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The scars of war
on May 15, 2004
Eleven-year-old Malaak has stopped talking to her family and friends since her father disappeared a month before. The roof of her building in the Palestinian community of Gaza City provides her only refuge. It is here that she speaks to her pet dove Abdo, a gift from her father. In this place, she says, "I soar out of the Gaza Strip. Nothing stops me, not the concrete and razor wire, not the guns, not the soldiers." It is the first intifada of 1988 and Malaak experiences the mounting conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
When Malaak learns that her father was killed on a bus by a terrorist's bomb, she retreats to an inner world where she sees her father in dreams. All around her the violence increases as the youth on the streets or the "shabab" take on the Israeli soldiers with stones for weapons. Malaak's mother and her sister Hend, decry the violence of the Islamic Jihad. However, her 12-year-old brother Hamid is drawn in by its angry self-righteousness. Malaak loves her brother, her protector and a poet, but is scared to see him move increasingly under the influence of others in the jihad, who embrace violence as a solution to the occupation of the Gaza Strip.
The power of A Stone in My Hand is its insightful portrayal of the scars left on those children living in a zone of armed conflict and unending violence. From the silencing of Malaak by grief, to the rash and dangerous decisions of Hamid, we see children living in a world out of their control, coping in ways that are more instinctual than rational. The damage made by the ravages of armed violence is evident. However, for Malaak, the love of her family and the memory of her father is the balm to soothe the wounds.