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Friday, 21 November 2014

I am from Gaza - Maisoon

Maisoon shared her very important life story and reflections on life, forgiveness and determination that would make anyone proud to know her. Please read, reflect and share her important message. Eileen

Maisoon Bashir

I first met Maisoon on the Welcome to Gaza Convoy. She was working voluntarily as a translator with us as she has wonderful English. Maisoon spoke of her pride in her country, her language and religion and we all learned much from her regarding identity as a female living in Gaza. She talked about her family, the painful loss of her Dad and the long occupation of her family home with such feeling that we openly cried as she related so much of her personal life to many of us. She spoke of such emotion, pain and suffering with a dignity, selflessness and an ultimate positivity that I have seldom heard outside of Palestine.

Maisoon told me, at first falteringly, that because many of the people on the Convoy were talking of the deep and intense trauma of the Gazan people that this made her want to talk with me about what had happened to her family. Many of the readers will already know the context of the exit of the Israeli army and settlement of the Gazan strip. However many will not so I will briefly outline Maisoons family’s living conditions before Israeli citizens and military left the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Maisoons father and mother and her six siblings lived in a three storey house prior to 2000 when Israeli soldiers, because of its location bordering an Israeli settlement, occupied the top two floors for five years, until 2005, insisting that the family only access the ground floor. Every night from sunset to sunrise that occupation of their family home, as if it were not difficult enough, became worse as they would then be confined to one bedroom while the soldiers, with guns, either maintained guard outside the bedroom door or worse at times from within the bedroom.
“We don’t eat because you just have 5 munities what can you do in this 5 minutes!. We don’t sleep. We were like prisoners in one bedroom”.

At times Maisoon told me that her mother and father would be too anxious to sleep and so they would stand up all night in fear of anything happening to their children. On a few occasions when her mother went to the bathroom she returned to find soldiers in her bed. Intimate family life was completely disrupted for a full five years. Despite the trauma of this and the intrusion on every aspect of family life and growing up Maisoon said,
“I won’t let them ruin my future. My father always told us that fighting and anger was no solution and that we have to find a way to peace. Peace in our country and peace in our hearts”.

Maisoon explained to me that her father, a school principal who was a very peaceful man studying for his PhD, refused to move from his home despite greenhouses being destroyed, on-going occupation and refusing them freedom of movement. They had been requested by Israeli Occupation Forces to move in order that greater protection could be provided for the nearby settlement of Kfar Darom. Despite all that had happened to his family in terms of on-going humiliation, the shooting of his son in view of members of the United Nations and being shot himself Maisoon told me that her father always maintained that “punishment does not pay”. Maisoon recalls him saying to her, and to visitors to their home who questioned how he could continue to live in this occupied environment that,
“We have to devote ourselves to finding a peaceful solution so that our children can live in peace”.

Maisoon seems to have adopted her father’s philosophical position and the way that he lived as she spoke so fondly of him, of his life, of his work, and of his relationship with all of his children and his wife.
“He was a man of peace and I want to be like him. He was special and I want to be something special like him. I want to be a special star for my family and for Palestine”.
Maisoon was surprised at her father’s death. She spoke about having spoken with him before she had gone to bed that night and he had been well.

“I used to love talking with him and I miss him so much. I just couldn’t believe he had died. My Dad called me for suhoor (breakfast) and after that I went to sleep, then my sister called me to wake up but I was tired and didn’t want to get up. A few minutes later she ran in to tell me that my father had died. I couldn’t believe it. After that I took on the responsibility to be there for my mum and support her in everything that she has to do for our family. It is what I want to do. I want to support my family in every way that I can. My dreams have had to be put on hold for a while because my family is so important. My father always encouraged us to follow our dreams and I will follow them. I am following them but in a different way to the way that I thought it would be but that is ok because I want to do what is right. I want all of my family to be proud of me”

Maisoon says that she feels very different from her friends and from people her age.

