Singing Martyrdom

By Natalie Abu Shakra – Gaza

‘Raise your voice, raise your voice, raise it in your song! Songs are still possible, they are still possible!’

"Please tell me how he was! How did you find him? Was his body still put together? Was it in pieces?! You have to tell me!" demanded the mother of the martyr Yousef Abu ‘Oda.

On Wednesday February 10, 2009, we were requested to join a team of Beit Hanoun locals in the Bura area in search of the body of Abu ‘Oda who has not been found despite two days of searching. We were around twenty individuals and we set search in areas around fifty metres close to the Apartheid wall on the northern borders. For around thirty minutes, as we coupled in pairs, we found the body of 21 year old Abu ‘Oda in the close proximity of a hill where the Israeli Occupation Forces were present. It was raining heavily, and small chips of ice were falling from the sky. It was cloudy and grey, and some soldiers were in a jeep that had its headlights on, looking like a spooky object amidst the darkness of the surrounding. Another soldier was in a square like cemented block, hiding, grabbing onto a sniper, with a helmet atop his head. As the soldiers threatened via their megaphone to begin shooting at us, someone behind me screamed “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” The corpse had been found. Against the intensity of rain, it was carried in carpets back to an ambulance that could not make it where we were due to fear of the IOF targeting it.

Abu ‘Oda had decided to choose the path of martyrdom, to use his body as a reaction against the oppressor’s recent massacre against his people. He had decided to blow himself up, at the borders, near the Israeli Occupation Forces’ soldiers who were present at there. Abu ‘Oda, along with another young man, Kafarneh, were shot as they got closer, with the TNT explosives around their waists exploding at the instant. Kafarneh’s body was found earlier, but no one dared come closer to the borders to search for Abu ‘Oda.

Yousef is the ninth child of a family composed of ten individuals. He used to deliver chairs for funeral services during the twenty two day Israeli attack on Gaza. “Under the bombs, he insisted to take the chairs to the service, despite our constant disapproval,” said Reem, his cousin. Yousef had told his family that he wanted to honor his country by choosing martyrdom. As I sat beside his relatives in his funeral service, I couldn’t but relate to the irony. It is now Yousef’s funeral, Yousef’s chairs, Yousef’s green tent under which the men sit under outside, Yousef’s dates that the family serves as guests enter to offer their condolences. “How old are you?” asked his mother, and when I said I was twenty one, tears formed in her sparkling brown eyes, “he was 21 as well.”

But, it was not the end. The children smiled, there was food on the tables, the women cheered, and the men stood welcoming. Their heads were raised high, and their spirits strong against the death of their son.

Perhaps Yousef will not be mentioned in history books to come, perhaps his family’s grief will not be noted down, perhaps his story will not be narrated that often, but his act is an echo, a symbol, a defiant decision against the weaponry of the strongest nuclear power in the region.

“I do not walk the line, where I place my foot, the line begins,” says Mahmoud Darwish in Goodbye to War, Goodbye to Peace, with his words never dying. Yousef walked his line, the path to the border. What he was thinking, no one knows. But, what he was doing, millions shall respond to, to the symbol, to the meaning, to the echo. This is not a culture of death, and this is not recklessness. This is the choice of death, for life. This is what would break the feeling of helplessness to those who own no F16s, F15s, F35s, Apaches, White Phosphorous, Gun boats, tanks and snipers. Yousef is a soldier, a soldier of a hidden army that rises against the injustices of time, of place, and of dominant discourses of power. In Palestine, everyone is a soldier, each soldier with a different weapon, each weapon with a different echo, each echo with a variant form of resistance.

In whose hands does victory lie?
The human… the human will stands victorious, and politics falls at its feet (M. Darwich, 1974)

– Natalie Abu Shakra is from Lebanon and is affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement. She defied Israeli orders for Lebanese citizens not to go to Gaza and was able to get in with the Free Gaza movement. She contributed this article to

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