By Dalia Nammari, The Associated Press, Jordan Times
RAMALLAH – Palestinian prisoners released in a swap for an Israeli soldier last month are racing to make up for lost time: Many of the 477 former inmates are already getting married, building homes or enrolling in college.
Most had spent long years behind bars, and even expected to die in prison for carrying out attacks against Israel.
Now, they are struggling with a new political reality: The Gaza Strip is run by the Islamist Hamas, which was an underground movement when most of them went to prison.
And there is a more moderate climate than they may remember in the West Bank, where, weary after a bloody uprising against Israel, many now frown on violence as harmful to Palestinian interests.
Nonetheless, the prisoners are widely considered heroes by their communities.
As part of their welcome home, they have received start-up grants of up to $10,000 from the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and the Hamas government in Gaza, and there is talk of stipends and apartments.