I want to be able to wake up and say - "It never happened! It's not true. It was only a nightmare!" But as the days get closer, I feel my heart wanting to cry out loud "Why, Why, Why??" I'm writing this today on the 14th of January, because I'm expecting another grandchild any day now and then I'll be rejoicing the new life and will put my pain aside. But right now I want to share what I am feeling and feel it fully! The 16th of January is in two days time.
The 16th of January 2009 is rooted in my heart with so much sadness and pain. For weeks before there had been fighting between Israel and Gaza once again. For those who don't know me, in 2003, I co founded a peace organisation with two friends of mine in the USA that brings together Israeli and Palestinian teenage girls...The first year we had eleven girls, Jewish girls, Muslim, Christian, Druze girls and one girl from Gaza - Bessan Abu Alaish.
Here is what I wrote in 2009, soon after she was killed!!! (By the way, I left the organisation in 2011)
‘Please please tell me this is a nightmare! – That I will wake up and it will have just been a bad dream, a real bad dream…..it is 4 in the morning …I cannot sleep…it is not a nightmare – I have to face the truth…Yes my own people have killed one of our wonderful peacemakers, our camper, our very first and only Palestinian from our first camp in 2003…. Please let me fall asleep again so I can believe this is just a nightmare!
Hanuka – the festival of light turns into darkness as the Kasams fall daily on Sderot and 'we' decide…enough! Eight years is enough! Oh my God …now I don’t worry only about Tamar, Tal, Hagar, Yaara and Ravid from Sderot……but I worry about Sabreen, Diana, Rana, Dalal, Bessan and Shadha from Gaza too!
I keep calling, sending SMS’s - sometimes I get an answer, sometimes not….CFP girls are calling Sylvi and I constantly, some hysterical, upset about what others have written on the Facebook. Others sharing that they have called their friends from the other side or that they don’t have the guts to call their friends from the other side. Tears in every conversation….how are my friends?…..are they safe? We spend hours trying to calm the girls, sharing our sadness, which turns into anger and rage as the days go by.
My friends and I start a petition trying to save the children. Connecting with the UN, with Ulmert’s office trying every which way to save the children and innocent victims of this war on both sides….After five days I cannot get hold of Sabreen any more…. I am in constant touch with the girls from Sderot …the only one I manage to talk with in Gaza is Ezaldeen , the father of Bessan, Dalal and Shadha, who has an Israeli mobile…he hands the phone to Bessan…what can I say to her…I tell her we are all praying for their safety…I hear her gentle voice, quiet and subdued on the other end…..I put down the phone. I cry…
All our girls are stressed and upset . Silvi and I decide we must help them by having a gathering . With all the difficulty and fear it brings up in us – we must help them face each other during this awful time. We make dates for the end of January, thinking that not many girls will come - but we will do it anyway!
Every other day I call Ezaldeen…the days go by ….it is just getting worse….I speak with him and hear the terror in his voice…’Anael there are tanks in front of our house…Anael help us’ he pleads to me through the phone. I speak with my daughter’s friend who has connections in the army – he promises to try to help...I am beside myself with anger, pain, anguish and worry…I don’t have the guts to call any more…I don’t listen to the news or watch T.V. I cannot bear it any longer….
Friday the 16th. Tommy, my son comes to visit me in my new home in Tzfat. We sit in the lounge overlooking the Sea of Galilee….it is around 4.30 in the afternoon. I say …’Let’s check the news. I haven’t heard any in days ...just could not bring myself to watch”
It hits me in the belly. The pain shooting into my heart I feel like I have been shot! ….I hear his voice…screaming, screaming….”they have killed my girls” I know that voice…I too start to scream…..I tear at my hair….I fall on my knees …I run to the bathroom needing to be sick….I run back …maybe it is just a night mare …no - there is Shlomi Eldar on TV…speaking with Ezaldeen trying to help get them out …which girls are dead?!?! I cannot breath…This can’t be happening!!!! Tommy holds me, trying to calm me down, - I cannot be calmed….my neighbor and friend Shanti comes – tries to help by giving me Reiki….I manage to calm down enough to call Dottie and try to call Silvi who is not answering her phone…
I decide not to rush to the hospital yet until I know what is happening…who has been killed and if there is anything I can do to help…..eventually I get hold of Silvi …we cry together on the phone and decide to wait till morning when I will pick her up and we will go to the hospital.
