Some stories demand to be heard and most importantly, to be shared with others. Some stories are that tragic that you feel responsible for spreading their message and sometimes even guilty because you can’t do more than that.
It all started when my roommate told me that at her social service she met a Palestinian man from Gaza, who was brought to Italy with his son by an organization that takes care of kids that have health issues and whose parents are unable to pay for the operation. Since she speaks some Arabic, she got to know a part of his story, which she shared with me. I thought his story had to be told, therefore the following week we took one of the Palestinians at the college for translating (we thought he’d appreciate meeting her) and conducted an interview with him.
The man named Aa’hed was there with his son Sayed, his brother in law and his son Muntaser. The boys were 12-13 of age and the first thing I noticed in them was that they were quite mischievous. They would play around us while we were having the interview and hardly listened to the women that had to take care of them. What I noticed in their father, was his restless way of talking and the fact that in twenty minutes of interview, he ‘allowed’ us to ask him only two questions. We told him we wanted to interview him and I guess he didn’t need us to tell him the questions, he already knew what he had to say.
He said he was in Italy because of his kids. They ended up there after being wounded during an attack in Gaza. Two of his sons died, two got wounded and one of his nephews died too. He is expecting the two other wounded sons to come soon when they are done with documentation. Aa’hed is worried they will face the same complications that he and the family that came with him, faced. He said that he spent six months trying to come before he managed to do so. He then described all the complications that he had to face. He tried to come with his family via the airport in Jordan, but they didn’t allow him, so he came through the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. Passing the border to Israel was obviously, very hard for them. They have now been in Italy for two months, but their minds are in Gaza with the rest of the family that is still there. Aa’hed says they don’t have the energy nor the desire to learn Italian, but the boys will learn it soon. In fact, that day that we went, that had just registered for school and they would start the following week. We asked him what issues did the boys have and he said that they have bullets in their bodies which have to be taken out.
He didn’t tell his story chronologically and went back and forth as if memories hit him while he was speaking. My friend who was interviewing him, seemed to be absorbed by his story and didn’t let me ask any questions. Aa’hed went back to the moment in which he was still in Gaza. On the 22nd of December 2015, the Israeli soldiers arrested two of his sons and took their boat, which was essential since they were fishermen. He said he doesn’t know what happened to them after that day and doesn’t have any news from them. That’s when he started to s share his message.
‘We hope this message goes to them who are thoughtful of those who suffer, – he says, – They don’t take only our boats, they take our land and they take our people. We need help from the others. Even those that are supposed to help us, don’t. Egypt has closed the border. One of my relatives who tried to pass the border, was shot. The sea is closed, the sky is closed. Gaza Strip is an isolated catastrophe and the only reason why I want to go back, is because my family is there.’
Aa’hed showed us a picture of his wounded relative who was shot . ‘This is nothing, he said, you have to see what happens everyday.’ He wanted to bring him to Italy, but unfortunately the procedures took too long.
He then asked my friend about me. ‘Does she know about us?’, he asked. ‘She knows’, – she responded.
We asked him whether he tried to get into contact with any community in Trieste. He said he contacted the Islamic community, the leader of which came once but didn’t do much for them. They also tried to contact the Palestinian ambassador in Rome, but she never replied. A Palestinian from West Bank who lived there told them he would help them, but at the end returned. Even the ones that helped them to come to Italy, stopped helping them and went back. However, they are grateful for the organization that helped them. There are many like that in Palestine, but they don’t provide enough help.
He then went back in time to his life in Gaza and to his initial message of help. ‘We live occupied by a country that challenges laws and doesn’t respect human rights. Many kids were killed and are killed everyday. Once, the soldiers destroyed an UNRWA school and UN didn’t do anything. I ask, where is the global consciousness? Where are all the people that brag for humanity and the only thing they do is post on social media how sorry they feel for us? But we do not seek pity, we seek real action, real support. We are strong people. We don’t have weapons, but we still fight.
We want the American government to stop funding these terroristic attacks on us. We seek support from our Arab brothers. We know the Arab leaders ( who torture their own people) have stopped caring about us long ago and we don’t expect help from them, but we hope the people stand with us. Don’t leave us alone, Palestine is an Arab land. If people want to live, destiny will lead them.
I then managed to ask him my second and last question. What are your hopes for the future?
‘We have hope in our youth and we rely on the next generation. We need their power, their abilities and energy in order to change things and resist the occupation. We demand democracy. We want the youth to go to study abroad and to spread our stories and our message, so we may never be forgotten.’
His story hit me, but I found his message beautiful. I admire how even though he lived and suffered in one of the most dangerous areas in the world, he still has hope. I don’t know if Aa’hed’s wishes in regard to his country will come true in the future, but I hope that the next generation is the same way he hopes it to be and that they never cease the struggle for their country. As Aa’hed said ‘if people want to live, destiny will lead them.’