In Captivity: A Letter from Abdallah Abu Rahma

Abdallah Abu Rahmah during a demonstration in Bil'in. Picture credit: Oren Ziv/ActiveStills

From the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee website:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It has been two months now since I was handcuffed, blindfolded and taken from my home. Today news has reached Ofer Military Prison that the apartheid wall on Bil’in’s land will finally be moved and construction has begun on the new route. This will return half of the land that was stolen from our village. For those of us in Ofer , imprisoned for our protest against the wall, this victory makes the suffering of being here easier to bear. After actively resisting the theft of our land by the Israeli apartheid wall and settlements every week for five years now, we long to be standing along side our brothers and sisters to mark this victory and the fifth anniversary of our struggle.

Ofer is an Israeli military base inside the occupied territories that serves as a prison and military court. The prison is a collection of tents enclosed by razor wire and an electrical fence, each unit containing four tents, 22 prisoners per tent. Now, in winter, wind and rain comes in through cracks in the tent and we don’t have sufficient blankets, clothes, and other basic necessities.

Food is a critical issue here in Ofer, there’s not enough. We survive by buying ingredients from the prison canteen that we prepare in our tent. We have one small hot plate, and this is also our only source of warmth. Those whose families can put money in an account for us to buy food, do so, but many cannot afford to. The positive aspect to this is that I have learned how to cook! Tonight I madefalafel and sweets to celebrate the news about our victory. I cannot wait to get home and cook for my wife and children!

I was arrested in my slippers, and to this day my family has been unable to get permission to supply me with a pair of shoes. I was finally given my watch after repeated requests. For me this is an essential way to keep oriented; it was unbearable not being able to see the rate at which time passes. Receiving it, I felt so overjoyed, like a child getting his first watch. I can barely imagine what it will be like to have a pair of proper shoes again.

Because of our imprisonment, the military considers our families to be a security threat. It is very hard for our wives, children and extended family to visit. My friend Adeeb Abu Rahmah , also a political prisoner from Bil’in, cannot receive visits from his wife and one of his daughters. Even his mother, a woman in her eighties who is currently in bad health, is considered a security threat! He is afraid that he will not see her before she dies.

I am a teacher and before my arrest I taught at a private school in Birzeit and also owned a chicken farm. My family had to sell the farm at a loss after I was arrested. I don’t know if I will have my position at the school when I am released. Adeeb ‘s family of nine is left without their sole provider, as are many other families. Not being able to care for our loved ones who need us is the hardest part of being here.

It is the support that I receive from my family and friends that helps me go on. I am grateful to the Palestinian leaders who have contacted my family, the diplomats from the European Union and to the Israeli activists who have expressed their support by attending my hearings. The relationship we have built together with the activists has gone beyond the definition of colleague or friend, we are brothers and sisters in this struggle. You are an unrelenting source of inspiration and solidarity. You have stood with us during demonstrations and court hearings, and during our happiest and most painful occasions. Being in prison has shown me how many true friends I have, I am so grateful to all of you.

From the confines of my imprisonment it becomes so clear that our struggle is far bigger than justice for only Bil’in or even Palestine. We are engaged in an international fight against oppression. I know this to be true when I remember all of you from around the world who have joined the movement to stop the wall and settlements. Ordinary people enraged by the occupation have made our struggle their own, and joined us in solidarity. We will surely join together to struggle for justice in other places when Palestine is finally free.

Missing the five-year anniversary of our struggle in Bil’in will be like missing the birthday of one of my children. Lately I think a lot about my friend Bassem whose life was taken during a nonviolent demonstration last year and how much I miss him. Despite the pain of this loss, and the yearning I feel to be with my family and friends at home, I think that if this is the price we must pay for our freedom, then it is worth it, and we would be willing to pay much more.

