Many long-term Palestinian prisoners have been in Israeli jails since their children were very young. A generation has grown up not really knowing their fathers beyond second-hand information. In such cases, fellow prisoners become a new family but they can never replace the children. Prisoner Talal Abu Kabash is one of those men whose children have been deprived of his presence in their formative years.
Talal Yousuf Ahmed Abu Kabash was born in Samo’a village in the West Bank. He was arrested on 23rd June 1985 during a raid on his house and was charged with the killing of Jewish settlers in the nearby city of Hebron. He was sentenced to life in prison and has now entered his twenty-sixth year behind bars. His family still lives in hope that they will meet him again as a free man. His imprisonment has been a major disaster to them, but they have not lost faith that he will be released one day and go home; he is still very much the father and friend to his children, the youngest of whom is in his twenties now and has never seen his father.
According to the prisoner’s wife, “When my son Hatem graduated from college, he was very happy but his eyes were full of tears because his father was not there by his side. Abu Hatem left me with a huge responsibility to raise the children and take care of them when they were very young. Now, thank God, they have grown and are educated.” Umm Hatem adds that her husband gets very happy when he hears that one of the kids got high marks in school.
“Abu Hatem taught us to be strong,” she says, “not to lose faith and to be optimistic about his release, but it’s difficult and we cry a lot.” Her husband’s morale is good and when she visits him Abu Hatem tells her not to lose faith in God.
Talal Abu Kabash, whose “kunya” is Abu Hatem (father of Hatem) is well-known as an advocate of Palestinian unity. He is forever calling upon the factions to unite in order to face up to the Israeli occupation and the dangers surrounding the Palestinian issue.
Prisoner Abu Kabash’s son, Hatem, expresses his hope that his father, and all Palestinian prisoners, will be released from Israeli prisons: “We live by the hope of meeting our father, whose life has been taken from us by the Israeli occupation authorities.” He called on the Arab and European countries to intervene to get the Israelis to release him and others who have served lengthy terms, on compassionate grounds. Nevertheless, he also called upon the Palestinian factions to stand firm on their position in order to get the prisoners released through an exchange deal for the Israeli soldier Shalit being held in Gaza.