Postcard from Jenin

After a 2002 Israel Defense Forces attack, the Palestinian residents of the West Bank town of Jenin made it a point of pride to rebuild the razed buildings, restore homes ransacked by occupation, repave roads dug up by Israeli tanks, and replant olive groves uprooted by Israeli bulldozers.

A symbol of this determination to rebuild in the face of destruction can be found in al-Hisan—the horse of Jenin.

In 2003, German sculptor Thomas Kippler, along with 12 Jenin teenagers, constructed a five-meter high horse as a symbol of the resilience of the Palestinian people. In Arab culture, the horse is a symbol of strength and sturdiness, an association going back to the Arabic poetry of pre-Islamic times. However, the horse also has religious associations with heaven and martyrdom.

Both these associations are appropriate considering the Jenin horse itself was constructed out of the wreckage of cars and homes destroyed during the invasion. One piece of metal is emblazoned with the words “Red Crescent Society.” It comes from a Palestinian ambulance destroyed in an Israeli strike that also killed a local doctor. According to the Human Rights Watch report on the incursion, the Israeli military committed serious breaches of international humanitarian law, including indiscriminate killing of civilians, use of civilians as human shields, and widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure, all carried out with U.S. military hardware such as tanks, helicopter gun-ships, and armored bulldozers.

Once completed, the horse traveled throughout the West Bank before finding a home in the Jenin refugee camp. According to one news report at the time, the horse’s progress was delayed by numerous checkpoints, but “ amused Israeli soldiers let it pass, dismissing any fears it might be a Trojan horse.”

Sandy Marshall is a Master’s student in Near Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona. He has spent several months in Palestine as a student and human rights worker. This is his first contribution to FPIF.