(@ShahdAbusalama) August 23, 2012
This is my favorite birthday wish. My friend Maath from Jerusalem started it and then all my tweeps started quoting it. Words can’t describe how pleasant this thought is and how much I enjoy daydreaming about it. But as much as I like daydreaming about it, as much as it hurts me when I get struck when I wake up and I have to face the reality, the fact that it can’t happen in matter of a year, or another 21 years, or even a century! It made my eyes, that are always longing to see Jerusalem and feel Jaffa beach’s refreshing breeze again, cry, because I never know how far this dream is from coming true.
But as I was trying to wipe my tears away, I decided to keep thinking positively of the blessings I have. I didn’t stop crying, but the tears I had were happier and filled with hope. While sitting alone, with one eye on my incomplete drawing and another on my blog, I could manage to preserve my positivity. I realized that even the horrible situation we endure in Palestine, under the apartheid regime of Israel, deprived of freedom, security and dignity, is somehow a blessing. It’s true. Palestine has always been my inspiration and my motive in my path toward striving for justice. Palestine, my people’s daily life, and my unique life under constant terror and insecurity have contributed a lot to making me the person I am now. My Palestinian identity and the Palestinian cause have been the main theme of my drawings and writing. I’m very blessed that I was born on this holy lands, even though I have hardly lived even a single day in peace. I’m thankful I was born on this land, which has been always the home carried in my heart wherever I went. I’m thankful and proud because I was born with a Palestinian spirit, unbreakable, dignified, and challenging.
I will not stop dreaming. I will not lose faith that freedom and justice are near. And if I don’t live long enough to witness the freedom of Palestine, my children will. My passion for a just peace will keep pushing me forward, if not for me, for the generations after me. Hopefully, a day will come when we look back at this painful present as an ugly past. There must be a light at the end of the tunnel. No one knows how long it will take to reach the very end of Palestine’s tunnel, but we will stay steadfast until we reach the light, the bright future of justice, freedom, and equality.
My drawing of my birthday is complete now… I’m going to give it a title of “Next Time in A Free Palestine”.
Good news I receive as I’m turning 21:
(@muiz) August 23, 2012
A special Happy Birthday to a wonderful and talented young Palestinian; our latest (and possibly youngest) author @ShahdAbusalama !—
Jareer Kassis (@JareerKassis) August 24, 2012
I’ll take this opportunity to first thank Twitter for introducing many amazing and encouraging people to me, including Jareer and Muiz. These two tweets above are my other my favorite birthday greetings. I wanted share these tweets with you as an introduction to the coming news.
My sis @ShahdAbusalama 's wordpress gonna be translated to Italian in a book called ' Palestine from my eyes'.. PROUD OF YOU!—
ILoveJerusalem القدس (@TamamAbusalama) August 22, 2012
Recently, I got an offer from an Italian writer and published named Luigi Lorusso to translate my blog into Italian and publish it as a book with the name of my blog ,“Palestine from My Eyes.” When I received this news, I left my laptop open and started jumping and screaming with joy. My smile was so big, it left my cheeks hurting for hours! I am mostly happy because the stories I write from a human dimension about Palestinian political prisoners and their families, and my personal writings on what it means to be a Palestinian, will be heard by a wider audience. I’m very grateful for this appreciation of my work. I can’t wait to hold the hard copy of the book! It’s a success that I’ll be always proud of and thankful for.
Something I feel very humble and thankful for is my family and my close friends, who overwhelm me with their love and care. I thank you for being such an inspiration in my life. I hope you always remember that I would have never achieved what I have without your support and love. You were always there to raise my confidence in myself when it was shaking. You were always there when I needed a shoulder to cry on. You were always the first to share my happiness and sadness with me. I’ll be in awe of all of you forever.
