Saturday, December 31, 2011

This Month in Palestine

Well, it's December, The last month in the year, which is supposed to be the month of celebrations or it's how I suppose it should be, a special month. However, this is not the case in Palestine. It's always different in this part of the world, we celebrate, but in different way! We don't choose how we celebrate it. Israel always does.

I remember In the eighth of this month I was going back home from school, the weather was gloomy and I felt that something wrong is going around, I was in a taxi when I heard the news of an air strike that targeted a car in the central Gaza Strip and killed two men. I stayed silent and I was taken by my thoughts. I thought of the moment they were targeted, did they know that this would be their last day alive? Did they say goodbye to their families? How is that possible anyways? Israel had planned to kill them that day and it would never give a hint that it's targeting that particular place. They kill whoever they want without even thinking of the consequences! Consequences?! Why should Israel even think of the consequences of killing the innocents? Israel is protected by the international community, and it's very easy for them to justify such practices. They would say that the two men are terrorists, yes, simply like that!

One day after that happened; someone from Nabi Saleh was tweeting about a guy who was shot in the face by an Israeli soldier during the weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh that is held against the expropriation of their land for the illegal settlement that surrounds the tiny village of Nabi Saleh.  Mustafa Tamimi was protesting peacefully. It his right to stand against the Israel illegal settlements that is taking over the West Bank and growing like cancer. Mustafa Tamimi's scene holding the Palestinian flag, demanding his legal rights, had provoked the Israeli soldiers so they shot him in the face at a distance of less than 10 meters.  I was following the updates from Nabi Saleh on Twitter and my whole body was occupied with anger and distress.  I kept thinking of Mustafa since I knew he was shot in the face though I've never heard of him. Should I know him anyway to mourn over his soul? He's a Palestinian, a resistant. He was living under the same occupied land, the same occupied sky! He was dreaming of free Palestine just like we do. Israeli Nazis have killed him but never killed his dream. We shall continue the path. The path towards Freedom! RIP Mustafa. 

This month again, another story happened that had shattered my heart into pieces. Two of the detainees who were released lately in the exchange deal and deported to the Gaza Strip are Anees and Akram Al-Namoura. The two brothers happened to be related to my mother's family. I was very happy when I learned that Akram and Anees are our relatives somehow. They are real heroes who had to pay the price defending our Palestine inside the Israeli cruel prisons. The two brothers had spent ten years in the Israel jails and were released lately. However, they haven't enjoyed being free to the fullest as they were deported from Hebron to Gaza. They wanted to see their mother and their family. Their sick mother managed to get into Gaza after a long and tiring journey. She saw her two sons and had the chance to hug them. She spent 6 days with them and then she passed away…

 I always try avoiding being pessimistic and I am sure that Palestinians still desire to live life to the fullest.  Despite the Israeli practices against us, and the continuous violations of our rights. Palestinians do always survive and will always do. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Three Years Left. Today, I close my eyes; recall in memories the Gaza massacre

Today, memories flow into my brain. My brain goes back 3 years ago, the scenario starts playing in my mind, I recall every minute happened that Saturday; I rehear every bomb, every cry of fear. I re-witness the scene.  I recall each and every second happened on Saturday, December 27th, 2008 as if it was still today. I recall the silence, the shock, the horror that took over my body that day. I recall in memories, the still living memories in my mind.
Today, 3 years ago, I was still 17 years old, a Tawijihi student, the last year and the most important year in school time. It was final exams time for most of the students but Tawjihi students were not having exams. At 11:00 am I was done with the management class and ready to go back home. I waited my sister who was still having her Arabic exam; I waited here in the school yard where a lot of students were standing there.    As I was waiting for my younger sister, a very thunderous series of explosions started hitting the sky. I looked up at the sky immediately, and then I looked around, I stared at the faces surrounding me, they were all looking up at the sky. I looked around and around trying to find my sister among those shocked, terrified faces. I finally found her.

