I Extend My Hand to Light the Candles of Hope
By Jamil Qassas, Speaker for Combatants for Peace
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I’m not sure how I should start writing this message. I rarely write and I don’t like writing. I usually share spontaneously words from the heart, and I’m writing now words from the heart. I write these words while holding back my tears of pain from the horror of what I hear and see. I would love to share with you a moment of mixed feelings of fear of the future. We are going through the most difficult days, full of bloodshed, hatred, revenge, and a glimpse of hope. Yes, there is a glimpse of hope. I send you hugs, and I sympathize with you. Your sadness is my sadness, and your pain is my pain, and we also share hope, whether it is glowing or just a candle flame. My dear partners, the Palestinians have previously gone through four wars on Gaza, and today we are witnessing the fifth. Gaza was destroyed. Thousands of victims and tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands were wounded. We have always seen support and compassion from you, as well as condemnation and refusal of violence, through protesting in the streets and in the squares against war. We, Palestinians, covered our wounds, buried our loved ones, and stood together side by side to raise our voices loudly. We are against wars. We fight together for freedom and a better future for all of us.
When I came to Tel Aviv in the 2014 Gaza war, there were approximately 5,000 people killed because of the bombing by airstrikes. I stood tall next to my partners and raised my voice as loudly as possible and said that neither V-16 planes nor heavy tanks will build peace. Television stations were broadcasting my words everywhere in Ramallah and in the Dheisheh camp, our beloved camp. I stood tall and proud with full belief that my choice was the right one. My choice is to end wars. Today, I look at you and I see in your faces that the option of peace has become shaky. The partnership option is not clear. I need you to be strong, to heal the wounds and stand up so that we can continue this journey to finish what we started. We have lost our loved ones, but we will not lose our sanity. We will not lose our humanity. We will not lose hope.
I have seen many peace activists on social media sharing that they are on their way to join the army. I do not want to believe this. There is no justification for a person who has believed in an idea for years and years to lose hope in a moment of anger. I told you that I was in the same position. The pain that we both share as Palestinians and Israelis is the pain of humanity.
I am a strong man, and everyone knows me, but I am currently shedding tears, and I do not remember crying except a few times, including when my brother Nasser was martyred. The war will end, and this is inevitable. Whatever the results, there will be another tomorrow. I don’t know how to look at you when I know that some of you answered the call of war, the call of hatred. My dear partners, I do not belittle the event, but we must be strong with strong faith. Faith is needed not only on ordinary days. Faith is to go against the flow, to see hope and run towards it. At the end of my message, I just want to say that I need you, and I know that you need me. I extend my hand to light the candles of hope. Let us destroy the flames of hatred, and raise our voices that war is not our choice. I love you all without exception.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jamil is a speaker for Combatants for Peace. “I first met Combatants for Peace during the Israeli-Palestinian joint Memorial Ceremony. I was amazed to see and hear what they were doing. I soon joined the movement and became an activist. Today I continue to fight for the freedom of my people, but I do so peacefully. In Combatants for Peace we work together, Palestinians and Israelis, for justice, peace and equality.” Read more of Jamil’s story here.