Since that day a month has passed…this is not a nightmare…it is real….I am strengthened and more determined than ever by all the girls from CFP who have come to visit Shadha and her dad in the hospital, creating a beautiful collage of drawings on the hospital wall. By the many Israeli’s from all walks of life who have come to share the pain and give their condolences, Jews and Arabs, bringing food, doing our laundry, giving gifts to Shadha and her cousin who was released from intensive care a few days ago. By the many reporters from all over the world who want to share this human story. By our campers who came together with such courage at the end of January to share their rage, disappointment, their fear , their hopelessness and who left with a feeling of release and a bit of hope…we have never had such a big gathering. By Dalal’s ( Bessan’s sister) courage to come to the gathering after all she is going through. By Shadhas’s positive attitude which is helping her recover miraculously and by Ezaldeen - the courageous peacemaker who has no signs of revenge, no negative words...only talk of his wish for his daughters to be the last victims of this futile war. He speaks of how we should all be like the doctors that treat all equally and with respect. He is thinking of ways to help educate the girls in Gaza who have no opportunity for an education…”I want to give them skills and tools for a better life so they can create a healthier society in the future”.
I am honored to serve this family and the family of Creativity for Peace. And I pray that one day I will wake up to a new reality where our girls will be the leaders and there will be peace in the Middle East. Ezaldeen said the other day “ It is time for the people to lead the politicians and not the politicians to lead the people!” May this become a reality! ‘
In March I wrote this poem. Her Dad had shared a dream he had...
WHERE LOVE RESIDES....in memory of Bessan Abualish who was killed in Gaza on January 16, 2009
I long to touch you Bessan
One more time
To hug you
To tell you
How sorry I am that your mom died
But now you too are gone
Your smiling face
Your gentle way
Your non judgmental words
Your pain for your people
Your way of life
Your dreams, aspirations and your hope for peace
Just days before the war
I spoke with your dad
He gave me your phone number
It's still in my car
I glance at the number
Seeing your name
I wish I had spoken with you more
I didn't have the guts
I spoke with you three days before you died
I told you that I am praying for your safety
My prayers were not heard
Through the shelling
I feel I have been betrayed
By my country
By the cruelty of humanity
By the warmongers
By those who think violence in the solution
And with all of this
I have been given a gift
To have spent six weeks with Shadah, Izzaldeen, Ata and Raida
I heard no words of revenge
I heard no anger
I heard the deep belief that peace is possible
Even with this enormous loss
I have been strengthened
From their strength
I am more determined
From their determination
I am more at peace
From their peacefulness
Bessan forgive me
For not being able to save you
From my own people
For giving you hope
That peace is possible
Then taking that dream from you
You will always be my symbol of hope,
Peace and mostly gentleness
Your dad shared a dream with me days after you died.
He came into a room full of men
There you were, sitting amongst them.
He asked you "Why are you sitting here?
You know it is not acceptable in our society"
You answered "All is fine now Dad
I am happy and well.
I can be here now amongst the men where I am needed".
May no other woman need to die
In order to be able
To influence the men
As you have Bessan.
May we women be heard and heeded
And may the men in this world
Get the chance to know
From deep within their hearts
That this is where the answer lies
In their hearts where love resides. March 2009
Bessan's Father, Izaldeen, has done something wonderful in memory of her, her two sisters and cousin, who were killed. He has created a foundation 'Daughter's For Life' ,that gives young women from the Middle East scholarships around the world, so that they can make a difference in their communities.
My Dream Pillow is being translated to Arabic - I dedicate it to Bessan! I miss Bessan. I mourn Bessan.
Any day now my first grandson will be born...may he and all children being born now remember that love resides in the hearts of all and that it's time for this ancient feud to dissolve and allow peace to be our reality here in the Middle East and worldwide.