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Friday, January 12, 2007

The Boy Who Cannot Draw Flowers

Unfortunately for some reason, the pictures will not transfer from the article when I post it here. You can read the original article here and see their art. Much of what I post here on my blog has to do with politics. There is an underlying reason that I discuss politics, and that is, what affect do the politics of the world have on the children. What would you do if your child did not first draw flowers, but instead drew pictures of sorrow and death? As an American, I ask my fellow Americans to understand that the foreign policy that we practice in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has the deepest affect on the children. Since 2000, the IOF has been directly responsible for the deaths of some 869 Palestinian children. Please read carefully the article below, read what these Palestinian youth have to say to us. Then ask yourselves, what can we do to give them the gift of drawing flowers.

The boy who cannot draw flowers
Maria Mifsud 11 January 2007
Mahmoud and Suhein: two Palestinians of 17 years of age talk to about the situation in Palestine, their dreams, hopes and future.

On a sunny perfect Maltese Saturday afternoon, I meet Mahmoud and Suhein from Palestine. They are visiting our Island whilst participating in a seminar organised by Euro–Med Movement Malta at The Fortina Spa Resort. It was not my intention to interview them but when Mahmoud showed me his very simple black scrap book full of drawings depicting his thoughts and reflections of the suffering of Palestinians, the three of us were completely lost in conversation. I was impressed by Mahmoud’s talent, potential and artistic skills. He can literally finish a drawing to perfection in only ten minutes. His philosophy of life intrigued me.

“I cannot draw flowers and nice things. All that I see around me is suffering, pain and sadness. It is very ugly to live in a refugee camp; the streets are so narrow; sort of like this.”He opened both hands to show me the meaning of narrow. I concluded that it is really very narrow. “It is also too crowded.” The refugee camp in question is Khan Yunis and is situated twenty five kilometers south of Gaza with a population of 86,000 people. It is thought to be one of the densest places on earth.

‘When shooting starts we slide under benches’

“I want to show through my paintings to the whole world what our life is like. To readers I appeal: Please learn about our problems. Help us to gain independence, to build our life. We are all humans. We have the same brains, body and heart. All the same and we want to be altogether in this world. Really it is the best thing.”

“I attend a school that is run by the United Nations. It is very near the Israeli settlements.”(He is talking about the settlements that were disengaged from Gaza after a direct order from the previous Israeli premiere Ariel Sharon). “Our lessons are spent more often than not talking about killings, shootings, checkpoints. Sometimes we have to slide down under the benches because when shootings occur they would be so near that we feel we must protect our selves.”

Suhein joins him too. “I want us to have a recognised country first of all. I want to live in comfort, some life without problems or other difficulties. No shooting and deaths.” This girl is a very good singer with her favourite band being Backstreet Boys. Although her background is much better than that of Mahmoud’s and does not live in a refugee camp she confides: “My uncle lives in the States and I am planning to reach him so that I can study music. Schools in Gaza are not good and we want to have a good education.”

A gift from Allah

Mahmoud explains that he started painting when he was just five. “This is a gift from Allah. I wish to go and study art in a good school abroad but my family cannot afford it. Moreover, I love my mother so much I couldn’t bear to leave her behind. In a refugee camp we cannot live a happy life.”

Back to his paintings, which are all so perfect and very easy to understand his message that comes out sincerely from his heart. I liked one that showed a portrait of a very beautiful girl. He named it “Love. She is my dream girl and I want her with long hair. I will give it you so that you think of me.” I was flattered by this kind gesture because he looked so attached to his paintings and he had to tear the page from his book in order to be able to give it to me. I will surely think of him!At this point I asked him if he wishes to marry and have a family. “Yes, but without a job, salary, education. What can I offer?” While reflecting on the state of life in Gaza.

Although only 17 years of age, Mahmoud already suffered a very harsh and personal tragedy. A true harrowing experience that will haunt him forever. In fact, there were moments when I felt that I was talking to a thirty year old. He is so much mature, straight forward and capable of offering solutions.

He shot him in front of my eyes

“We were just fifteen when my friend and I were returning back from school. The Israeli soldiers shot him in front of my eyes. In a minute they killed him. I still remember him all covered in his own blood. I carried his coffin at the funeral.”

Funerals in Palestine are a manifestation of huge desperation, frustration, anger and deep sadness. We see these events on the media where a martyr in the coffin would be exposed to everyone before burial. Women would be crying their hearts out and carrying photos of their loved ones; being a husband or a son. So I understood what Mahmoud was trying to say. He carried his coffin because he was his best friend and felt responsible as he was present when his friend was shot to death. It is indeed a burden to live with such memories of the past. I felt shaking listening to him and my question concerning forgiveness sounded inappropriate. Deep down I was consumed with guilt because I was expecting a lot from this kid. I felt a complete idiot. For heaven’s sake it was too soon expecting him to forgive! Time has to take it’s course.

“Frankly I cannot forget. He was my best friend from the moment that we were born and we were always together. I will never ever have a friend like him and I still miss him so much. I couldn’t cry, eat, talk or sleep properly for months.”The look in his eyes now was heartbreaking. While he was sharing this with me I could feel his pain is still so fresh and evident. These people need a lot of emotional support and I believe that words are not enough. Sometimes a warm hug or an embrace can really do miracles. Nothing should be taken for granted and we should appreciate every single second of this life. Mahmoud made me realise that we must love each other more and not be afraid to show our feelings. This is part of being human.

His paintings to the world

“Death is never ever a solution. Here in Malta I met Israeli youths. Back home we meet only Israeli soldiers. Not all of them are killers. Some of them really love us and want peace. They even understand that it is a legal right for us to have a Palestinian state. It hurts when I realise that people do not know about Palestine and our situation. I hope that my paintings are shown throughout the world.”

Mahmoud, I promised you that they will.

These are from Mahmoud…. with loads of love…..

"Look Into My Eyes"

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