Breaking News Emails
TEL AVIV, Israel — “Where are my parents? Where is my brother?”
Four-year-old Ahmad Dawabseh constantly asks his grandfather those questions — but his grandfather cannot answer.
That’s because specialists at Sheba Medical Center advise the 51-year-old not to tell Ahmad that his father, mother and 18-month-old brother were killed by alleged Jewish extremists who firebombed their home five months ago.
"Ahmad is a very smart boy and the hardest moment for me is when he asks me about his parents. How can I answer him? Where do I start?” Hussein Dawabsheh told NBC News as tears filled his eyes.
The arson attack that killed Ahmad's parents and brother was one of the worst acts of what appeared to be Jewish extremism since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1947.
On January 3, police said they had charged Amiram Ben Uliel with the crime after he confessed to throwing a Molotov cocktail into the Dawabsheh home in the Israel-occupied West Bank village of Duma.
Hussein Dawabsheh vividly remembers the night it all happened.
He lives around a mile away from his late daughter’s house in Duma. On July 31, his wife had gone to the roof to try and stay cool on the hot summer night when she saw smoke rising from the other end of their village.
"My wife screamed at me, saying ‘Our daughter's home is on fire!’” he told NBC News. “I raced to their house but the only thing I could do was sit and cry while crews were working to stop the fire.”
His grandson Ali died that night, while his daughter Reham and son-in-law Saad later succumbed to injuries sustained in the fire.
Little Ahmad suffered second and third-degree burns on much of his body.
“Ahmad came in with 70 percent burns and we saved his life," said Dr. Josef Haik, who heads-up Sheba Medical Center’s Burn Unit.
Since that night Hussein Dawabsheh has dedicated his life to his grandson, leaving his family in the West Bank and job as a tiler to stay near his grandson's bedside day and night.
Ahmad's recovery has been grueling and painful. Scars cover his body, and he cannot walk more than a few steps by himself so has to be carried almost everywhere.
Dawabsheh has followed the advice of hospital psychologists who recommended he delay telling the little boy about the tragedy, but is planning to tell Ahmed the truth this week.
For now, the hospital room is a largely happy place full of gifts from friends, family and even strangers. A picture of Ahmad's mother Reham and father Saad holding little Ali's hand is pinned above the heart monitor.
“Ahmad told me he wants to keep all the presents he received and bring them to his brother Ali so they can play together,” Dawabsheh said. “I’m speechless — I just can’t tell him Ali is gone.”
He told NBC News he was not surprised police arrested the “terrorists” who devastated his family — but thinks it took the police way too long.
“I blame the Israeli government and the police who should have arrested them right away,” he said.
When asked the future, Dawabsheh said he was proud people around the world had showered his grandson with love and support. Cristiano Ronaldo, the world-famous Real Madrid soccer star, has even invited Ahmad to Spain so he can meet the team.
“I feel Ahmad lost his family but now the world is his family,” Dawabsheh said. “Ahmad really deserves this love and attention but the sad thing is that he has no idea about the heavy price he paid for this love.”