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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

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