Eid is around the corner. This post is to send best wishes for all Muslims around the world through this slideshow. I did these drawings before Ramadan 2011 so they could be featured in YouthSchool Eid Card project – “Images of Resistance”. Through these images, I tried to portray the excitement and the joy that the children of Palestine have while waiting for Ramadan and Eid. In the same time, I meant to show what it means to be a Palestinian. We’re simply a combination of hope, defiance, pride, love, and anger. We challenge occupation, apartheid and blockade and we continue living, resisting through living. We smile despite all difficulties, a sign of our inner strength that cannot be defeated. All Israel can do through its inhumane practices is to make us more Palestinian. Let’s be hand in hand for the sake of humanity, for justice in Palestine.
Want to order your own set of Eid Cards? Contact YouthSchool right away and they can ship it for you as soon as possible.
I hope you like my drawings. Eid Mubarak!
Today, August 9, is Mahmoud Darwish’s anniversary. I did this drawing to commemorate his soul and to emphasize that his soul is always present as an inspiration for many of us. Mahmoud Darwish is my favorite Palestinian poet and my teacher of life and humanity. He left for us a lot of humanitarian lessons to learn such as “Think of Others”, my favorite poem of him. He is an icon of peaceful resistance. Israel has always thought of him as a dangerous threat even though his only weapon was his creative pen.
Darwish’s simple but highly powerful poems has always inspired me to keep resisting and fighting the Israeli apartheid regime any way I can. His words always take me to my fantasy world that I always dream to live in, a pure world that is full of love, peace and people of conscience.
Here is my translation of his poem “Think of Others”. But it’s certainly nothing like the original!
As you fix your breakfast, think of others. Don’t forget to feed the pigeons.
As you fight in your wars, think of others. Don’t forget those who desperately demand peace.
As you pay your water bill, think of others who drink the clouds’ rain.
As you return home, your home, think of others. Don’t forget those who live in tents.
As you sleep and count planets, think of others. There are people without any shelter to sleep.
As you express yourself using all metaphorical expressions, think of others who lost their rights to speak.
As you think of others who are distant, think of yourself and say “I wish I was a candle to fade away the darkness.”
“Godono di spezzare i cuori delle madri sui loro figli”: Gaza piange la madre di un detenuto – di Shahd Abusalama
PS: My Italian friend Angela Bernardini translated my latest article about Aisha Islieh to Italian! Grateful for her, I decided to share her translation on my blog for my Italian audience!
“I detenuti passano la loro detenzione in attesa delle visite delle loro famiglie” papà ha detto una volta, ricordando che i servizi carcerari israeliani IPS lo punirono negandogli le visite dei familiari durante i suoi 15 anni di reclusione. “Nonostante tutta la sofferenza e l’umiliazione legate alle loro procedure, le visite dei familiari sono importanti per i prigionieri, come l’aria che respiriamo”.
“The detainees spend their imprisonment waiting for their families’ visits,” Dad once said, recalling the Israeli Prison Service IPS punishing him by denying him family visits during his 15 years of imprisonment. “Despite all the suffering and humiliation attached to their procedures, family visits are as important to prisoners as the air they breathe.”
Following the capture of Gilad Shalid in June 2006, Israel collectively punished Palestinian political prisoners from Gaza by banning family visits, one of their basic rights and a lifeline between detainees and their families. “Under international humanitarian law, Israeli authorities have an obligation to allow the detainees to receive family visits,” said Juan Pedro Schaerer, the head of the ICRC delegation in Israel and the occupied territories.
Our detainees’ determination proved stronger than the jailers’ guns. In exchange for ending the one-month mass hunger strike in May, they made Israel comply with the international humanitarian law and reinstate family visits to Gaza Strip detainees after almost six years without them.
On July 16, 48 family members were finally allowed to see to their relatives in Israeli jails for the first time since Shalit’s capture, through barriers for 45 minutes. However, Israel imposed its own conditions on the visits. Only wives and parents were allowed to visit. Detainees’ young children weren’t, “for security reasons.” Fathers must imagine their children growing up without them, or wait for the miracles of their smuggled pictures.
Last Monday, August 6, the fourth group of detainees’ families gathered in front of the ICRC to visit their relatives in Nafha prison. The day before a visit, the ICRC usually announces the names of approved relatives.
