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

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

One year later: Ayman is not a number

Ahmed Alnaouq | 18-07-2015

At the beginning of last summer, we were preparing for my brother Ayman’s wedding. The atmosphere was full of pleasure and anticipation; my brother was getting married! I remember a particular day, the 10th of June, when we were painting the walls of his small but beautiful flat. He looked at my mother, whose eyes were sparkling with happiness, and said, “Oh Mom, I can’t wait to see you at my wedding wearing your beautiful dress.”

The wedding was to take place in June 2015. But one month later, on July 8, something else happened instead. Israel launched its now infamous assault, and it was worse than we expected. It was bloody, cruel and, for me, heartbreaking. We are used to living through wars and massacres, but this time was completely different; it took my brother away.

One year has passed, but I still remember every single special thing Ayman added to my life.

The first duck Ayman purchased

I still remember how he used to give me a soft punch on the shoulder every time he greeted me. I would tease him back, saying, “Your ducks are hungry. Feed them or they’re going to die of starvation.”  (Ayman bought 10 ducks to raise as food and to sell, and before we knew, it they had multiplied to more than 50.) “I wonder if would you be so kind and feed them yourself, Ahmed?” he would reply. (My father has continued to care for Ayman’s ducks, but they are now down to seven.)

I still remember that after school, we would talk about our schedules and what happened in class. He told me about the funny skits he acted in (he was a kind of a good actor), and I shared with him the hard mathematical equations I had solved. I was given extra points for my cleverness in math and he was honored on the last day of the school year in a big ceremony for his ability to recite the Koran.

I still remember all his funny stories and how I would laugh so much at them. One time, he recounted to me his math teacher’s tall tales of adventurous journeys into Israel; the teacher claimed he had jumped over the border fence and beat a soldier, but ultimately did not kill him because the soldier begged and cried. We didn’t look down on the teacher for fabricating the story, because his whole family was killed in the war of 2008; he couldn’t do anything after that to release his stress but make up stories.

I still remember Ayman’s tales of the hereafter and the life he aspired to have in heaven. I was so inspired by his description. I noticed his eyes every time he talked about it; they would open wide, causing me to intently focus on what he was saying.

I still remember his great ability to balance a stick on his nose and walk with it for a long time without it falling. Wherever we went, everybody would call out to Ayman to show off his trick. Many tried to imitate him, including me, but we all failed.

I still remember his ability to compose a song on the spot. He often sang songs that mocked me and our six other younger siblings, in a loving way. In spite of being teased, we were thrilled every time he did that. “Oh, Ayman, please sing that again, please,” we all used to repeatedly ask.

I still remember all his friends: the funny one, Mosa, who used to tell jokes whenever he saw me; the mean one, Nader, who tattled to my father that Ayman had gone too far out into the sea (we swam in the sea all the time); the naughty one, Khaled, who chased girls at school; and the dangerous one, Basem, who threw stones at Israeli vehicles before the withdrawal from Gaza (he was shot and injured the last time he threw a stone). Then there was Belal, who defies easy description, because he was all of them rolled together—Ayman’s best friend for a reason. (Read about Belal's death, in a post written by his cousin, also a We Are Not Numbers writer.) They were killed at the same time.

Ayman aspired to be an acomplished accountant

I still remember when my oldest sister got divorced. Ayman surprised us with deserts such as ice cream with chocolate, to soften the blow and to numb some of our pain. My sister still remembers this, too, and every time she does, she bursts out crying, “I do really miss you, Ayman.”

I still remember how, when I was young and before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, I would badger Ayman to take me to the nearest settlement, Kfar Daroom, to watch the tanks and maybe see the soldiers from a distance. He didn’t want to take me, but finally he relented. When we got close and saw a tank approaching, I ran away, horrified, and hid behind a big tree. “Are you happy now?” Ayman demanded furiously. “I told you many times they can kill you so easily. They do not differentiate between kids and fighters!”

I still remember the chess contests between us and our multiplayer computer games:Age of Empires, Commandos, Star Craft and Counter Strike. I never won any of them. During the school year we would look forward to the summer holiday when we could dedicate ourselves full time to Age of Empire!

I still remember that Ayman always won the school competition for reciting passages from the Holy Koran from memory. He would come home afterward, proud and happy, and share pieces of a chocolate bar he had won as prize. Ayman memorized the whole Koran by heart at a very young age. He also would recite the poems written by the great Palestinian Tameem Albarghoti, and the Egyptian Hesham Aljakh.

One year after his murder, on July 19, 2014, I still remember Ayman as if he were still alive. I remember his dreams and aspirations: He planned to be the most accomplished accountant and establish his own business that would finance an orphan-care organization.

And I still remember what he used to tell his friends about me: He always believed in me and had faith that I would make a difference in this unfair world. And today, despite my heavy burden of sorrow, I can tell that I am even stronger and capable of living up to his high expectations. I believe I can do so through We Are Not Numbers.

I really believed in him and supported his decision to join the military brigades, but I won’t follow his exact steps. (To read more about why and how he made that decsion, read my earlier post.) I will fight on in my own way: I will fight with words. With my words I will show the truth of the Israeli killing machine. I will show the world the life, the hope and the beauty of the Gazan people who will never give up their pride, independence and bravery.



Posted: July 18, 2015

Mentor: Catherine Baker

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