It is the kind of story we have heard before.
Boy meets girl.
Boy proposes to girl 3 days later.
Boy and girl have 3 kids and a fourth on the way.
Boy tricks girl into “visiting” family in Gaza and ends up forcing her to stay.
The girl was Sara Rogers, and her account of being forced to stay in Gaza is interesting, not just because of her experience but also for what she reveals about life there – which confirms what we have been posting on here for a long time.
- There are wealthy Gazans
- There is incitement against Jews
- Palestinian terrorists fire from civilian areas, using civilians cynically as human shields
- Many palestinian civilians gladly go along with it
Rogers was living with her mother in Las Cruces, a city on the Rio Grande in New Mexico, when she became enchanted by a soft-spoken Arab man working at the Middle Eastern cafe where she’d often study.
“I was the feminist, the rebel, everything you could imagine,” she said. Hatem Abu Taha proposed to her three days after they met. They were married soon after.
“The morning after we wed, my husband got up to meet his friends,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘What? We’re newlyweds.'”
“He just told me he was doing guy things and I could do woman things,” she said in an interview at her home outside Boston.
Rogers worked as a nurse assistant but hoped for better. She completed a master’s degree and was preparing to write a book. Her husband rarely worked. He spoke often of his native land.
The couple had three children and were expecting a fourth when Taha said it was time they traveled to the Middle East to visit his Palestinian relatives. It was 2001.
Taha’s family lived in Rafah, a city on the border with Egypt from which Palestinian militants launched Qassam rockets into Israel.
Rogers was surprised to see that Taha’s family appeared to be well off. They owned, he told her, Gaza’s only cigarette patent. She was also not ready for what happened to her husband.
Taha was ultra-patriotic, she said, and passive to the will of his family who were hostile to the American in their home. After two weeks, Rogers said her kids were “breaking down.” Her eldest son was suffering anxiety attacks. Her 2-year-old daughter had contracted dysentery.
When they arrived two weeks before, carpenters were building a third-floor addition to the family home. Taha told Rogers it was for his brother and his wife. But when the work was done, Taha told her the unit was where she would live.
Rogers was distressed and said she wanted the family to return home to the United States.
“He just laughed: ‘You have no embassy here. You have no family. No one.’ I was in shock,” she said.
Her mother-in-law was the cruelest, she said, patrolling the downstairs so Rogers didn’t escape. The children were called “Yehudi”(Jews) and bullied constantly at school. Her husband told her the children were his and that she was nothing but “a vessel.”
“I did not exist as a person,” she said.
There was worse to come. Rogers said Taha struck her and broke her jaw for not cleaning the refrigerator properly. And she was suspicious that her in-laws weren’t just involved in cigarette trading.
They would have lengthy conversations with members of Hamas, the Palestinian terror group whose urban warfare tactics Rogers witnessed firsthand.
“The Palestinians would get inside a local school and start shooting from the windows,” she said. “And the Israelis would just fire back. Then you’d see people holding up dead Palestinian kids.”
When Rogers pleaded to move away from the perilous border with Israel, her father-in-law refused, claiming it would be an honor for them to be “martyred.” It was soon clear the family was active in terror networks. Israeli aerial attacks were common.
“We could hear the helicopter coming a mile away: tick, tick, tick, tick,” Rogers said. “Then it would drop the bomb.”
Rogers’ eldest son was injured by an Israeli tank shell. Her newborn son chewed holes in his feet because of the stress. One night, Taha and his nephew Yahya didn’t return from a trip.
“On the BBC was a report that two Palestinians from Islamic Jihad had claimed an attack and a young man and his wife were dead,” said Rogers. “My sister-in-law came up the stairs crying happily, saying that Yahya was now a martyr and in heaven. I had to get out.”
On a trip to Gaza City to meet a family friend, Rogers slipped away while the men were at afternoon prayers. In her burka, she had heard that illegal taxis brought people from Gaza to Israel and pleaded with a local store owner to call her one.
“I asked the cab driver how long it took to Erez and he said half an hour. I said, ‘If you can make it in 15 minutes, you can have every bit of gold I have.’ He got me to the border.”
Rogers said that speaking about her life in Palestine helps ease the pain. But it will be a long time until she recovers. “I try to take the positives from everything,” she said. “I meet good people and everything makes me grateful.”
“My kids are smart, funny, you’d never have guessed what they went through,” she added. “I tell them that it was a bad thing but that it was given to them for a reason. They can make their lives count.”
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