One, two, three, four… they just kept passing by me at the Great Return March. It was the eighth Friday of the protest and I didn't anticipate seeing anything new. But to my simultaneous awe and dismay, I did. The number of (mostly) young men on crutches among the crowd was noticeable. One word came to my mind: invincible.
As I watched these youths and young adults take little steps while they supported themselves on one crutch, some on two, I felt boggled. What kind of stamina do these men have? As I sat in the big tent about 500 meters from the barbed-wire fence separating me from my occupied country, I contemplated what my honorable, freedom-seeking people have been doing for the past eight weeks. Every Friday, we have headed to the encampments to demand our right to live in dignity, to export, to receive visitors, to move freely in and out of the big prison in which we’ve been illegally caged for the past 12 years, to see our children grow up in a healthy environment with clean water and electricity, to return to the homes from which many were forcefully evicted in 1948.
In addition to the waves of people on crutches, I also saw many amputees—even a few who lost both legs, and yet still returned. I couldn’t help staring into their faces marshaled all of their strength to move themselves down the dirt path. One young man in particular caught my eye as he made his way back from the fence. His expression spoke both of despair and determination to keep coming back.
Will I see more of them next Friday? I thought. The number of amputees as of today stands at 32. There are no totals for those who cannot walk without crutches, but as of May 19, 4,453 protesters have been shot in the legs. Their lives have changed forever with one calculated, meticulous shot by an Israeli sniper.
What I can say for sure is that even if they have lost their limbs, they will never lose their belief in our right to demand a life of freedom and dignity, just as humans anywhere deserve. What would that right be worth to you?