The following is a story of a power struggle between parents that I thought was too hilarious not to ensue. I admit to feeling very tentative about sharing it on a public blog; everything in Palestinian society is so politicized that it is required to take caution when storytelling in order not to undermine elements of Israeli colonialism in the name of humor. I tried to form a delicate balance between the absurdities of a situation of parental struggle without making it seem that Ashraf’s release from Israeli prison is normal.
When Ashraf was released from an Israeli military jail following a sentence of 10 months, the house that he would return to had been fought over for months. Ashraf’s parents have been divorced for some 5 years now, and despite each parent living in a separate but neighboring village, the beef between them was still anew. The question of which parent Ashraf was to greet first was a dilemma; Ashraf couldn’t see one parent first without angering the other, even accidentally. The fact that their son was just released from a military prison didn’t do much to force Ashraf’s parents into forming a strategy in which a temporary ceasefire would be declared between them until they received him from jail- if anything, it provided an even wider arena for competition.
In the days leading up to Ashraf’s release from Ofer military jail, his friends took it upon themselves to prepare him a warm welcoming. Much to his mother’s delight, they assumed he was to head first to his maternal grandmother’s home in the village of Abwein. As part of the released-prisoner tradition, they decorated this house with factional flags, banners and the customary exaggerated posters glorifying 14 year old Ashraf’s release from an Israeli jail. The house looked ready to welcome a knight in shining armor, and Ashraf’s mother couldn’t be happier, partly for finally seeing her son and partly for affirming her stance in being Ashraf’s winning priority in the power struggle between her and her ex-husband.
Now for the other side of the quandary. Ashraf’s father, a wealthy and powerful patriarch, cannot fathom the idea of being second best to anybody, let alone his ex-wife. He immediately set out on decorating his village and Ashraf’s village of residence after the divorce, Jiljiliya, which is congruent to Abwein, with even larger posters framed with eye-blinding florescent lighting. An even larger poster of Ashraf’s baby face was strewn on the fence that stretches around the vicinity of their home. Little did he know that his ex-wife was already preparing the next big step to avow her position as Ashraf’s precedence: she had already purchased the Macintosh chocolates.
Ashraf’s father heard of this comeback and set out to counter it with a move that embodied his so-thought authoritarianism: he ordered a lavish feast that was to serve the many guests that would arrive to welcome Ashraf back. By doing so, he was sure to revive his dominance as Ashraf’s top preference and simultaneously soar in the eyes of the other villagers who would later tell of his generosity and kindness for months to come.
The day that Ashraf was to be released from Ofer military jail had at long last approached, and expectations for which parent he was to greet first were put well beyond his control. For as soon as he was released from the prison, Ashraf was welcomed with two fords that were absolutely crammed with his cronies. One ford was filled with his friends from his mother’s village, Abwein, and the other contained his friends from his father’s village, Jiljiliya. Ashraf was ushered into the ford that whichever group had managed to grab hold of him first and stuff him in: his mother’s village’s ford. A clear victory for she.
A celebratory succession followed both sets of fords all the way to Abwein. In an unmatched scene, Ashraf’s father, in all his power and might, was seen honking along at the very far end of the succession.
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The boisterous car party made its way to the maternal grandmother’s home, and Ashraf’s mother, wearing a noticeably smug smile of triumph, was received by him first. The party was then presented with another catch 22: where was Ashraf’s all-night celebration going to be held? In Jiljiliya or in Abwein?
They settled on the roundabout between the two villages.