The Palestine Entries: 99-year prison term for being Palestinian

// Entry #23

His mother remembers the exact date: April 28, 2002. He was only 20 years old when Israel’s armed forces captured and arrested him, then sent him to an Israeli prison where to this day, he has yet to be formally indicted with a crime.

Hussain Mustafa Al-Loh missed out on his prime teenage years. His father was getting too old and too ill to work so in 1997, Hussain left school and joined the Palestinian Authority at age 15. According to his mother and youngest brother, he joined it for the paycheck, not to fight. For the next five years, he fed his family from his own hands. His other brothers were not yet ready for work.

Hussain’s work ethic propelled him up the ranks and by 1999, he was serving as one of Yasser Arafat’s personal body guards. Stationed in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Hussain was forced to travel through multiple Israeli checkpoints to reach Gaza City whenever he was able to visit family. He had been through the crossings and checkpoints multiple times over the years but in 2002, Israeli soldiers captured him in a seemingly arbitrary operation at the Erez Crossing and transported him to the maximum security Nafha Prison, notorious for having among the worst conditions in the Israeli prison system. [Read more...]

The Palestine Entries: Bless this community

// Entry #2, Day -1

It’s a common cultural practice to visit an individual or family before it embarks on any long travels. These visits generally involve hours of well-wishing, reminiscing on past experiences, and passing along relevant advice all over a tray of minty tea and cake slices. But this round of community support is unique in that it has also taken into account the welfare and livelihood of the people we hope to visit.

The oppressive nature of the occupation oftentimes encourages certain outlets to sensationalize Palestinian suffering as a collective ‘beg’ for survival. This isn’t the case at all. Palestinians are strong-willed and innovative people; they do not constitute a charity case. But keep in mind that the Gaza Strip is still under siege. Even the most trivial items aren’t allowed through the Erez checkpoint, with canned fruit and chocolate being just two of many. Therefore, one of our many roles as socially-conscientious human beings is to challenge the unjust purpose of this siege. The community here in Chicago has clearly embraced this role.

Here is a brief selection of some of the items people have requested we take with us:

The Mixed-Up Chameleon

I was three years old when the famous book The Very Hungry Caterpillar was published and I remember it being read to me by my daycare counselors. The Mixed-Up Chameleon is another childhood masterpiece. If you were born in the 1990s, this children’s book most likely played a critical role in your understanding of what chameleons do. The individual who donated this book requested that it be put into an elementary school library so that other children may experience the joys and wisdom of this book.

[Read more...]

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