Al-Maskobiyya Prison - Jerusalem (Al-Jazeera)

Palestinian writer Osama Al-Issa tells us in his novel “Al-Maskobiyyah” the story of a frightening station in the journey of a Palestinian prisoner, which is a center for psychological and physical torture practiced by the Israeli occupation authorities against every Palestinian who searches for his freedom and thinks about resistance.

Al-Maskobiyyah is a building built by the Russian authorities in Jerusalem in 1857 to be a complex for Russian interests at the time of the Ottoman Caliphate, in which services were provided to Russian pilgrims. However, the British occupation turned it into a prison, and the Zionist gangs inherited it, turning it into a place for interrogating Palestinian prisoners before they were sentenced and transferred. To other prisons, and many of them are in occupied Palestine, which the occupation army turned into a large prison.

But Al-Mascobiyya is unlike any other place, as it has become a symbol of death that the prisoner wishes to escape from the torment.

Brain battle

The brain is the hero of the story of captivity, and it is its focus, and in this novel we see how the prisoner uses it.

To preserve his faith, hope, and steadfastness, and to preserve the life of his body, which is riddled with wounds and pain, and in return, the Israeli executioner targets this brain.

To make him fall prey to fear, weakness, and surrender, to achieve through mental and psychological methods what torture could not achieve.

A prisoner says in the novel: “The brain does not stop thinking in the cells. It makes you remember things that you had forgotten, so you are surprised that you remember them, and that they actually happened to you. The brain keeps you alive in prison; without this wonderful organ in the body there is no life. All organs Your body is in pain from the effects of wounds and bruises, and it alone entertains you and comforts your loneliness; it frightens you and encourages you; it brings you the faces of your family and the girl you love; it reminds you of the faces of friends who are waiting for you, and are proud of your steadfastness, and you will be an example for them, convincing you that you are strong... stronger than you imagined yourself to be; And you are still living despite everything that happened to you. Who could survive if they went through your experience?!”

But, can you imagine hearing the screams of an Arab girl being tortured by Israeli soldiers, while you are tied hand and foot, and you have nothing for her or for yourself?

What could you be feeling?!

This prisoner was subjected to this harsh experience, and perhaps the sadistic Israeli prison guard discovered that hearing the girl’s voice oppressed the prisoner and destroyed his psyche, so he exaggerated in torturing the girl.

The prisoner says: “The sound of her screaming never stopped reaching me in the dawn hours, while I was in the cell. I was banging my head against the rough wall. What humiliation is this?! I did not expect to be so weak in front of her voice. I believed in the tax of resistance, and that shame It is the occupation, and not the wailing of a Jerusalemite girl in the dark of a cold, harsh dawn, in an era of occupation that is not the first of the city, and will one day become merely a line on the pages of its history. But the reality was not like that, as the girl’s wailing, which resembled a call for help, continued to echo in my ears in later periods of my life. Considering that her freed grief is a trust in our hands.”

It didn't stop there;

The prisoner saw how captured Palestinian children were used to clean prison corridors.

The Israeli occupation knows very well the effect this has on the psychology of the resister, and the feeling of insulting dignity.

The brain is the hero of the story of captivity. The prisoner uses it to preserve his faith, hope, and steadfastness, and to preserve the life of his body, which is riddled with wounds and pain. The Israeli executioner targets it to make him fall prey to fear, weakness, and surrender, to achieve through mental and psychological methods what torture could not achieve.

The Palestinian intellectual in the slaughterhouse

Al-Mascobiyya prison, which Palestinian prisoners call the “slaughterhouse,” witnessed the torture of many Palestinian intellectuals, Muslim religious scholars, and symbols of the Palestinian national movement.

In its basements, groups of Palestinian intellectuals were detained and subjected to severe torture and physical abuse.

In this prison, the martyr Qasim Abu Akar (Abu Khaled), whose name was associated with Al-Maskobiyya, breathed his last, after being subjected to many types of torture, and his wife was arrested to pressure him to make confessions against the Fedayeen.

