True stories with Names and sites have been modified to maintain the confidentiality of the people
The Eid prayer had ended, we had prayed at home due to covid. I was making dua… and I tailed off and paused….. so much pain in the world I thought as I looked at the innocent eyes of my grandchildren.
I heard my daughter say………”Mom make dua for Al Aqsa… and suddenly I felt him beside me and then as if I stood in his shoes, he came to me….”My name is Mohammad……” it was a missive from him: “I regret to inform you that the video camera that you and the American Journalist helped me obtain was confiscated by the Egyptian solciers at the border…” His voice visually tailed off into sadness….. the door of hope had closed.
I was Introduced to him in absentia via Dr M who was visiting our town as a visiting Professor. She showed in a conference the methods of rehabilitating Palestinian children who had witnessed the horrors of Israeli bombing in Gaza and some had lost one or both parents.
We all watched this professional quality video of how the children came every morning with long faces into the compound of the play therapy clinic and the social workers engaged them in play therapy and by the afternoon when they broke for lunch they were smiling and chatting with each other.
I complimented Dr M a Pediatrician on the excellent work she was doing in Rehabilitating the children in her town and making significant advances in, repairing the hearts of the Palestinian children in GAZA.
“ Who made this excellent professional quality video” I was curious and asked her.
“ It is a young man who is a volunteer and is very good with the camera, he borrowed the camera of one of the visiting NGO workers and made this movie for us”
I was impressed, it was high quality and caught the expressions of the kids at the right time, and most of all the entire documentary dripped with optimism and joy
Soon It was time for Dr M to go back to the raging fires and Israeli rockets in Gaza. I invited her for lunch and asked her how we could help, she was silent but her eyes said it all.
Tariq had already died and while cleaning his drawer I had found money in two envelopes mostly his Eidi money and some from his graduation.
I asked Dr. M to wait and went up to get the envelope. Giving it to her I told her the story of my son. How he brought joy to all with a great sense of humor and how I had found this money in his drawer carefully collected from many Eidis hoping to buy an extremely expensive set of headphones which I thought were way too expensive for me to buy. I told her how he told stories with his expressive photos and even captioned them with kind but tongue in cheek titles. He had also shot a few home movies.
I told her that I had found a kindred optimism in Mohammad’s work and offered her the money as a donation towards his video camera.
Much later his thanks came. He told me he had saved up and bought a video camera from a retuning journalist along with Tariq’s Eid money.
He told me that he was going to compete in the international short film festival for students in some European country and was thrilled and focused on his work. He sent me a few clips of his work and I was astonished to see the optimism of this boy in his video shots of GAZA.
He did go to Europe and competed with his affluent counterparts from the western nations. I am not sure if he won an award or not but, on the way, back to Gaza, he was stopped by the Egyptian guards and one of the Egyptian border guard stole his camera on the pretext of confiscating it. He was heartbroken……
I told him I will try to help him restart his videography.
Shortly after that there was sortie after sortie on GAZA with bombing by Israel and all foreign volunteers were told to evacuate. He was then lost to contact.
Many months later I got a phone call from a medical volunteer from the west coast, he had been working in GAZA and had been approached by an elderly woman who had given him an embroidered wall hanging which said “Ahlan wa Sahlan” which means “Welcome” in English and a hand crocheted wool cape.
“can you please give this to the doctor who helped my son fulfil his dream of competing internationally in the movie world” She said handing him the items before they evacuated all the foreigners.
The medical volunteer was very fearful when he called me. He said that he might be harassed by the Israelis in US and asked for his name and number never to be mentioned as GAZA was a bad word in the US.
The parcel arrived a few days later with no name or address of the sender. I opened it and out tumbled a rolled-up wall hanging with the “welcome” embroidered in Arabic and the soft touch of the crocheted wool cape perfused with the fragrance of love from far away places.
I stood there with the open parcel, and visualized the mother of the boy crocheting and embroidering as the bombs fell right left and center. All this to honor and thank someone far away for putting a smile on her son’s face.
The beautiful embroidered piece hangs in my library a reminder of a boy who shared my son’s passion in photography and videography and wanted to excel in the world with his talent…… and now both are lost to me!
With so many Israeli bombings on GAZA since then I don’t even know who is alive and who is not, the starvation from the siege of GAZA by the Israelis reminded me of Mohammad’s family who had some younger children vulnerable to starvation, as the Israeli siege had caused the milk to run out.
This was followed by raid after raid on Gaza till I lost count and my heart that was already full of grief from the death of my son, expanded to absorb the grief of the mothers of GAZA…