For Palestinians, Every Martyr is a Story


It’s unfortunate how the rise of the Palestinian uprising’s death toll slowly isolates the human face of the catastrophe, making the number of dead, wounded and maimed mere statistics. Yet for the families of the victims, the deepening tragedy is felt with the fall of every child, man or woman. In truth, for the Palestinian people, the human face of the struggle remains intact, and for them, swelling death tolls throughout the history of their struggle persistently fail to turn their victims into mere statistics.

Killed while breaking his fast

The story of Ahmed Jamil Awad, 48, is one that mustn’t be forgotten. A father of 4 children from the village of Jbarah south of the West Bank city of Tul Karim, Awad was shot in the head and the shoulder while eating his Ramadan sunset meal. Eyewitnesses told Palestinian news agency WAFA that an Israeli tank stationed at the entrance of the village began firing randomly toward the peaceful area, killing Awad and injuring others.

The news agency said that Awad was shot while sitting with his family and four children. The ambulance that carried him to the hospital was not permitted to reach its destination, and Awad died while the ambulance driver waited for an entry permit from the soldiers.

He saved his friend, but could not save himself

Khalil Al Madhoun 24, from Gaza lies unconscious in a Ramallah Hospital. Thanks to his friend, Nihad Abu Hantash, Al Madhoun is still alive, despite 6 bullet wounds. Sadly, Abu Hantash didn’t live to see the friend whom he saved.

On that day of clashes, Abu Hantash desperately reached for his friend who was left pleading as Israeli soldiers continued to fire at protestors. Abu Hantash managed to pull the unmoving body of Al Madhoun, yet received one Israeli bullet in the midst of the battle. He died, also while the ambulance was stopped at an Israeli checkpoint between Ramallah and Nablus in the West Bank.

A child departs after a long wait

Tragically, it is not as if Mohammed Al Durra was the only Palestinian child to be killed by the Israeli army. Many other children have been killed before and during the Intifada. Salim Al Hamaida, a 12 year old boy from the city of Rafah, south of Gaza was a recent addition.

Al Hamaida’s mother told local reporters in a voice echoing with devastation, “I awaited his arrival for 21 years, but I lost him in seconds.” The mother was unable to give birth for many years until Salim brightened her life and rewarded her long wait. Again, WAFA reported that the death was caused by random Israeli firing at a group of children playing near the Salah Al Din Gate in Rafah. It was yet the newest addition to the Al Durra style death, but unfortunately wasn’t caught on camera, therefore went unnoticed.

A man dies, and so do his doves, all in the same day

Naif Abu Dahoud from Hebron was killed in clashes. He left behind a wife and several children. Before his death, to secure some additional income to his impoverished family, he raised doves on the top of his house. But it was most difficult to care for the doves after a group of Israeli soldiers moved to the roof of his house to monitor the neighborhood of Abu Snaina. Later, soldiers began shelling Palestinian areas from the top of the house. Yet the man remained dedicated to caring for his doves, said his wife to Al Hyat Al Jadida newspaper, while kissing the head of her deceased husband in a Hebron hospital.

The same day Abu Dahoud died, his doves also died. It’s unknown whether the doves died in a miraculous symbolic gesture of solidarity with their owner as many people believe, or if they were poisoned by Israeli soldiers positioned at the top of the house. The second reason seems more likely, as the soldiers had earlier poisoned Abu Dahoud’s family goat.

Palestinians prefer to remember their martyrs through recalling stories associated with their deaths. Some of these stories retrieve sadness, innocence, faith, and heroism. The West Bank twins who died on two consecutive days as one tried to avenge the other, the man who died on his wedding night, and the child who wasted away in the arms of his father are all becoming part of a memory crowded with stories and filled with sadness. And with the continuation of the Palestinian Intifada, more and more stories are being told.

This is how Palestinians commemorate the legacy of their martyrs, so that the memories remain alive, rather than becoming cold statistics, which often fail to present the human tragedy.