Skip to comments.(Israeli Bedouin) Sgt. Sayid Jaja laid to rest in 'Arara
Posted on 12/13/2004 1:00:12 PM PST by anotherview
Dec. 13, 2004 21:56 | Updated Dec. 13, 2004 22:32
Sgt. Sayid Jaja laid to rest in 'Arara
By DANIEL BEN-TAL
The first family in 'Arara whose sons serve in the IDF buried their youngest boy in a brief, somber military funeral in this Muslim village in central Israel Monday.
Fewer than 200 men attended the funeral of Sgt. Sayid Jaja, 19, one of five soldiers from the Beduin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion killed in Sunday evening's attack on an IDF post in the southern Gaza Strip.
Local restaurant owner Younis Wal, whose wife is related to the Jaja family, explained that many villagers felt uncomfortable about attending the military funeral.
"Most villagers will pay their respects to the family during the three days of mourning. Only those who have no choice like family, close neighbors and a few friends will come. A nobleman told me this morning that he will not attend because he could not be sure that Sayid did not kill fellow Palestinians. My neighbor called him a heretic. He would have received greater honor if he was a policeman," said Wal, 41, before the funeral.
In a departure from the normal protocol for military funerals, Jaja's coffin was draped in the national flag and covered by a blanket as it was carried by relatives through the village and up a steep slope to the family's burial ground.
No religious prayers were offered as the coffin was lowered into its final resting place between towering pine trees overlooking Wadi 'Ara. Soldiers forming the honor guard were not ordered to fire the customary three blank rounds in his memory.
Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern, Head of the IDF's Manpower Branch, was the only eulogizer.
"Today, as we stand over his fresh grave, it is time to internalize Sayid's message to those who hold stigmas. His way will force many people both Jews and Arabs to reconsider how we live together with a common fate. The IDF is composed of many communities and religions. These soldiers forge a brave link with the State of Israel. Their service is a supreme expression of their desire to be part of the country."
"We have struck a covenant of blood between the IDF and the people of 'Arara. Sayid died defending the country. His death was not in vain," said Stern, as a cousin of the dead soldier cursed in Arabic under his breath.
"Your army sent him to fight fellow Palestinians and he calls this a covenant of blood?" said the cousin, who asked not to be named.
The Jaja family is the fourth largest clan in 'Arara, a village of about 1,400 residents. Sayid's twin brother Walid also serves in the Beduin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion, while their elder brother Isham is a border policeman.
"This is our choice. We live together, give to the state and receive from the state. We are Israelis. Nobody will persuade me that this is not my country," their father Yussuf, a retired school caretaker, told Army Radio.
"My son loved the army and looked forward to life, but every person has his fate," he continued.
Although some 300 local residents have enrolled in Wadi 'Ara's community police force in the past two years, no other family has taken the step of sending its sons to the army and many villagers remain angry with Yussuf Jaja.
"People in the village treat the family as unusual. I say that it is everyone's right to live as they choose. Now that Sayid is dead, it is time to forget the arguments and console the family," said Wal.
The controversy within the village over military service is unlikely to die down.
"I'm not against induction just what the army does. Sayid was killed out of revenge, just like the seven-year-old girl that the IDF killed in response. I'll join the army when there is a real, justified peace," said a cousin, Mahil Jaja, 31.
Sayid is survived by five brothers, two sisters and his parents, Yussuf and Nazmiah.