“They don’t understand me. They think I am too serious and boring because I am not interested in the things that they like and the things that they do. That is because I haven’t had any practise. When I was growing up I couldn’t go out freely with friends because the soldiers ordered us to be home at sunset. They told us when to eat and when to sleep. Other families also thought that our house was too dangerous for their children to visit so I had no practise in making friends. I’m a sociable person but I have more important things to do with my life. I have my dreams and I have to make them come true. I don’t have my father around to help me so I have to make them happen myself”.
Maisoon says that being with the international convoy was a unique experience.

“For the first time in my life special after the death of my Dad, I felt that people wanted to listen to me”. “She sees that for the first time after the death of my Dad, I am happy. But she is worried that you will all let me down. We find it very hard to trust people. I am sure that you can understand that. We are afraid of being hurt. We have been hurt so much. I have tried not to feel hope for the future but you have made that very difficult because now I feel hope and I feel like I belong again. I used to feel like a fish out of water. Now you have put me back into the water and I feel like I can breathe again”.

Her family are not the only ones who have noticed. Maisoon says that her friends have commented too. They have heard a different tone in her voice.

Maisoon hope that her dreams will come true. She says that she knows that her dreams are big ones. She says that
“They are especially big for a girl who had her childhood taken away from her. From aged nine to fourteen I had soldiers in my home night and day. But I am going to make all of my experience; the family that I come from and my faith in Allah and hard work come together to make my dream come true”. I’m still a strong girl in front of all difficulties , and fighting for my Dreams. I believe that tomorrow will be better, and I always repeat the words" Keeping your Dream alive"

What is your dream Maisoon?

“I want to be a star in the sky for me also for my family. I want to be a star in the sky for Palestine, a girl that all want to hear about and follow her news. I want to be the hand offering a helping hand for anyone in this world regardless of religion, nationality and culture because in the end we are all human beings. Maybe some will see it is impossible to achieve it alone, but I’m sure that there are many people like me who share the same Dream, so I will never be alone, and our message, the message of peace will be realized!

Having spent time with Maisoon and experienced her generosity of spirit and time, her knowledge, professionalism and dedication to all that she does and her love and pride in her family, her religion and her country, despite all that she has endured at a young age, it is clear that Maisoon has already achieved her dream in so many ways.
But I know that there is more to come.

Thank you for sharing your very important life story with me Maisoon

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Memories of war..!! by Maisoon Bashir

