Wherever pain aches, hope can flourish, and whenever the well of life speaks louder than bombings, then ambitions and aspirations will certainly dictate our destiny, Gaza is not an exception. This is what a group of young people believed in to launch a very unique version of the well-known American program, TED, live from the battered Gaza Strip, and more specifically from the Shujaiya neighborhood.
Heba Madi, and her companions spared no effort to have the event completed in the finest form, and in accordance to the strict rules of the program which gives a chance to individuals to spark conversation that can contribute to the core of TED’s mission of promoting “ideas worth spreading”. This can done by creating a TED-like event in their own communities.
“It is really a golden opportunity, and a great honor to have this prestigious and international program in a Palestinian flavor. We wanted to prove to the whole world that people in Gaza deserve to live in dignity, and that they can play role in achieving prosperity to the human communities by their own creative ideas,” Madi said.
The appearance of the Palestinian’s heritage and identify was conspicuous throughout the event, including having the Palestinian’s traditional dresses in the festival. The event was given the name “Shujaiya” to refer to this symbolic place in Gaza which has become a famous landmark in the city.
“We chose “Shujaiya” to substantiate that Gaza should never be attached to the destruction and the pulverized buildings only, but also with innovation, and inspiring ideas as well,” Madi added.
Ten amazing talents were exhibited in the festival which had around 100 attendees, a small group since it was being arranged for the first time in the Palestinian community.
Ahmed Elfaleet is a Palestinian ex-prisoner who was freed in the prisoner swap in 2011. He had a very touching speech in the event, in which he talked about his experience of serving 19 years behind the bars of an Israeli prison after being sentenced to life imprisonment.
“I did not dare to even imagine that I will be able to see sunrise again. I spent years inside stinky cells where I was waiting to take my turn to see the birds from the very narrow cell’s window,” Ahmed said. “We were throwing the small leftovers to them. Birds are able to fly by their wings, while we were about to fossilize inside the Israeli prisons.”
For Ahmed, freedom is the most precious treasure one can ever have, since he was denied it for a considerable duration of his life. He insisted that the prisoners’ issue should be widely discussed as their plight in the Israeli’s jails is very severe one.
Aya Abdurrahman is a Palestinian painter who recently has overcome cancer. She delivered her speech while standing courageously among her drawings. She discussed her bitter journey with her illness which was successfully ended on the 15th of February, when her doctors informed her that she was finally and completely recovered.
“As anyone who might be terribly shaken to know that he or she is inflicted with a dangerous cancer, I was disappointed. Yet, my beloved family members along with my friends ushered me again to life when I thought that I lost it,” Aya said.
She was admitted to be treated in a hospital which is dedicated for people who suffer from cancer where she spent three years. “I was there with young children who were less than eight years and suffer from cancer, they taught me not to surrender, that there is always hope for better days to come. I have never lost hope in their company,” Aya added.
In her speech, Aya tried to correct the misconception about how to behave people who agonize from cancer. She confirmed that they should never be seen as people sentenced to death, or be pitied by strange looks. “They are afraid of death, exactly as everyone is afraid of it, no more, no less,” Aya concluded.
She also asked for help raising funds to medically treat young children who suffer from cancer, and to lift the siege so that all patients can get the advanced medical treatment in overseas hospitals.
Creativity a surest way
Award winning journalist, and the reporter of the Aljazeera channel from Gaza, Tamer Elmisshal, spoke about the factors that pushed him to be a journalist.
Tamer was obsessed with football during his early teenage years. He played in the Palestinian national team when he was 12. “Our first international match was in Norway, and when we travelled, we were not identified on our passports,” Tamer said. As a teenager, he complained that his peers in Norway had not heard about Palestine before.
“When I told them I am from Palestine, they did not know where is it. This drove me nuts, and from that time I promised my land that I will make my best to let everyone believe in its fair cause,” Tamer concluded his speech.
Muhnad Khiri, is a Palestinian activist whose speech shed light upon the importance of the ideas that guarantee the continuity of human societies. As a child, Muhnad learned a lot from the scientific experiment of putting the seeds on the cotton, and wait for them to grow.
“The simple experiment symbolizes how life goes on: seeds are what we have of ideas, to plant it in the proper soil is to have the proper conditions to have your ideas work out, and finally the fruit is what your ideas can bear of positive transformation in your life and the lives of others,” Muhnad said.
Khada Shoman, and her brother amused the audience by singing a very amazing songs. “We are lucky to sing in this cheerful atmosphere, art is always there to defend our strife,” Khada said.
Refaat Alareer, is an assistant professor at the Islamic University of Gaza, who co-edited the anthology Gaza Writes Back. Refaat discussed the importance of the literary works to document the Palestinian determination to free their land. “When we keep our experiences in a short story form, we will definitely preserve it to the world, and our generations which are yet to come,” Refaat said.