By Ira Glunts
Palestinian-American Raed Zidan became the first Palestinian to reach the summit of the earth’s highest mountain last Saturday, dedicating his climb to Palestinians – especially political prisoners.
Zidan was one of 35 foreigners, along with 29 Nepalese Sherpa guides, intent on reaching the summit and raising a million dollars to promote education in Nepal. Calling themselves “Arabs With Altitude,” Zidan was joined by two men from Qatar and Iran, and by 25-year-old Raha Moharrak, who became the first Saudi Arabian woman to reach the world’s tallest peak.
According to Ynet: “Raed Zidan was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents who immigrated from a village near Qalqilya. Zidan, who is living in the US, is a seasoned mountaineer who had previously scaled Mount Kilimanjaro. There, as on top of Nepal [Everest], he erected a Palestinian flag, saying he dedicates his feat to Palestinians, especially those “languishing” in Israeli prisons.”
This video will give you chills in more ways than one. In a previous expedition, clad in his keffiyeh, Raed Zidan placed the Palestinian flag on the summit of Mount Vinson in Antarctica:
[vsw id=”MjbPp5M9STQ” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]
Raed Zidan is a United States citizen residing in Indianapolis and Dubai. He owns and operates Zidan Management Group, an Indianapolis multi-housing real estate development, acquisition and management business. He is 41 years old, married, and has three children. Along with mountaineering, his passions are flying and auto rally racing.
It is ironic that the only news website that reported Zidan’s acts of political solidarity was the Israeli Ynet. I emailed the writer of the article, Elior Levi, who covers what is termed “Palestinian Affairs,” congratulating her on the scoop. So far I have not received a reply. Maybe Levi did not find my reference to the climb as “Raed’s excellent aliyah” all that funny. Aliyah is the Hebrew word for ascent, which is more commonly used to denote Jewish immigration to Israel, considered a great achievement among Israelis.
A look at the comments about Zidan’s ascent under Levi’s report will give you an idea just how racist Israelis can be. Out of the first 15 responses there was only one that viewed the Palestinian climber’s accomplishment as something praiseworthy, and that comment elicited an angry reply.
The Emirati website Khaleej Times focused its report on the remarkable achievements of local “Arabs With Altitude” member Raha Moharrak, the Saudi woman who lives in the United Arab Emirates:
“The UAE’s fame has reached new heights with a Dubai-based Saudi woman scaling Mount Everest on Saturday and three other Arabs, with links to the country, inching to reach the top of the world.
“Mountaineering officials in Nepal said the 25-year-old graphic design graduate from the American University of Sharjah was among 64 climbers who successfully scaled Everest from Nepal’s side of the mountain, during a charity expedition.
“Raha Moharrak, the only female in the four-member ‘Arabs with Altitude’ group, has become the first ever Saudi woman to climb to the top of Mount Everest. “I really don’t care about being the first … so long as it inspires someone else to be the second,” Moharrak said ahead of her expedition.”
Moharrak, like Zidan, is an accomplished mountain climber. Her achievement is noteworthy since Saudi Arabian culture is extremely restrictive for women; Moharrak would be legally prohibited from even driving an automobile there.
The ascent of Raed Zidan to the summit of Everest and his commitment to solidarity serves as a reminder that Palestinians will keep moving forward until they reach their ultimate goal: a land which is free of Israeli oppression and a country where human and political equality is the birthright of all citizens.
– Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (This article was first published in http://mondoweiss.net)