It is the 10th of July 2014, the third day that I am writing in my diary about the war here in Gaza, and the stories that will forever live within me. Pain running through my stomach and abdominals, an emotional pain, constantly waiting for the future with fear and worry. Despite the fear and worry, people are still determined to live and fulfill their dreams, nothing will stop us ... apart from death. For me, this has become like a series of action, which returns every year. The only difference is that there are new heroes and, sadly, new victims. It seems that the productivity of this series is increasing year after year.
The first show starts suddenly with random shelling, the thunder of the bombs, the explosions, the sound of aircrafts, the sound of ambulances, the screams of children and the cries of the mothers. Once again, the breaking news of Gaza hits the headlines, with an updated number of martyrs. This is just the beginning of the story. In every story there are thousands of tales with eyes filled with tears of pain and anguish, and fear of what has happened around us, at the same time there remains hope, strength and the willpower to exist.
As usual, my family gathers in one room thinking it is safe, the safest room in our home. Only this time the war comes in the holy month of Ramadhan, this is something that was completely not expected. We all have that one 'safe' room yet we know that nowhere IS safe. We have to expect bombing and shelling anywhere at any time and any place. This war lives up to its name good and proper.
I need to write these notes just to record them in order to share with the rest of the world. However, I do not need to record this for myself because it will remain entrenched in my heart and memory and I will never forget them. How can a person forget the permanent pain of loss inside of him? But I write to share my horrific experience with the whole world, for them, to know. Perhaps my writing will be able to wake the world up who is in a deep sleep, whilst millions weep.
I remember the fear of my mother when hearing the sound of shelling and missiles approaching more and more from our house, here the role of my mother is starting as worry and fear are increasing . My mother starts reading verses from the Koran, and make us repeat them, perhaps it could save her children, surviving the brutality of the shells, as if something would protect their children from death .. !!. Here I stand saying "don't stress me with your worry mum the worse thing can happen is to die and we will all die one day."
My younger sister frequently says "Mom do not go out of the house, my mother do not sleep away from me, mom do not leave me alone. Since the beginning of the war my sister is constantly in the smallest room of the house, thinking it’s the safest room in the house, as previously stated.
In the morning the shelling intensified and it was violent and scary ,it lead to my little sister crying and crying and squeezing my hands tightly, in a way that scared me a lot; what makes me cry is her look while she saying these words "Maisoon, do not leave my hands Let's die together!" or when she says "mmm I'm not afraid of death but I do not like to be tortured by it or I do not like to to... to stay alone in this life!" .
Imagine with me , I don’t sleep the whole night fearing that if I close my eyes, I will wake up with something I don’t like. The worst case scenario, seeing my family dead. I realize that everything is possible in a war , but the feeling of losing someone close to you is so difficult, I know that very well, because I still suffer the loss of my father (May Allah bless his soul) and I always will. Nothing can ever bring him back.
A shortage of sleep has exhausted me, and my body is exhausted by thinking too much. I often have the desire to shout loudly and say "OH, PEOPLE PLEASE STOP , THAT’S ENOUGH ( KHaaalaaas , in Arabic ), I WOULD LIKE TO SLEEP JUST ONE HOUR ". Perhaps someone will hear or pay attention.
The clock struck 3:00 at dawn , it is time for the preparation of suhoor (breakfast in Ramadan). I do it, trying to kill the desire of sleep in my eyes after a scary night ..
"Mohammed wake up, come on. Zana wake up and drink a cup of water, mom, drink water, eat something." As I fulfill the role and responsibilities of a mother who takes care of her children, you can consider this a feature of my character.
I love my family very much, I am so proud of them and I miss my siblings, who are abroad, a lot. They remain very worried and they call, call us ten times within an hour to be assured that everything is fine.
The phone is ringing, it is my brother Dr. Yazid "Are you okay. If there's anything surrounding you, DON’T go out the house!"
Then another phone-call, it is my brother Eng. Yazan "What happens, I heard there is a shelling in our city Deir al-Balah reassure me, do you have electricity, do you need anything?" and the same thing from my brothers Yousef and Zaid.
The one worried the most and in a complete state of horror is my sister Amira. She is studying medicine in Germany. You will not believe, she calls every hour or at any moment she hears news that there is bombing in Deir al-Balah "I am following News and I heard that there was bombing, I am worried a lot, please assure me, don’t hide anything from me, Are you Okay?!”
Every time my siblings call, I can't pretend that everything is fine I can’t tell them, "Yes, we're fine, me, my mother, Zana and Mohammed, do not be afraid. It has became normal to us”. Whatever Allah has written, good or bad, will be. And they themselves know that.
14-7 is the date of my Birthday , today is my 22nd birthday. Now, I am a girl who is twenty-two years old. It’s a nice feeling to grow a year, whilst your dreams and ambitions grow with you. Twenty two years - a dream growing up with me since my childhood is to be a bright star in the sky, to raise the voice of truth, to be the voice of poor people, the voice of my beloved country Palestine. For Twenty-two years I have seen my people suffering from injustice.
