I saw her during a protest in support of Hana’ Ash-Shalabi. She was sitting, surrounded by protesters, too weak to stand, and holding a poster of Hana’. People around her tried to convince her to go home and eat or at least drink something. She looked at us and shook her head: ‘This is the least I can do. Hana’ is on hunger strike in an Israeli dungeon. She is on hunger strike for justice and for her dignity, for the dignity of all of us. Hunger striking in solidarity with Hana’ is the least I can do.’ She sat there, surrounded by mothers, grandmothers, daughters, comrades, and held tighter to Hana’s poster, as if protecting her, saving her from the jailors, taking away her pain. I watched her, held tighter to my poster of Hana’ and thought of Hana’ in her dungeon; Hana’ the refugee who never saw her hometown Haifa (the only time she was allowed into Haifa, she was on hospital bed to be treated after her health deteriorated due to her hunger strike), and I looked at this woman, this elderly woman who was kicked out of her village 64 years ago, and who is hunger striking in solidarity with a fellow Palestinian. They never met, but like every Palestinian mother, Hana’ was her daughter, and like every Palestinian, Hana’ was her sister, comrade and friend. On another day, in another protest tent, I looked at the mothers, every one of them hugging the framed picture of her detained child. Some held two pictures, others three. One of the mothers hadn’t seen her son in over 27 years. She sat in a wheel chair, her body weak, but her spirits high and she hopes to see her son before she dies. When I asked her about her health, she smiled and said: ‘Alhamdullilah ya binty’.
Every now and then, she would give a zaghrouteh for the prisoners and their struggle. One woman came and kissed her hand and wrapped the Palestinian flag around her shoulder. A young man in his early twenties walked towards another mother and kissed her hand. She too hugged the picture of her son who had received several life sentences. My cousin introduced to another mother, whose two children received several life sentences. She held their pictures and every now and then would look at the pictures and smile at them. And as these mothers talked about their children, hugging their pictures, wiping the dust off the frame as if fearing the dust would cause discomfort to their children, I remembered my grandmother and the many times when she would spend the day visiting her 4 children, running from one jail to another, just to visit them, to see them, to hear their voice, to tell them how much she loved them, to ask if they were fine, if they needed anything. She never complained, despite the harsh trip or the long distances she had to travel, and only thought of her children, my uncles, and seeing them and talking to them, and maybe, just maybe, being able to touch their fingers through the division wire during the visit. Her only worry was always missing a visit because my uncles were distributed in various jails. With time, as she was forced to travel even longer distances, we started dividing ourselves to be able to visit all my uncles whenever the visits happened to be on the same day.
Today, as thousands of Palestinian political prisoners held captive in Israeli dungeons enter their 23rd day of general open hunger strike, solidarity actions, protests and marches extend from Jerusalem to Acca, from Gaza to Um Il-Fahim, from Nablus to An-Nasrah, from Cairo to Paris, from Amman to Rome, from London to Ankara. In the protest tents spread across occupied Palestine, their heads raised despite the pain, keeping back the tear, and often not succeeding, it is the mothers of Palestinian prisoners, our mothers, the daughters of Palestine, who are forever present. They are the first to join protests in solidarity with their children on hunger strike, and in support of all their children, for a Palestinian prisoner is the son/daughter of every Palestinian mother. They are the first to set up protest tents, the first to march towards the Red Cross or the UN buildings and remind the world of the heroes buried in Zionist dungeons. They are present everywhere, they lead the protests, their voices ringing through time and space, breaking the silence of the world, writing the names of their children high in the sky, high up, where no one can erase them, where no one can ignore them, where everyone can see them: Tha’ir, Bilal, Khader, Hana’, Hassan, Omar, Mohammad, Faris, Ja’far, Abdallah, Ahmad, Wurud and every single one of them.
I have no words to describe your greatness, because an ocean of words will fall short of describing your courage, your steadfastness, your patience. I see you, and I wish I could wipe away that tear before it falls, I wish I could bring a smile to your aching heart, I wish I could touch your hand and make all your nightmares disappear. I hear you zaghroutah despite your pain, ringing in the sky over Palestine, saluting the revolutionaries and freedom fighters everywhere, and slapping the cowards, the traitors and all those who want to sell Palestine in return for a Bantustan and a chair and a palace. I hear your prayer, shortening distances, breaking the walls of the dungeons and reaching your child in the dungeon: ‘Allah yirda 3alek yamma’.
Your children are our brothers, our sisters, our comrades, our friends. They are our voice raised against injustice, our rock standing steadfast in the face of the storm, our teachers, our leaders, our heroes. Since the Zionist terrorists occupied and colonized Palestine, your children have kept the flame of resistance alive, have chosen action over apathy, courage over cowardice, and resistance over surrender and dignity over food. And today, they continue to carry the flame of resistance, they continue to lead us, continue to defy the jailors, continue to resist, for us, for every Palestinian, for every dignified human being, for Palestine.
Your children are heroes, dear mothers of Palestine. With every battle, with every hunger strike, with every new day, they write the name Palestine in history books, they fight injustice and defy a blind, deaf and mute world. With every passing day, your children break the chains of captivity, break down the walls of the dungeons, and march towards freedom, towards Jerusalem. They are more free than we are, for they defy the chains and the walls and revolt, they defy the jailors and the killers and live, they defy injustice through stomachs empty of food and through hearts full of the love for Palestine.
They are the heroes of the Palestinian people, the heroes of Palestine, every single one of them. And it is our duty to support them in their struggle, to make their voices heard, to tell their stories and to make their demands ours. It is our duty to demand their freedom, demand justice for them. It is our duty to join them in their march towards freedom.
In his poem “My Mother”, late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish addressed his mother saying:
I must be worth my life
At the hour of my death
Worth the tears of my mother
Today, thousands of Palestinian political prisoners held captive is Israeli dungeons enter their 23rd day of general open hunger strike.
Bilal Thiab enters his 72 day of open hunger strike in protest of his arbitrary detention.
Tha’ir Halahleh enters his 72 day of open hunger strike in protest of his arbitrary detention.
Hasan As-Safadi enters his 66 day of open hunger strike in protest of his arbitrary detention.
Omar Abu Shallal enters his 64 day of open hunger strike in protest of his arbitrary detention.
Mohammad At-Taj enters his 56 day of open hunger strike in protest of his arbitrary detention.
Mahmoud Sirsik enters his 50 day of open hunger strike in protest of his arbitrary detention.
Ja’far Izz Iddin enters his 49 day of open hunger strike in protest of his arbitrary detention.
Faris An-Natour enters his 44 day of open hunger strike in protest of his arbitrary detention.
Abdallah Al-Bargouthi enters his 28 day of open hunger strike in protest of the policy of isolation.
Freedom for ALL Palestinian political prisoners held captive in Israeli dungeons.
Freedom for ALL political prisoners held captive in Israeli dungeons.