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Hiding in Al Bassa from the ottoman soldiers
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Posted by Eid Haddad on May 16, 2004
My grandfather Eid Elias (Besharah/Bechara) Haddad was a soldier in the ottoman army. He was known too as Abu Elias. The Ottomans used to call him Eid Akkaly (Eid of Akka/Acre). At that time Palestine was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire (and until the end of the First World War). He was called to duty against his will. My grandfather was sent to the Balkan region, known now as Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. There he saw lots of horrors done by the Ottomans. One of the horrible episodes which he saw, was a pregnant woman being cut open alive, and the baby was snatched out of her belly. He saw also the Ottomans setting men on Khazook (a thick piece of wood with pin-like top). My grandfather could not bear such inhuman and savage acts, which reminded him of the massacre of the Armenians by the same people, the Ottomans. Therefore he decided to run away from duty.

The ottoman authorities considered him as a traitor to the Muslim Ottoman Empire, because he was Christian. My grandfather travelled on foot for a long time on his way back to Al Bassa. He took the remote and mountainous paths back home, to avoid meeting with the Ottomans. On his way he met some Bedouins who stripped him of all his clothes. He was totally naked. My grandfather had to spend days hiding in caves, and he had to live on what nature provided of herbs and rain water. At last he met a descent Bedouin, who gave him clothes and food enough to continue his journey home to Al Bassa.

Finally he arrived to Al Bassa. Unfortunately he could not stay at home, because the Ottoman soldiers were searching for him. Al Bassa was surrounded by lots of historical Canaanite graves and caves in the neighboring mountain, known as Jabal Al Moshaqah. This proves that, Al Bassa´s history goes back to the time of the Canaanites. At that time it was called Bezet, which means swamp in Phoenician/ Canaanite, due to its greenery and the availability of water in it. My grandfather found it safer to take refuge and hide there in the old ruins. At that time my aunt Qatef was a little girl. My grandmother Um Elias (Nazleh Barber) ordered my aunt to deliver zuwadi (food and water) to my grandfather. My grandmother told my aunt (on my grandfathers orders) to call on Al Jinni (genie) to come and collect his zuwadi, as soon as she arrived to the steep of the mountain. This went on for weeks. All of Al Bassa villagers knew that.

The Ottomans heard of that genie. Later they sent a group of soldiers to investigate. The soldiers searched everywhere, but could not find the genie/ Jinni on the first day. The next day at night some soldiers were ordered to go to the mountain and search again. My grandfather was already aware of what was going on. Therefore he hid in one of the old Canaanite graves (a small grotto in Jabal Al Moshaqah), but first he took most of his clothes off and covered his body with ashes, so he looked like a real black genie, like those mentioned in the old traditional stories. It was a surprise, when my grandfather appeared to one of the Ottoman soldiers. The soldier thought that, he saw a real genie, so he ran down the mountain as quickly as he could while shouting loudly, that a genie appeared to him. From that moment Al Bassa villagers started calling the mountain Jabal Al Jinni Eid Bechara.

After some time the Ottomans knew that, the genie was my grandfather; therefore new orders came to arrest him. One day the soldiers followed my aunt secretly, as she was on her way to deliver the zuwadi. The soldiers surprised my grandfather, and arrested him. Luckily for him the war was over soon after the arrest, and so he got his freedom again. Until today I still hear old Bassawi men telling me this story, when they get to know, that I am the grandson of Eid Besharah/Bechara.


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