We hold hands.  "There is nothing to worry about, they are just sonic bombs." I told her. We walked out of the school. I could see school students shouting, crying or sitting in the street unable to walk because of the fear and panic. I remember laughing at them at the very first moments as I thought the bombs were just sonic. I walked home with my sister. The streets were very crowded with people. Women were all out looking for their children. Children were crying not knowing where to go. As we were walking many bombs were falling, we could hear them falling, and every time we hear an explosion we look around to make sure that we are in the safe side. We managed going back home safe. However, many others did not.

Home, I shouted, " Basil, Semsem, where are you?" I shouted my little brother and sister's names to make sure they are safe. I found them hiding in a corner holding each other's hands at the staircase. They were scared and their small faces looked pale and bewildered. I calmed them down, and I turned on the radio to understand what was going around. "120 martyrs were killed so far in the last series of explosions and many wounded" the reporter said.  I shouted placing my hands on my mouth then stayed still.  I was dominated by shock. Unable to talk, I stayed.

One of my sisters was still at her university and we were unable to contact her as all the communications went down. There was no network coverage. My family was very worried but thanks God she finally came back home safe. My family and I kept following the news. The number of the martyrs was increasing, bombs were still dropping, the electricity went out and the situation was getting from bad to worse.

I never thought that Saturday, that this day would be the start of the war. I do not know what to call it. A war? A war is supposed to be between two parallel forces. But it was not. It was a brutal genocide against unarmed civilians. It was Israel using all the military forces and all illegal weapons against the so called Gaza terrorists who have nothing to defend themselves or even their home.  It was something inhuman, something unbearable.

First day had gone, the second had begun, and the same scenario repeats itself every day.  Explosions, destruction, martyrs, wounded, orphaned, horror, shock were the main characters of that nightmare.
My family, 6 sisters along with me and 1 brother, used to sleep in one small room. We used to gather around the radio and listen to the news. The radio which works on batteries was our only mean to follow the news because there was neither electricity nor phones.  The horror was living among us. We would ask ourselves a thousand questions a minute. Are we going to stay alive till tomorrow? Will Israeli army attack our home and kick us out? Are we going to sleep in our home tomorrow or in UNRWA schools such as many of Gazans did? Are my friends safe? Are we going to find something to eat, something to drink the next days? And many many other horrible questions and thoughts were terrifying us and dominating our mind.

The sound of the bombs became as a rhythm. A loud explosion then sounds of ambulances then the news reporting the place that was targeted and if they could identify the martyrs, they would announce their names. However, tens were not identified or even mentioned as they were buried under the rubble and they lost all their face's features.
I used to sit on the roof in order to study because I was a Tawjihi student and I am required to study even if over 10 drones were droning over my head. The sky was not the normal sky we used to know during the 23 days of the war. It was most likely a gloomy gray sky filled with black drones, F16s, helicopters… I remember studying history, World War 2 in particular, while looking at the sky counting the drones. I had no doubt that I would pass the history test as I was living a war already! I proudly passed Tawjihi with an average of 96.6% and that is to send a message to Israelis that your crimes would never stop our dreams of the future.

The massacre ended in January19, 2009 but had left behind, 1085 martyrs, 420 of which are children, 105 women, 510 men, 14 medics, 4 journalists, 5 internationals.  Israel still claims that the war was against Hamas while most of the killed were innocent civilians. The number of children who were killed during Gaza war amounted to more than 45% of the total number of civilian victims!  We demand that Israeli criminals should be brought to justice.

Yes the massacre ended yet the pain it left behind never did.  I went to school after a week. I was literally scared to go back to school, I didn't want to learn that any of my friends or classmates have been hurt during the massacre; unfortunately, many of my classmates were affected directly by the massacre. Two were wounded, one lost her father, one lost her mother, two lost their cousins, one lost her home.

"I saw my mother dead, her head was separated from her body, I saw the blood covering her" the one who lost her mother said with a broken voice and teary eyes. I imagined her seeing her mother dying and couldn't help but cry with her and weep over all the martyrs who were killed in a cold blood. Today, after 3 years, I remember the martyrs again and their families who remember them every single day. I wish I can put a rose over every martyr's grave. I pray they are now resting in peace.

