Another unforgettable character I resemble

He held up a slice of apple. Nadia reached for it. As she did so, her eyes caught something in the frosted glass of the front door. Omar Yussef turned to follow her gaze. There was someone there, silhoutted by the street lamp and wearing a military beret. He felt a flash of fright and dropped the apple before Nadia could take it.
The figure reached out and knocked on the door.

Keeping his eyes on the door, Omar Yussef rose slowly from his seat. He felt a little nauseous. The silhouette outside rocked from left to right , as though it were trying to keep warm in the night chill. It knocked again. Maryam stood. She gave her husband a look of concern before she went to the door and opened it.
“Ah, Abu Adel,” Maryam said, warmly. “Come in, come in.” 
Omar Yussef felt his legs weaken with relief. He rested his hands on the table for support. He didn’t have the constitution for a dangerous life.
The man at the door gave a bluff laugh. “I just stopped to say All the year, may you be well.”
The family replied with other traditional Ramadan formaulas. “May Allah accept from us and from you,” Omar Yussef said.
Nadia reached around her grandfather and took another slice of apple. She smiled at him as she bit into it, and the grin returned to him a little of his strength. He went down to the other end of the table to greet Khamis Zeydan.
“Consider yourself with your family and at home,” Omar Yussef said, in welcome.

This is the first appearance of Khamis Zeydan, one of my favourite characters in all the books I have read and another of the few I do identify with. Why will be soon revealed. His appearance as a silhouette comes on page 49 of Matt Beynon Rees’ critically-acclaimed The Bethlehem Murders, a chilling account of life, or what passes for it, in the occupied Palestinian cities of West Bank. If you are sufficiently interested to know why I like him and how I identify with him, read on…..

Some more information follows and those who know me well and recognise the two traits – though seeming diametrically opposite which I have in common with Abu Adel. I have skipped some part of the past, as marked by the series of dots since the passage was getting too long and the only purpose it would have served was to get a short, succinct account of Palestinian life since 1948.

Khamis Zeydan acknowledged the greeting and gave his friend five kisses on his cheeks. His eyes showed crafty amusement, relaxing from the accustomed state of high alert Omar Yussef noticed in them when he ran into his friend about town. From the playful glint in those eyes, he figured Khamis Zeydan was already into the sauce pretty far tonight.
The Bethlehem police chief removed the blue beret that, in silhouette, had frightened Omar Yussef and smoothed his white hair, cut short, and combed forward. He folded his hat and wedged it under his epaulette, which bore a white eagle, on the shoulder of his dark blue shirt.
Khamis Zeydan was the same age as Omar Yussef. They had known each other since their time as students in Damascus ………………………………………. ….. Khamis Zeydan followed the PLO around the Mediterranean from Jordan to Syria, to Lebanon and Tunis. He lost touch with Omar Yussef because of the communication restrictions of the Israelis.
When he came to Bethlehem as chief of police, their friendship was renewed. Omar Yussef had been delighted by his friend’s coming. Khamis Zeydan seemed to have changed so little, at first. But he soon saw that his friend, the Police Brigadier Khamis Zeydan, was dreadfully disillusioned and as a result, often self-destructively drunk.

Well a lot can be made out from this and if you didn’t, then you will have to wait. Those who want can read the passage again and try to identify the key traits of the Bethlehem police chief.

All that remains to be said is that Khamis Zeydan plays a important role in the novel and in ensuring there will be a sequel, despite being shown as powerless at a certain time and even suspected by the main protagonist. However, since my aim is not to give a synopis of Rees’ novel, I will refrain from saying more……

To be continued…….


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