I was planning to celebrate my twenty-second birthday , because I thought it would be special this time. Especially after I graduated from University. I finished one stage of my life and will take a new stage, and go out to realize my dreams. The first thing was a scholarship, I got it after three years of trying, without feeling bored or frustrated, a chance to travel to the United States in a scholarship to learn how to set up scientific research.
I was so happy
I was at the peak of my happiness, feeling proud that I achieved a goal or perhaps a dream. I believe that my dream is mine and I will get it. I learned this from Martin, Gandhi, my father and many great people who have played a role in shaping my character. What increased my joy, I knew that my Birthday this year will be in the same time that I'll be there. So, I'm going to see my brother, Yosef, who I have not seen for ten years and more, because of the situation in the Gaza Strip. For this reason, I thought it would be a special birthday, I was closing my eyes when I put my head on my pillow, dreaming how fantastic it will be. This is the subject, to live plunged in a fantasy world, a world in which every privacy and what I wished, exist.
Call me crazy, for it is my best feature, sometimes a person needs some madness to taste the sweetness of life. It will be the first time to be out of Gaza's boards, it is the first time to taste freedom. But the price is very expensive.
I started planning, moment by moment, how I will spend the time with my brother. And suddenly something stopped me ‘Oh! One Moment Maisoon, Do not forget that you are in Gaza, you have to realize that.’ Perhaps it is the cost of living in Gaza, to put something between a dream and reality and to expect anything to happen. But this disturbing cost does not stop me dreaming, never. I used to dream and be optimistic that the next will be better, no matter what the circumstances are; this was the sentence of executioner to hinder me to travel without knowing the reasons .. !!
And what made the thing became more complex is the war against Gaza. OH! What bad luck you have Maisoon…! All that I have planned has ended in a bad way, and nothing will happen! I lost my joy and happiness, but there’s one thing that happened, one thing didn’t change yet, it was to have a special birthday and yes I had it, but with a view of the Israeli occupation. Thanks to the Israeli occupation, particularly with these horrifying pictures of children and civilians killed and their homes destroyed. It's been made special by the sound of bombing everywhere and the electricity and water shortages. It's been made special by my younger sister who says “please let us die together!”
This was the equivalent to my birthday cake. So thank you for making my birthday so special. Thanks to the silent world, the so called callers of human rights and biggest thanks to the humanity of Israel.
Time of breakfast:
The time now is 4:00 pm, the time to start preparing the breakfast. These are the ritual of the holy month of Ramadhan, but in these circumstances, everything is different. My mother tries to choose easy meals that can be prepared quickly and we help her to make it in a short time!
Electricity is still cut off, the shelling is continuing and different voices in the area, with each hit we get out of the kitchen and wait for a bit, then we are back completing cooking the food, thus like playing a game. Now, everything is prepared and after ten minutes we will have our breakfast, but suddenly we hear heavy shelling near, close to the home. My home is near to UN school which has a huge number of families, and the parents who fear for their children’s lives. You hear the screaming of kids and the sounds of sirens from ambulances. Five people have been killed.
My mother says " hurry up, eat quickly, praying and don’t go out, OK?"
Indeed, we eat but we do not taste the food, the fear overpowers us in many ways, this is being one of them: what we eat just to give our bodies strength from exhaustion of this bad situation, and no one can bear it.
Now, the radio news station is starting in my home! Yes, don’t be surprised, every one of us is following the news. While the electricity continues to cut, the only window is by using our cell phones to be kept updated with what's happening outside. Imagine, twenty-four-seven we hear the news. It seems that my home turned completely into a news station, but in a different form.
I told you before, that everything is changing because of this the war, it doesn’t care about anything even the holy month, the religious rituals or at least the humanity! That they violated your inviolable Ramadan, sorry Ramadan!
My pen has stopped writing, because I can't bear what is happening and I can't bear the brutal war and the massacres have been committed one after the other, without any movement of the world. And also, because the stories and events, how much I tried to narrate is incomparable to what is actually happening. The events are indescriptibles. The ink from my pen has finished and I don’t have completed my story.
Will the war end? I do not know. But I know, that it has planted pain and pain in the hearts of people, especially in those children who have lost their families, their ties and their dreams but their eyes are still shining .. ! We are waiting and we are still waiting for the real victory, for freedom, shining it’s sun in the land of a long occupation. Maybe it is our destiny to die, if not in this war, it may be in the coming days or perhaps, will be like those who drowned in the sea, seeking to save their lives. Or luckier, to be the survivors on a beach, where we can find the new world.

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