Heroes are rare; they are tragic and inspiring at the same time. Such a real-life hero is Zakaria Zubeidi, 45, from Jenin in Palestine. A man of brawn and brain, of sword and harp, he was an al Aqsa Brigade commander as well as the director of the Freedom Theatre. Years ago, the Sunday Times called him ‘one of Israel’s most wanted and implacable enemies’. A cat of nine lives, he survived many Israeli assassination attempts; he had been in and out of jail many times; he got his first Israeli bullet at 13; his film premiere at 14. A few days ago, he staged an audacious escape from Israel’s high security prison, together with five other convicts. They dug a 20 yard-long tunnel with their spoons, just like the Count of Monte Cristo, and emerged outside the walls, squeezing through a narrow communication channel. This brave, nay impossible feat encouraged the captive Palestinians and gave them a second wind when they were exhausted and desperate. The people in the Holy Land and the large Palestinian diaspora held its collective breath following their escape and prayed for them to reach safety. I saw on Israeli TV news four shackled prisoners in the court. Zakaria had been badly beaten. His capturers broke his ribs and jaw, while he was already handcuffed. His face was grim and stern like that of a suffering Christ before the crooked court of Synedrion. It was a sad sight, the return of the hero to the dark dungeons of the Jewish state. But then, he was born and brought up under the occupation. His story is the story of the cheated generation that came to the fore after the great betrayal.
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