Now, when the world’s attention is pinned on Iraq, the Iraq Study Groups’ findings, Syria, Iran and the possibilities for a new outcome in the region, my mind wanders to Ahmed and Palestine.
Ahmed is a 14-year-old boy suffering under the ongoing daily occupation of the West Bank, Palestine. The utterance of that word, Palestine, in the mainstream media can be considered taboo; the editors preferring “The Occupied Territories,” or “Palestinian Territories” instead.
Such a loaded issue: Palestine. When will the world turn its attention to the millions of people living under horrific conditions, all in the name of “security?” But, I digress.
This story is meant to take the reader into the world of a 14-year-old boy, Ahmed. As you read, think about what you are tangibly connected to in your day to day life. Think about how you would feel if every day you lived under the threat of having this taken away from you; something you worked so hard to obtain. Finally, think about what it would mean to you to be a person without a state, land, a home, a passport, a name and yet still work hard with hope pumping through your system.
This is a true story. His name is Ahmed. Beads of sweat form on his upper lip and his brow; ringed stained pits cover his tee-shirt. Heavy set, his frame holding the weight of his body, he moves gracefully, effortlessly and with confidence. Carefully plowing the land, harvesting his crops, planting the seeds, driving the tractor. Professionally moving the sand, shoveling the stones, pouring the cement.
Lovingly shopping for food for his family, tending to the needs of the children, the chickens, the sheep, goats and cows. Responsibly waking for school, studying and learning. Yes, men in Palestine work hard, finding their dignity in the fruits of their labor, in their sense of proprietorship, camaraderie, responsibility, and ambition but, this is different. Ahmed is different. He is 11. (This story was originally written by me in 2006 when living in Palestine).
I don’t see him that often, but it seems that every time I do, the image is the same ... that of a sweaty, busy, satisfied and productive young person. And, I noticed today that nearly the same words left my mouth after parting ways with him: “That kid is always working so hard ... and smiling.”
But it is not his sense of ambition or commitment to the land and people that most impresses me ... rather, what settles me every time I see him is his kindness and warmth, inviting me once again to have hope. Now, three years later, Ahmed has lost his older brother; not by the tragedy of the occupation, but by an accident of electrocution. Upon hearing the news, my heart sank for Ahmed; where would he find his hope now?
During this holiday season, my heart reaches out to each of you to give Ahmed tangible hope. Do this by committing to learn something new about the facts on the ground in Palestine. This would be a great gift to Ahmed and all the children of the region.
Ahmed’s gift to me years ago was hope. Hope in the hearts of the young people. For Ahmed ... I thank you. Now, I want to return that gift ten-fold.
Please, expand your efforts to understand the region and how it relates to Iraq, Syria and Iran. Include Palestine in your research. The entire region suffers. We, as Americans, owe it to the people to better understand their struggles. It has been said that one voice speaking out can change 1,000 minds.
This season, I ask of you to be a part of greater human-kind and share what you learn with others about this part of our world. They need you. Ahmed needs you.