Today, I am twenty years old and the Gaza massacre is three years old. As I grow up, the memories of the brutal massacre will stay unchanged in my mind. 3 years had left but every Gazan commits to memory every second of the twenty-three days massacre. I assure you that tens of thousands of Gazans have a story to tell about the massacre.  The black Saturday will remain a shame on all the Israel criminals. People of Gaza shall never forget the Gaza genocide and shall never forgive.

Monday, November 14, 2011

14/November/2011- A night in The Gaza Strip

I was trying to sleep yesterday at almost 2 am. I turned the lights off, and jumped into my bed, under my warm cover. I had some difficulties in sleeping as I suffer sore throat these days. However, the atmosphere was so calm until I heard some really loud explosions. I jumped out of the bed. I opened the window because I thought it was nearby and I even thought the strikes fell on one of my neighbors homes. I looked but I could see nothing but the darkness. My sisters, who were already and calmly sleeping, woke up and the panic could be noticed clearly on their faces.  My younger sister who was sleeping in the next room rushed to my room asking about the loud voices." Oh My God, what was that, seems like they were F16 strikes" she said. We turned on the radio to follow the news. News reported number of injuries and one martyr. I stayed silent after I heard the news, I tried to go to sleep again to no avail.   The martyr's family and friends seeing him killed and massacred now, seeing him for the last time, could not get out of my mind!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Long-awaited Day

  I woke up early yesterday in order to share the detainees families their happiness and to be part of the historic day in Gaza. I turned on the TV and waited the moment detainees would pass Rafah borders, meet their families and friends for the first time since so many long years. I waited the moment our heros would step into Gaza and breathe the fresh, touch the sunbeams, feel the freedom.  I waited an hour but I couldn't wait any more, I put on my clothes in a hurry and joined my sisters and cousins in the Red Cross where a sit-in tent is held in solidarity with the detainees. I then headed to Al-Kateeba ( the place where the released detainees would be celebrated). Many people where already there waiting for our heroes, I was very happy that all parties were joining the celebrations, Hamas, PFLP, Fatah and the others. I was glad that detainees are coming to see us united!  I sat among the crowds, waited for three hours but they didn't show up and it was getting late, I went home so I can watch them on TV. I also looked into the news on Facebook and Twitter.  Pictures of the released detainees were spreading everywhere! I couldn't but smile whenever I saw photos of mothers hugging their sons, fathers holding their children hands, wives shedding tears the moment they saw their husbands coming from the horizon!   

Those are some pictures that I stared at them for minutes and minutes, trying to put my self in their places, feel what they are feeling. However, no one can really feel the exact happiness that they are going through right now. 

I would start with Nael Barghoughi, the dean of the Palestinian prisoners.  Nael Is the oldest Palestinian detainee, and the oldest detainee in the world, he had spent 34 years in the Israeli jails. Look at his face when he was first imprisoned, he was just 19 years old, Nael had spent his very early years in the dark jails, he had grown old there! Israel had stolen his life, prevented him from living his twenties ,thirties, forties! He's now 52 years old. Nael missed living his normal life as a human being, he missed college, he missed being with his family, sharing them their happy times, gathering in the same table, he missed kissing his father's head every morning, hugging his mother, being with them in the last days of their life!  Nael's Parents had passed away without seeing their son free! Nael is free now, but unfortunately, his youngest brother, Omar Barghouthi,  is still there, in the Israeli jails!

 She dreamed of the day her husband would be released, she thought about him every single minute. Her husband was taken from her years ago, he was put in jail, she would look at his photo every night, stare at his face, talk to him, she tells him every day: don't worry my dear, you shall see the sun again, you shall hold my hand one day and look me in the eye, you shall be her tomorrow, in our small, cosy house.
Her heart was beating too fast, they have just told her that her husband is going to be free, she waited and counted every single second till the day came. She went with the others to meet their absent comers. She witnessed him coming from there, she could hear her heart hitting her chest very strongly, and she ran towards him, touched his hands with a chuckle drawn on her face. She hold his hands, stared at his face, and said:  you're real, you're free!
PS: I don't know who this couple is, but this picture took my breathe, I felt that this photo has a story to tell and...

