“Hind, do you know that chairs were invented so you can sit on them, rather than on my lap?”
Dad always tried to persuade me to sit on the chair beside him instead of in his lap, and I never did. I was attached to my dad; I would even go to work with him. I was his only daughter among nine children; I was his pampered girl.
But then we were forced to be apart for a long time. Dad left Gaza in June 2007, when clashes erupted between the two political parties, Hamas and Fatah, for control of Gaza. My eight brothers, Mom and I stayed behind, and then closed borders prevented us from seeing him for five years.
In the summer of 2012, coming up to my senior year of high school, a miracle happened. We had the opportunity to leave Gaza and join Dad in the UAE. I felt numb the moment I saw my father; I didn’t believe he was in front of me. I finally hugged him, touched his hands, looked into his eyes. I felt so safe to be back in my dad’s arms.
The UAE was heaven compared to Gaza. We had a new house, attended a new school, made new friends…began a new life. Unfortunately, we had to live in a city other than where Dad worked, to keep costs down. We only saw Dad on weekends, and I never got enough of him.
Then everything changed again on Friday, December 28. The whole family was gathered in front of the TV drinking tea. Suddenly Dad stood up, coughed and fell to the floor. I remember how his eyes rolled and his face turned red. How my mom froze in the corner, crying and watching my dad. How my brothers and I screamed, “Dad, Dad!”
Suddenly, he opened his eyes. He stood up, denied he wasn’t well. He got ready to go back to his city, taking his laundry and food for the week. He hugged me tight. I had a feeling this was our last hug; I could feel my heart breaking into pieces. He whispered, “Take good care of yourself my darling. I’ll always be proud of you.” I didn’t understand why he said this. He was saying goodbye.
I didn’t sleep that night. I cried the whole night and fell asleep at 7:30 a.m.
Mom woke me at 11 that morning: "Hind, your dad isn’t answering his phone. Hind, your dad never does this." At that moment, I was sure my dad was no longer alive.
Seven hours later, we received the news. Dad had passed away from a sudden heart attack. The 29th of December, 2012, was the darkest day of my life. I lost my father, I lost my strength, I lost my life.
I never imagined myself carrying on without him, but I couldn’t even shed a tear. My brothers and Mom were all in shock. Mom would cry, while my brothers didn’t even talk. I updated Facebook to let the rest of our family in Gaza know. Everyone started to call; they couldn’t believe my father had died. Our uncles said we had to come back to Gaza.
We knew we were going back to a form of hell. Back to the blockade and 12-hour electricity cuts. Back to a place where we might die any second. We had no other choice; we had to give up our life there and move back to Gaza.
I had always dreamt of being a TV broadcaster or a correspondent for the BBC, but I sacrificed my dreams to stay beside my mom in Gaza. I knew I helped her be strong. I received a scholarship to study business administration at the Islamic University of Gaza and began attending school.
It was my Dad’s dream to see me successful. He always wanted me to be a strong girl who nothing could break. When Dad passed away, he took my dreams with him. But now I’m working hard to make them happen, to make him proud of me. I’ll confront all challenges and I’ll become the person I want to be.
In the four years since Dad’s death, I’ve become a very resilient person. I guess I saw the dark side of life and I wanted to bring back the light. I started working on the things I’m passionate about. I joined a volunteering team that helps people all around Gaza, including distributing wheelchairs to disabled children. I started taking courses to become a TV correspondent. I want to show the truth we are living to the world, and that’s why I joined We Are Not Numbers.
Strength comes from hardship. You might think you can’t make your dreams come true, but nothing can truly break you. I’ve stopped dreaming of leaving Gaza, because I’m sure one day I can help make this place better. Despite the difficulties we face daily, I won’t give up on my country. I’ll spread the message of love, strength, hope and tolerance for which my country stands.
Destiny takes you to a path you can’t know.
Please my destiny, take me to the path of which I dream.
Please my destiny, make my dreams come true.
Posted May 24, 2016
Mentor: Hannah Ballard