Among those who received permits were the parents of detainee Yahya Islaih, who was captured on August 24, 2008 and sentenced to 12 years. His 75-year-old mother and 80-year-old father arrived very early at the ICRC, dressed very traditionally and beautifully. Yahya has not met his parents since his arrest. I used to see Yahya’s mother Aisha in the sit-in tents for political prisoners. She barely missed any protest, despite her advanced age. Last Monday was supposed to be her first reunion with her son in four years. But destiny stood between them.
Aisha breathed prayers of thankfulness that she had been blessed with another opportunity to talk to her son, and see him through a barrier after five years of separation. While sitting in the bus, wishing that time would move faster, she felt the gasp of death and leaned on a neighboring woman’s shoulder.
Later that morning, as I was getting ready to leave for the weekly protest for political prisoners, I read the terrible news. I found it difficult to believe that this had really happened. I thought that we only hear such stories on dramas. But it did happen. When she was so close to meeting her son again, she passed away. Death separated them, just as Israel had for so long.
I left home with tears in my eyes. When I arrived at the protest, people were very quiet. Everyone was in shock. I could read the sorrow in every eye. The elderly mothers of detainees cried while hugging the banners of their sons. Each seemed to wonder, “Will we share Aisha’s fate?”
Amidst silence and sorrow, the 75-year-old mother of detainee Ibrahim Baroud who has been detained for 27 years stood and began shouting. “Enough tears. Tears won’t bring her back to life! Just pray for her soul to rest in peace.” Om Ibrahim Baroud was in the first group issued permits to visit their sons on July 16. That was her first visit to her son, after 16 years banned “for security reasons.” “How would an elderly mother like me threaten their security?” she always complained. “They are simply heartless and merciless, and enjoy breaking mothers’ hearts over their sons.”
The world blamed her when she hurled her shoes at Ban Ki-moon’s convoy when he entered Gaza. She was angry and disappointed by his prejudice when he refused to meet prisoners’ families in Gaza, after repeatedly visiting Gilaad Shalit’s parents. But they didn’t know to how much she had suffered at Israel’s hands. Read the story of this incident, when shoes and stones welcomed Ban Ki-moon to Gaza, here.
After the protest, I went to say hello to her. “Are you joining us for the funeral, Shahd?” she asked, every wrinkle in her face revealing her sadness. “Yes, grandmother,” I answered, even though I hadn’t known of the plan. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go or not. Honestly, I fear funerals.
But when I said yes, she caught my hand so I could help her to the bus, and pushed me forward as if she sensed my hesitance. “When I saw her last Monday, she congratulated me for having visited my son, and sighed while hoping that her turn to see hers again would come soon,” Om Mahmoud said.
When we arrived at the funeral, we learned that Aisha hadn’t been buried yet. She was in a narrow room with two doors. It was crowded with women. They entered one by one from a door, kissed her, prayed for her, and then left through another door. I glanced at the scene, then pushed myself away, trying to postpone my turn. I recalled meeting my dear friend Vittorio Arrigoni for the last time as a dead body.
I stood next to a woman who happened to be Aisha’s niece. “Yahya wrote her a letter once, asked her to remain steadfast and know that she would see him again,” she said with tears streaming down her cheeks. “He asked her to wear her traditional Palestinian dress when she comes to visit him again. And she did. After she learned that she would visit him, she was very happy. She ironed her new dress, which she had kept for Yahya’s wedding after his release.” She burst out crying and continued, “But she neither visited him, nor would she ever attend his wedding.”
Finally my turn came. I entered, one foot pushing me forward, the other backward. I saw her body and kissed her forehead. I still can’t believe I did. Traumatized, I returned home in the afternoon and slept. I couldn’t stand thinking of her, nor her son, who would never see his mother, alive or dead again. I felt like I wanted to sleep forever, but I woke up after twelve hours.
Please pray for Aisha’s soul to rest in peace, and for her son to remain strong behind Israel’s bars. Her story is more clear and bitter evidence of the suffering our detainee’s families endure because of Israel’s violations of their basic rights and their families’.