This is Irena Srahnna, she has been in the Israeli jails for 9 years along with her husband.
Ghzalah and Jasmin have been looking for this day for years, they were looking forward to hug their mother again. They were waiting for the day they would kiss their mother's face,  they dreamed of coming back from school to find their mother waiting for them,  telling her about what happened with them today, asking her what are we having for lunch today, mom! Their dream now is true, they are in their mother's arms. However, their dream will be completed when their father joins them.

Yes, 1027 are free now, but we shall not forget those who are still imprisoned! those who are waiting for the day they'll be free. We shall not forget Ahmad Saadat who is going through very harsh conditions in the solitary confinement! we shall never forget you our heroes. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

1027 Free Birds

1027 Free Birds

In the past 15 days, since 27th September specifically, Palestinian detainees decided to go on an open-ended hunger strike due to the ongoing humiliation and violation carried out by Israel prisons administration.  Palestinian detainees have been deprived of their basic rights for too long. They have been denied family visits, abused, held in solitary confinements, denied medical treatment, and assaults by Israeli guards. The list of the tortures goes on and on. Our detainees decided to start the strike so that they can grab the world attention to their fair cause.

My sister called me just few hours ago telling me that Hamas and Israel have reached a deal to exchange prisoners. Gilad Shalit, Who has been held as a prisoner by Hamas in 2006, will be swaped for 1027 Palestinian detainees. I rushed to my laptop in order to make sure that the news is true. My friends on Facebook already posted about the deal: some were wondering why the deal is made now not years ago. Why now while detainees are going on an open-ended hunger strike? However, I paid less attention to these wonders.  I can hardly get political games, I am just happy that 1027 Palestinians will breath freedom after spending many years in the dark barbaric Israeli prisons and solitary confinement. 

I have been going to the sit-in tent that is held in solidarity with the detainees for the past few days. My heart breaks out whenever I see the mothers, wives, and the children of the prisoners there chanting for the freedom of their beloved. I could see their sadness in their eyes yet they never lose hope. They believe their beloved will be released one day. I can imagine how the families of the detainees are feeling now. They are waiting for the list of the released prisoners names hoping that their beloved is of one of them. 1027 families will be in utmost happiness that their absent beloved  is one of the freed list, but unfortunately 6000 others will be broken-hearted, they'll keep praying their beloved detainees will be flying like free birds in Palestine sky sooner or later.

1027 freedom fighter will be released! 1027 birds will be flying in Palestine's sky soon, after paying the price of freedom.  How happy I am now! I am sure my father who had spent 17 years of his life in Israeli jails is feeling the same. My father's mind will be going back 20 years to the day he was sit free! To the day he breathed freedom after spending 15 years in the darkness. 1027 detainees are going through my father's experience, mixed feelings of happiness and hope now; many are going to get their life back, tomorrow!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Passing Through Borders

Passing Through Borders

Maybe It is a little pit late to write about what happened with me in April 2011. However, what is going on these days on Rafah borders is pushing me to write about what Gazans go through if they want to cross Gaza borders.
As Egyptians promised to open Rafah crossing and they offered many facilities to Gazans in order to make it easier for them to move freely. Gazans, depending on what Egyptians promised, signed their names in Rafah website in large numbers to have their normal right in moving. But unfortunately for them, nothing moved in the way they wanted, they had to go through many difficulties in order to cross the borders!

In April 2011, I had the chance to attend a leadership seminar in Denmark. I was so much happy that I was going to leave the big prison of Gaza for few days. However,   I was worried as much as I was happy. Going out from Gaza is not that easy, you don’t just hold your passport and your suitcase and that’s it. In Gaza, the first thing you do is to ask about the borders. Is it open today? Will it be opened for long? And so many questions goes around your head!
We managed to get our visas done and to go out of Gaza after  a really long trip of procedures in order to attend a leadership seminar in Copenhagen. Okay! Let’s say that everything has gone pretty well in comparison with other Palestinians who have to work on their hands and knees to manage having their visas. BUT. We can never escape the fact that we are PALESTINIANS!!!! 