When they released her, she learned that her husband had been martyred.

In this prison, the Israeli authorities use “ghost” for long hours, and ghost is a torture technique that relies on forcing the prisoner to assume difficult and painful physical positions for long periods of time, such as standing without moving for hours, or sitting or bending in painful positions that are difficult to bear for a few minutes, and in this prison Moreover, they cover the prisoner’s face with a bag that smells like urine, and if it snows in the winter, the executioner uses it as an opportunity for more torture.

The prisoner says: “The snow in Al-Maskobiyya turns into hell; nothing like the cold can affect the human body. It gnaws at it until the pain complains of pain, so the prisoner holds his groans deep within him, and then the effects of the cold begin again in a circle that reaches its peak within seconds.” The prisoner feels that he has reached the bottom of the world and resigned from this world.

He added: "I was convinced that the snow in Al-Moscobiyah that I see is black. It can never be white. People in my country love whiteness and sing for it. The snow in Al-Moscobiyah must be different from our snow. Al-Moscobiyyah snow is black and our snow is white."

Even music is used there for torture... Can you imagine that?!

There is a symphony by Beethoven entitled: “Blows of Fate” that is played very loudly through headphones on the detainee’s ears, and this is associated with shaking him violently, so that the prisoner feels that his fate has actually ended.

This method alone led to the martyrdom of a number of prisoners in Al-Maskobiyya prison.

Among the methods of oppression and psychological torture are long dialogues in which investigators talk during the investigation about Israel’s strength and progress, in the face of a weak and defeated Arab world, and comparisons are made between the strong leaders of Israel and the weak Arab leaders.

Homeland of martyrs and detainees

The prisoner says: “From my cell, I was listening to the calls for help of a prisoner named Ghassan. He was suffering from an illness and could not bear the ghost for long hours in the cold night of Al-Maskobiyya, so he was martyred under torture. I only saw Ghassan’s face in the pictures years after his martyrdom, along with other pictures of martyrs who died in the Al-Maskobiyya prison. Some of them had their soul embrace the Jerusalem sky at dawn while he was “ghostly,” or while he was sadistically challenging an investigator who had immigrated to Jerusalem from a distant land to torture its youth.

The prisoner adds: I always wondered where their blood would go?!

Who will remember them?!

What will history write about young men, descendants of those Arabs, who found themselves alone and helpless in the streets of the Holy City, defending its walls and stones, with their backs to the wall?

What is history if not the stories of these people, their sorrows, their relationships, their weaknesses, their strength, their sins, their greatness, their love and their hate?!

I paused for a long time before that question that challenges our silence and our inability to support men who died defending Al-Aqsa Mosque, and who refused to submit, submit, and surrender to reality.

Another paradox comes when the prisoner says: I left Al-Maskobiyya prison, and I did not know that after only a few days I would have a new appointment with detention in Ramallah prison this time, as if I were trapped in a closed circle from which there was no escape, as one of a generation that was destined to know its country through... Detainees.

Osama Al-Aissa says:

He benefited from research and journalistic methods in developing this novel.

The narrative sometimes approached journalistic investigation.

Although he says;

The text was sent to him by an unknown prisoner, and his role was limited to editing it. However, Osama Al-Issa had an experience in Al-Maskobiyah prison, which lasted for two months when he was arrested in 1982.

He also dedicated the novel to his son, Basil, who was imprisoned in Al-Mascobiyah prison when he was 15 years old. He experienced the torture of Al-Mascobiyya until he was able to write a novel about that brutal torture.

In this work, Osama Al-Aissa says to every prisoner: There is no salvation from your cell except for yourself to be the owner of a cause that wants to triumph over an interrogator who should see him as just a servant defending a lost cause.

You represent a free man;

While he is a nail in a machine that tramples in front of it.

But is Osama Al-Issa’s advice directed only to Palestinian prisoners, or to all free people who face tyranny and dream of liberating their homelands?!

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.