On Oct. 14, 2023, the WANN family lost Yousef Maher Dawas. He was killed by an Israeli missile strike on his family’s home in the northern town of Beit Lahia. Several other members of his family were also killed.
May Yousef and his family rest in peace.
Yousef was studying to be a psychoanalyst. In January 2023, Yousef published an essay at the WANN website, Who will pay for the 20 years we lost? In this essay, he recounts the destruction of his family’s orchard by an Israeli missile strike in May 2022. The orchard trees produced olives, oranges, clementines, loquat, guavas, lemons and pomegranates, and its loss “destroyed an important piece of our past. Our family’s history. Our heritage.”
Yousef took some solace in the hope of replanting. WANNers take some solace in the knowledge that Youself is planted in our hearts forever.
Youself was a contributing writer for Palestine Chronicle, which also published a tribute to him. This article includes a video in which the young man talks about his desire to visit other cities in Palestine “more than Paris or the Maldives Islands.” Yousef’s last article for Palestine Chronicle is Kidney Transplant and Rebirth: A Palestinian Love Story.
Yousef’s colleagues have contributed the following tributes.
I want to talk about Yousef, I want hours to talk about him—even hours would not be enough. Yousef was one of the most helpful guys, not only with We Are Not Numbers, but generally. All the people who met him loved him! Because he was funny, he was a joyful guy.
He used to talk about positive things—about his dreams of traveling, his love of nature. He was always arranging for us to hang out together. He loved to be with people, with journalists. He was a contribute to WANN, Palestine Deep Dive, and Palestine Chronicle. Before the war he was the volunteer cameraman of WANN. He loved photography and he used to take good photos for us on the team.
On the first days of the attacks on Gaza, he sent me messages asking if I could join him to go to document all of the massacres that happened in Gaza. But I told him I wouldn’t go, because they attack journalists. So if I want to be honest, Yousef was one of the most sensitive, helpful and interesting guys I’ve ever met in my life.
My beloved Yousef, Joe as he used to be named, or my therapist as I [was] accustomed to call him. My way to the university was full of our talks about his cats and his favorite author, Ahlam Mosteghanemi.
He was a great supporter to me besides a study partner during all the exams period.
Rahaf Abu Zarifa
I’ve known Yousef for two years now, from WANN and a lot of other subactivities.
A great guy with a lot of dreams. He always supported my skills in photography, in writing, which he was passionate about too.
We were working together on a photography project the last time I saw him. Wednesday, 20th of September. This is the second day of him not being a part of this earth. May he rest in peace.
My friendship with Yousef warmed my heart in a way that was like the sun’s final kiss to the sea. He resembled the stars in the sky, embellishing my darkness. He left me without saying goodbye. Later, in heaven, I will see you.
I’ve known Yousef for the past two years, and his memory will forever be etched in my heart. A radiant smile was his constant companion, a reflection of his kind, understanding, and loving nature. Yousef was not just a friend; he was a beacon of light, a selfless soul who poured his heart into caring for his friends and community.
He was not only kind but remarkably [full of] initiative, always the first to lend a hand, the first to champion a cause, and the first to sacrifice for the well-being of his community. Yousef’s dedication was unwavering, and his commitment to his people was an inspiration to us all.
The Israeli air strike buried his smile under the rubbles of his house. Recollections of our long walks together after our “We Are Not Numbers” classes flood my thoughts, my heart racing and hands trembling with sorrow. We shared stories, dreams, and aspirations on those walks.
I remember one day when we were out with our group of friends, and I arrived a little late. Spotting an empty chair beside Yousef, I immediately relocated, and when asked why, I simply replied, “Because he’s Yousef.” He was this friend who would understand the hints without saying anything. Today, Yousef may be a martyr, but his legacy lives on in our hearts.
Dear Yousef, you may not be present with us today, but I believe you’ve found peace in a better place. Your spirit continues to inspire us, and your memory will forever serve as a guiding light, a reminder of the profound impact one person can have on the world.
Kate Casa (mentor)
It was such an honor to work with Yousef. He was motivated and open-minded. Like all of the young WANN writers I have worked with, he was anxious to tell his stories so that we in the West could better understand their lives in Gaza. These efforts to make their stories fit our westernized versions of how a narrative should read can sometimes feel like ongoing colonization. It’s difficult for me to imagine writing in a different language, with a different set of rules and structures, especially when it is about something so personal as life under occupation. But Yousef willingly and enthusiastically took this on.
Nick Appleyard (mentor)
He was such a bright and positive young man! It was a pleasure to work with him on his essay – I won’t ever forget that great big smile.