 I spent really one of the best weeks in my life in Copenhagen, the good time I had didn’t last , when I  had to go back to Gaza, things started going against me. I guess you all know why! Your nationality can put you in real troubles. I am a Palestinian and Palestinians are special cases everywhere.  I left Copenhagen without troubles, (now I am coping what I’ve written in Vienna airport and Cairo airport). I am now in Vienna and I am supposed to have already taken the plan and headed to Cairo. Egyptians have a new decision which allows no Palestinian to enter their lands without a visa. Now, we are in a real trouble, we don’t have visas, and never knew that we should have a visa to enter Cairo! 

After spending the whole day in Vienna airport waiting for anyone to help us, Danish people managed to help us in a way and they took us back to Copenhagen, they were very helpful and they couldn’t believe that what is happening to us is just because we are Palestinians. Thankfully we went back to Copenhagen and we went in the other day to the Egyptian embassy to get a visa for Egypt. The man, who was in charge of making the visas, first said that it needs 5 days to have it done; we told him that we so much needed it and explained to him our case. Eventually, he accepted to make it in the same day.
we went the other day to Copenhagen airport hoping that we will not find any troubles in the way back home. When we reached the last check for passports in Copenhagen, I breathed a sigh of relief.  We managed to get back to Cairo. 

Now. I am writing from Cairo airport standing on my feet in a very disgusting room. Here we go again! Gazans never escape troubles! Egyptians didn’t allow us to enter Egypt.  They sent us to "the deportation" room which is made especially for Palestinians –Gazans- I was  about to shout out loud when that man who checked our passport  said that we have to go there, the room made for Palestinians,  the room smells really bad and looks exactly as a jail. Old women, children and men are in. and they have to wait the whole night in order to be sent t directly to Gaza without even having a rest.
People here are so rude they didn’t allow us to go out if the room. And if anyone wants to.  A police have to come with them.. And that is because- we are from Gaza!!!!!!!

My friends and I kept standing and we refused to stay there. They finally allowed us to sleep out of the room. We slept on chairs all the night long, and everybody was looking at us! I felt humiliated, Egyptians, you are our neighbors. And we are all Arabs and Muslims. Why you made us go through this?! I wish that after you made your great revolution. Things will be better and Palestinians tragedies in your airports come to an end. 

Now, I am writing from Gaza! And it is great to be back home especially when your home is the lovely Gaza.  I have to admit that even though I went through some really bad times crossing borders to Copenhagen, the few days I spent there was the best ever! And the people I met there were so great and lovely.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Palestine and only Palestine!