Abdallah Abu Rahmah
From the Ofer Military Detention Camp

9 thoughts on “In Captivity: A Letter from Abdallah Abu Rahma”

  1. Naturally my Anglo-Saxon cultural heritage is offended by mistreatment of any detainee, particularly by an occupying army whether it is the Israelis in the West bank or the British in Belfast.
    I also believe in honesty and truth, however. In truth, Mr. Abu Rahmah’s “five years of struggle” did not change the location of the Separation Wall by one millimetre. It was changed by a decision of Israel’s Supreme Court, which remains non-political, color-blind, incorruptible and an example for other middle eastern countries in their administration of justice.

    1. Unless theft is part of your Anglo Saxon cultural heritage, perhaps you can explain why you are not offended by the expropriation that the court decision implicitly sanctions by excluding from its decision all other parts of the wall that cut into Palestinian land?

      Isn’t this the same court that a couple of years back awarded an IDF officer $17,500 for the distress he suffered in killing a 13 year old school girl point blank?

      Logic also doesn’t appear to be part of this cultural heritage, since you are suggesting the justness of one’s cause can only be demonstrated by its successful realization. Since might is morally neutral, your argument is tantamount to might makes right.

      1. Idrees, for some, the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state is an “injustice”. Should the Israeli Supreme Court have taken a page from Kafka and decreed itself illegitimate?

        The Wall went up after the suicide bombs started going off. Some of the would-be suicide bombers, apprehended before they could set off their deadly cargoes, were quite candid as to their infiltration routes into Israel proper. Closing these off was a legitimate safety concern which the Court was bound to consider.

        Israel has not exploited the bits of land which engineering factors placed on the west side of the Separation Wall. It’s a waste and a tragedy all round.

        1. You know this hasbara is rather tedious, and it may come naturally to you but its an insult to my intelligence, and to that of the audience here.

          ‘For some’ the very existence of a Jewish state may be an injustice, and who can blame them, but we are talking about international law. So your point is not just void, its asinine.

          As regards the wall having anything to do with suicide bombers: give me a break. Is that why it cuts through occupied palestinian territory. Are you so bereft of logic that you can’t see where it ought to have been erected if it was about security reasons?

          1. Idrees, you’ve sussed it.
            The Separation Wall isn’t there to keep terrorists out. It’s there to keep the Israeli girls **in**. Parading about in shorts and tank tops they’re an unholy temptation to all males on the West Bank.

    2. I’m intrigued by the suggestion that Israel’s Supreme Court did not respond a whit to five years of popular struggle and mounting social pressure. I guess Caleb has covered his bases by claiming that the Supreme Court is “non-political” and so maybe by definition not susceptible to trivial stuff like grassroots struggle. It’s a tidy explanation. Just leaves out the world, which looks a little different.

    3. Israel is set on keeping the facade of a democracy and as such creates racism within its seemingly-democratic institutions (the courts, the parliament, etc.). There’s a name for that, it’s called institutionalized racism. It makes it harder to get the job done (the job being cleansing Israel of Palestinians), because sometimes, you’ll have a more left-leaning judge in the supreme court, or maybe you have to keep the facade going, so you give back only 60% of the land you stole and completely forget to mention the parts of it that you’ve already destroyed by uprooting the crops and building on it, in order to create so-called irreversible facts that will lead to future land annexation, institutionalized by law, because, hey, people live there and it’s not democratic to evict them by force, is it? And a Jew doesn’t expel a Jew, right? I hope I made my point, and I hope, Caleb, that your offense is beyond your ethnic and cultural heritage.

      On a side note, I believe the 5 years of consistent protest will bring much more than the moving of the fence. As popular committee coordinator Muhammed Khatib mentioned, this is a small victory, but the demonstrations won’t stop until the wall falls.

  2. We salute the courage of you and all the masses in Palestine; for more than 62 years imperialism has tried to break your spirit; they have failed and will always fail; In South Africa we have started the Palestine Freedom of Movement Campaign which is a united front committed to mobilise for the tearing down of the Palestinian ‘Berlin wall’ starting with the Rafah border, continuing with all the walls and checkpoints, for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners and for the unconditional right of return of the millions of Palestinian refugees; we also stand for the release of Martino in Argentina and all like him who are still today in prison for taking up the cause of a free Palestine. The Palestine Freedom of Movement Campaign can be reached at

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