Three months ago the wail of Ahmed Abu Hashish’s father echoed again and again in my ears, long after we’d left him.
The grieving father –having finally found his son’s corpse (missing for 54 days by that point) and endured Israeli occupation soldiers’ shooting at the time of searching for, locating, and removing the body–cried with abandon, lamented his son’s murder, screamed his sorrow.
*listen for the father’s anguished lamentations, the brother’s shrill wail (at the end of the clip) [from: 54 Days]
At the time, one of our strongest responses to the recovery of the nineteen year old Ahmed’s body was indignation:
-Ahmed, from a very poor family, driven to desperation, had strayed near the fence, potentially hoping to enter Israel to find work…Were circumstances in Gaza different –were there not this all encompassing, life shattering siege on Gaza, and had the Israeli massacre of Gaza not wiped out (aside from the 1500 martyred) much of Gaza’s industry, farmland, homes, buildings…–Ahmed might not have been so desperately poor, nor so desperate. He might’ve still been alive.
-Abu Ahmed, after 54 days desperate to know where his son was or if he had been killed, was denied not only the confirmation of his son’s murder, but also the dignity of a graceful recovery and burial. Two months after dying, a body is grossly decomposed…
-The Israeli occupation soldiers, upon seeing us find the body, intensified their firing on us, aiming where we had gathered trying to load the body onto a sheet. Why this last denial of recovering the corpse? Why, other than disdain and malice towards Palestinians?
Today, re-visiting Abu Ahmed, his pain deeply etched in my memories, I was overwhelmed by his graciousness (he wanted to offer coffee and sweets, but we insisted against it: it is Ramadan still) and humbled by his gratitude.
His son was murdered only 3 months ago. But at least Abu Ahmed now had closure, had buried Ahmed, had said goodbye.
But I didn’t expect him to be so grateful to us for the recovery of Ahmed’s body. It was actually Palestinian volunteers from Beit Hanoun’s Local Initiative who did the work of carrying Ahmed’s body. We merely walked with them, during the search, trying to enable their presence in the area which Israeli authorities unilaterally dictate off-limits to Palestinians (and shoot to kill).
Abu Ahmed saw it differently.
So now my two strong impressions of this dignified man are his great sorrow and his extreme gratitude.
Neither should have had occurred. Ahmed should have been with his family this Ramadan.