We all watched the Arab world rising up and calling for their rights, Arabs decided not to be silent any more.  They made up their minds to stand all united against dictators who have been controlling them for years. The light of change was sparked in Tunisia then in Egypt, and  the power of people is still alight, blinding whoever tries to stop in their way, future, and dreams. The spark reached Palestine, Palestinians who are sick and tired of the devastating eternal division started calling for unity.
I was very excited and happy that people decided to take a step forward. My heart lope up when I saw youth on Facebook and twitter calling for March 15, I joined the Facebook groups: People want to end the division, March 15 revolution against the division. A shining line of hope appeared in the horizon! I breathed a sigh of relief, Oh! Palestinians are still thinking of Palestine!
I believed It was my duty, and everyone's duty to work for March 15, to call for a united Palestine, to say it out loud, WE ARE DONE! STOP THE DISASTROUS DIVISON! So my friends and I started asking our colleagues in university, in cafeterias, in classes, and in streets to join us, everyone was delighted, and they very strongly supported the idea. Everyone who cares about Palestine was waiting March15.
The call for the national unity was not only spreading in Gaza, but it spread all over Palestine, West bank, 48-occupied lands and Palestinians overseas were joining the call as well. It was agreed that people must only fly the Palestinian flag, no green nor yellow flags should be seen in the sky of Palestine, and people should chant for no parties but Palestine and only Palestine!
Here came March 15. I woke up in the very early morning,  my 6 sisters and I were going to the rallies with our Palestinian flag , my father and mother joined us later.  I wore the Palestinian traditional dress and went to university as we were gathering there. A wide smile appeared on my face when I saw my friends gathering with their Palestinian flag up high in the sky, and a small Palestinian flags drawn on their faces and hands. It was planned that people would gather at the Unknown Soldier Square (Al-jundi Al-majhool). We marched from the university to there, chanting for unity and singing for Palestine. It was the best scene I had ever seen in my life. Palestinian flags shining like stars everywhere, thousands of people were out in the streets calling for national unity.
The marvelous scene vanished as soon as we reached The Unknown Soldier Square. Green flags were already there!!! Pro-Hamas people were at the square with their flags, they dominated the place, and everyone's heart was broken when they saw the green flags! I am not saying that we did not want Hamas to join us, we wanted all parties to join: Hamas, Fatah, PFLP, DFLP and everyone! But the only thing we wanted them to do is to respect our demands, and to respect our main goal which is the end of the division, but here were Hamas, dividing the rallies into two. Dividing the national unity event! The day when they were supposed to go out for Palestine, not for their faction! The day when they were supposed to hold the Palestinian flag ONLY!
We left them with their green flags, and headed to Al-kateeba. People who came with an honest intention for the end of the division joined us, leaving pro-Hamas people enjoying their way of ending the division.
I felt upset and kept wondering. Why would they do that? Why didn't they just go along with the people?!  I made up my mind not to think of those people who are against national unity. I stayed at Al-kateeba enjoying watching the Palestinian flags dancing in the sky. I left the place at 5 pm planning to come back in the next day! Unfortunately, Hamas attacked the place two hours after I left, no one stayed there, because Hamas security were all over the place hitting whoever tries to come in. March 15 call for unity was ruined, but why??????? I still do not know!!
Don't Hamas know that we are not against them? Don't they know that we are doing that for Palestine? Don't they know that we are protesting peacefully? Don't they know that Palestine's flag is that one with red, green, black, and white colors and not the only green-colored one? Don't they? Don't they?????
Palestine! We still have a faith deep in our hearts, that you will be joined together someday, Gaza, west bank and all Palestine from the river to the sea under one flag. People just need to put parties far away from their ways and most importantly, they need to LOVE each other!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Let's Learn English festival- first Phase, The voice of Gaza's women and children is rising up!

A waving flag from Palestine

Yafa street , East of the Gaza city , Palestine . A group of simple, poor but ambitious families live there. Let’s learn English project has chosen this area to have the project done there, with co-operation with Takingitglobal , Bibliotheca Alexandrina , Zaatar Organization , Ajyal Association for Creativity and Development , and Palestine Youth Committee. We,coaches, started the training in April, 2010 with our coordinator “Adham Khalil” , we made a plan to choose the lessons we were going to teach, and we seek for the appropriate videos, songs and games to make the lessons much more fun. Then an announcement was published in the neighborhood, a number of mothers and their children applied for the project and then we started teaching them English. Lucky me , I was chosen to work with mothers. I was a little pit worried at first as I was dealing with women who are around the age of 30-50, but after knowing them I figured out that it was easy to communicate with the mothers. They were very simple, easy-going and had a strong desire to learn English . Mothers were very active and they did their best to draw a better future for them and for their children as well . The best thing about Let’s learn English project that we used a new and interesting methods of teaching English so that people could first love the language. Consequently, they will be ready to learn it . Every time I went to Ajyal and worked with the mothers.  A greater hope of life appears in front of my eyes . Every time a mother comes with her child with a smile drawn on their faces because they did a written poster about the lesson they learnt a day ago , a strong believe that Gaza one day will be a better place comes to my mind . After 6 weeks of having lessons It was the time for the final festival , we prepared songs and a simple sketch to be preformed in the festival . The preparing was so much fun and mothers tried their best to memorize “ wave your flag” song and the other songs, and they did it , they waved their flags , success flags , in the final festival . I am proud of Gaza's women , proud of their courage, ambition, and their strong desire to be educated . We Gazans should prove to the world that we have life . Yes, we live in siege but that doesn’t prevent us from having dreams and working to achieve them .
My coordinator Adham once told me that I will thank him for giving me this great chance to work with such lovely people . and YES I am truly thankful .