Although they have a life of pain in common, individual life stories of Palestinian prisoners are all very different. Prisoner Hafez Qundos has taught us many lessons about patience and hope despite painful wounds. He also conveyed a love of the homeland and the will to bear the pain regardless of the cost.
Hafez Nemir Muhammad Qundos is 52 years old and unmarried, largely due to his lengthy detention by the Israelis. Born in the city of Jaffa, “the mermaid city”, Hafez Qundos is one of the longest-serving prisoners. He was arrested on 15th May 1984 and sentenced to twenty-eight years in prison on charges of belonging to Fatah and of attempting to assassinate Abed Kob. He tried to escape in 1997 when he dug a tunnel which was only discovered at the last minute. Although Hafez Qundos is now in Be’er Sheva Prison, he has spent time in many, almost all, in fact, of the prisons inside Israel.
One of five children (he has two brothers and two sisters), his family was a solid example of Palestinian life. Along with his siblings, Hafez Qundos was encouraged by his parents to love doing good deeds for people. Hafez worked as an electrician and his family was doing well; they had everything they needed but as he wanted to help his father, he had more than one job. He was not a violent person and was well known for his helpful attitude.
His sister Wafa gave a good example of his care for others: “I took him twenty pairs of socks but on the next visit he complained about the cold. I told him to wear two pairs of socks to keep his feet warm. My brother just laughed, and said that he only had the pair he was wearing because he had given the rest to other prisoners.”
Hafez Qundos still dreams of returning to his home in Jaffa, even after quarter of a century in an Israeli prison. He believes that he is close to realising that dream. That was the city in which he became aware of the dire situation facing Palestine and its people.
Hafez’s mother has waited a long time to see her son free again. “Despite my poor health and my old age, which cannot bear the stress caused by visits,” says Umm Hafez, “all becomes easy for me if I can see my son, whose life has been wasted behind bars.”
The pain of separation was also felt keenly by his father, who died without seeing his son set free; a brother, Ibrahim, died at a time when visits were prohibited and his family was unable to see Hafez for years. He was allowed to go from his prison directly to the cemetery for the burial and then straight back again. It was a very painful period.
“The atmosphere at the funeral was tense,” says Wafa. “Hafez came out of prison with his hands and feet in shackles to attend the funeral of his brother who was killed in prison.” His mother’s sorrow was great but she was patient and spoke to Hafez about fate and the death that awaits us all. She even worried that he son might have been hungry as “he may not have eaten on the way from the prison”. Such is the love of a mother.
Hafez Qundos expects to be set free within the next three years, when he will have served his sentence. In the meantime, his patient approach will continue to see him through the harsh days as a Palestinian prisoner of the Israelis.