Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Friends for life

Abdallah al-Jazzar | 04-12-2020

My teacher, Mr. Hassan Shiqaqi

I have read that the most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.

In 2014 I was selected to be a candidate in the Access Amideast Micro Scholarship Program, where I was to study the English language. In that program, I developed relationships with two people who have remained important to me: a fellow student, Abood Ghoul, who became a dear partner in our mutual endeavors to have better lives, and a man with a beautiful vision of life, my instructor, Mr. Hassan Shiqaqi. I will never forget the amazing moments I had with them.

I recall particularly the first time I met my friends. We were in a class where this sentence was written on the board: “Arabic is Prohibited Here.” This made us almost cry, knowing how little English we knew. At that time the only phrase I knew in English was, “I Love You.” After two more rounds of classes and a lot of buckling down, Abood and I felt that we were heading towards a new level of ability, and we began to feel a genuine love for the English language. We were studying with an amazing teacher, and, at the same time, learning a great deal about the meaning of life.

A major influence

Mr. Hassan influenced my life in many ways. One of the sad periods of those days that I remember vividly was in 2015 when my father married a second wife. I was discouraged enough by that occurrence to go through a period of self-destruction, all of which affected me as a person and student. I was unable to focus during Mr. Hassan's classes. He was concerned that I was depressed, and at some point, he called me in to talk in private for the purpose of knowing why I had become so distracted. I disclosed to him everything in order to feel some emotional relief. He was the main motivation I had at that phase of my life, and I overcame what I had been unable to before then. I resolved to be the former organized and happy Abdallah, and I began to see everything with a new purpose after my meeting with him.

In the very next class, I recall vividly when he asked Abood to talk in private, and when I saw that Abood was confused, I asked to join their conversation. I saw how Mr. Hassan was empowering Abood and giving him advice about the major Abood ought to choose for his future studies. At that moment, I recognized that we had a teacher who was also like a father. Abood and I had someone who worried about us, someone who considered us to be good individuals and who wished to see us focused and with determination to succeed. I thought then about reaching a time in my life when we could realize his expectations for us.

Good news for my friend

From my own experience, I knew that Abood was a hard worker, and when he got the confirmation email selecting him as a candidate for a scholarship in Turkey, he sent me a message asking me to guess what he might be hiding from me. I assumed that he had been chosen for the scholarship. I asked every one of my companions to drop by the cafeteria, and when Abood entered, we felt his eyes were holding a surprise. He passed slowly through the café, delighted with such an unexpected gathering, and exclaimed, “I got it, yay, I got it!” Our voices erupted in cheering. Abood and everyone in the café was staring at us. Moments later we realized the sad fact that we would have to go on without him. He had become an esteemed friend.

I believe that every phase of life has a meaning. While preparing for the Access graduation ceremony, Abood looked around the stage that was crowded with graduates, and slapped me on my neck and whispered to me, “Abdallah, we’re going to live everything we learnt in Access all through our lives.” I knew that he was referring to the many lessons Mr. Hassan had taught us. I pray that the distance between us gets shorter so we can meet once more. I hope we can meet, not just so I could hug him, nor even to reveal to him how much I had missed him, but to slap him on his neck and disclose to him that his words have been playing out as he expected. We were beginning to live what we had learned from Mr. Hassan.

My friend Abood, who is now in Turkey

The moment when we said good-bye that day at the Rafah crossing, before he traveled to the Egyptian side, he stopped in front of all of us and cried. He said he was afraid that he would not satisfy his fantasies with this journey. I hugged him, asking him not to feel stressed, since we were glad for him and completely trusted in his brilliant mind. Deep inside I felt disheartened, but I knew that our friendship would never end, and so I accepted the reality of his leaving.

Never-ending friendships

Regardless of having a completely new life in Turkey and studying the major he had consistently been longing for, Abood wrote to me that he is troubled and apprehensive that he will never have a chance to reunite with his family and friends, and he is concerned by the challenges he has as an outsider there. I can understand that it is not so easy to begin a new life, and I cannot deny that I was saddened by his leaving.

I still persist in my desire to leave Gaza at the first opportunity after I have my bachelor’s degree and to reunite with Abood. Even though one is deeply sad when the people one loves the most leave us, this story of two friendships will never end: one that was between me and a fellow student who has been away from my eyes but is always deep inside my heart; the other, between me and a teacher who was like a father. Both are my friends for life.


Posted: December 8, 2020

Mentor: Farrell Brody

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