she said. She was not able to live in that basement any longer so she asked her family for some money and she built the small house in Al-Hawooz street. It had a big room and a salon.

When we had started building our house, our Hebronite neighbors were unhappy. They said that they did not want refugees to live next to them. Our neighbors were very unhappy with our presence. In front of us they would say to their donkey “You are so ugly, you have a face like the refugees !” In the beginning our life was very difficult among these neighbors. Only later would the things become better.

My mother told us that living as a refugee is like being jailed forever.

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