By Haneen Shat
How are you? Do I have to ask this question? I am sorry for I do not know how to start. Would you like me to ask another one?
Do you really know what the word “loss” means? Do you really understand the meaning of sorrow and sadness? You know nothing of that and all that you know is the terror, blood, wars, massacres, and genocides that you commit against innocent people who did nothing to you except demand their rights as human beings. “Loss” is when you talk and laugh with one of your beloveds at your home in the morning, and you do not know if you will see them again in the evening. “Loss” is the voice you used to hear that no longer exists.
“Loss” is that day, October 26, 2018, when my brother, like hundreds of other Palestinians, went out in the Great March of Return to call for his right to return. He went out to tell the whole world our cause and that we are still here. He cried loudly that we as Palestinian refugees want to remind the international community of our demand for implementation Paragraph 11 of UN Resolution 194 calling for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes at the earliest possible date. He cried, but the Israeli soldier did not want to hear his voice, so he shot my brother dead. The Israeli bullet penetrated my brother’s body and murdered him.
When they brought his body home, they did not know how to show it to my mama. My mama, like thousands of Palestinian mothers, was ready to sacrifice her son for the sake of our homeland, yet, at least, she wished that she could have a last look at him while he was alive.
My brother’s body laid in front of my mama’s eyes; she could not move; she was looking at him and her heart was bleeding. Her tears were falling silently. Everyone surrounded her and tried to calm her by saying words such as, “Be patient. God has chosen him to reward with paradise!” However, I am sure mama’s mind was just with my brother. She could not hear anything. She was looking at him for the last time. After this moment, there will be no kisses, no hugs, so she had to live every second with him.
When they were about to take his body, with a broken heart mama cried, “Leave him. Leave him. Let me see him more. Let me kiss him more.” They left him for a minute; she did what she asked for. How can a minute separate staying and leaving, death and life? The last words mama said were, “Ma assalama, ya habibi– goodbye, my love.” Then she blacked out.
His name was Ayesh, which in Arabic means “he is alive.” But you “israel”, you murdered him at a very young age. He was just 23. He went. Without return, he went. He will never come back, yet he is still alive in our hearts, and in the message he left behind him.
Do you not remember my brother as you have slaughtered thousands of Palestinians in cold blood? My brother is not a number you count. This letter is not a message you hear.
“Loss” is that moment when my mother, in a very cold winter night, took the picture of my martyr brother off the wall, put it next to her and covered it with her comforter so that he would not feel cold. And with tears, repeated, “Ma assalama, ya habibi.”
They say that Gaza is a prison. Do not believe them. In prison, there is a specific period that the prisoner spends and then he is free. Here in Gaza, which they claim is a prison, this does not happen. Here, we are trying to get out but we fail. We are trying to fly but before we start, you, “israel”, break our wings. Gaza is more than a prison.
Last year, two other youths from Gaza and I were selected to represent Palestine in the “Youth Forum in the Arab Region” which took place in Tunisia. I was eager to see what the world looks like outside, to know what the word “Abroad” means. I had so many plans for what I would do there, outside of Gaza. Yet, my dream was shattered; we could not travel because of you, “israel”. You did not give us permission to pass Erez, the crossing you created to isolate Gaza from the rest of Palestine.
You did not want the voice of Palestine to be there; her voice disturbs you, as you always try to wipe her map and flag. But still, do not be happy. If we cannot fly, it is enough that the birds fly in the sky of Palestine.
Do you remember what happened in 1948? Wait! Am I still calling you “dear”? I apologize. I apologize to myself. I apologize to my mama, to my papa, to my beloved ones. I apologize to my “Falasteen – Palestine”, my dear “Falasteen“. I apologize for calling you “dear”. That word which implies love and respect, for you do not know love, dignity, or peace. You do not know any of these. You only know torture and massacres that do not respect human rights. Have you noticed that I have not capitalized any of your letters? It is because you say “israel” means “to wrestle with God.” But you do not wrestle with God in Palestine. There is no God in your army. I will use the upper-case I in “israel” when you decide to stand up for God, for justice, for human beings, and let us return to our homes.
There are no best wishes.
(Edited by Nicholas Vincenzo Barney. Barney is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nictamerr)
– Haneen Shat is a young journalist from Gaza City. After graduating from Gaza University in English Literature, Haneen has begun a career in journalism, hoping one day to be able to travel outside of Gaza and share the Palestinian cause with the world. Haneen is on twitter: https://twitter.com/Haneen_Gaza1998. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.