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

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

Gone in an instant

Abdalrahim Abuwarda | 13-09-2015

Football is a popular sport in Gaza (photo courtesy of the Rachel Corrie Foundation)

Standing behind the fence of the playground, gazing at his friends with eyes close to tears, Basheer is listening to his friends while watching them from afar. “Pass me the ball. HEY. HEY. Go. Go. Face that attack. No. No. He is going to score a goal… Goal! Goal! Goal! Yes, we did it!” He conceals himself from his friends because he does not want them to notice his presence. He knows if they see his pallid face, they will immediately stop playing.

His right hand grips the fence. Between his hand and the fence, he imagines a tiny, mournful goldfinch, trapped and unable to fly. But there is no bird, only his captive hope and longing for freedom, desperate, like the bird, to escape to the far horizon. Seeing his friends playing soccer brings back memories of when he was still able to play like the others.  A year and a few days have passed since the last time he played with them.

A year ago, the sky was partly filled with some light clouds. The fresh morning breezes were enough to lift anybody’s spirits. As usual, Basheer was eager to play football (soccer). He knocked on his friends’ doors, calling out to them to join him, and they all readily agreed. The group headed to an open area that was closed off to cars. It was not only their fiedld, but also their stadium, since people were watching when they started to play. Basheer kicked the ball off, and the game was underway. Ten minutes passed without any goal.  After a few more minutes, the score was still nil-nil. The match began to be more exciting when Basheer moved toward the goalkeeper. He kicked the ball with his right leg to score the first goal of the match. “It’s a goal!!! Yes, it is.” he shouted joyfully. “Goal!”

Suddenly, a huge crashing sound echoed around them, enough to drown out Basheer’s happy shouts.  They knew right away that it was a bomb attack. Everyone panicked, including the goal scorer. Everybody fell to the ground in terror, frozen like statues. Then a voice cut through the eerie silence. “The bombing is over in the next town. We’re OK here.” It was Basheer’s voice. He wanted to continue the game, because he had scored one goal and wanted more. “Yes, he’s right. Let’s play,” the rest of the group murmured hesitantly. Tentatively, they started to play again. However, the moment they returned to play, another terrifying sound was heard. “Come on, guys. Let’s…” Basheer’s voice trailed away.  He could see only a gray mist and heard an agonizing buzzing in his ears.

A bombed football field (Photo by Mohammed Asad/Middle East Eye)

When Basheer awoke the next morning, he was in the hospital. He was relieved to discover he was still alive, but devastated when he saw his right leg had been amputated, the leg with which he had kicked the final goal in that last match, the leg that would never score again. He knew his soccer-playing days were over. This fact was devastating for him, since soccer was virtually his entire life. All his dreams of playing for at least a local team had just gone up in smoke.

Now, Basheer can do no more than gaze at his friends from afar. His tears stream down his pale cheeks. He understands that if he comes closer, his friends will see him and stop their fun, out of sensitivity to his feelings of distress. So, since the day of his injury, he has never allowed them to see him when they play.

Suddenly, his mobile phone is ringing.  He ignores it, but it keeps ringing.  Finally, he checks it. A broad smile lights up his face. Color returns to his cheeks and his eyes wet with tears, shining with happiness. Is a glimmer of hope awakening inside him? Could the message on his mobile phone fulfil his dreams?

The message, sent by his brother, reads, “Great news! The crossing to Egypt will open tomorrow morning. I’ve arranged everything for you. You can go to Egypt to have your artificial leg fitted there.” Now he leaves the fence, letting the goldfinch fly away to freedom, bearing his hopes and dreams on its wings.

Author’s note: This story is based on real events with some slight changes. More than 11,000 Gazans were injured in the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, and Basheer (not his real name) was not the only boy who lost a limb; many are suffering now. Basheer is not a number; neither are any of the people of Gaza. 

Mentor: Keith Jacobsen
Posted September 14, 2015

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