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‘Onion boy’ Mohammed Ayyash dreams of a playground, just like every other kid

Israel/Palestine
on 21 Comments

A picture of a 9-year-old boy in the Gaza Strip went viral immediately after it was posted on March 30. Shared on social media the first day of the Gaza Strip’s Great Return March, a six-week protest along the Israeli border calling for an end to the disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people, it has fast become a symbol of the multigenerational spirit of the protest.

The now iconic photo shows Mohammed Ayyash crouched on the ground, as if ready to defend his people at a moment’s notice, wearing a mask with an onion stalk slipped inside to protect against Israel’s teargas bombs. The mask and the smell of the onion actually work, but they also are evocative symbols of a people forced to counter the advanced weapons of the eighth largest arms exporter in the world with homemade inventions.

Just who is this Mohammed Ayyash, who has become social media and TV sensation at such a young age? He, his two brothers, two sisters and parents live in central Gaza’s Deir Al-Balah. His youngest sister was born just three days after the protest.

Mohammed and his new baby sister, Ahed Tamimi

“I named her Ahed Tamimi. I wanted her to have Ahed’s distinguished beauty and strong personality,” says Mohammed’s mother, Reham. That seems fitting, since, for Palestinians, Mohammed has become a sign of defiance, just like Ahed Tamimi became a symbol of resistance after she was imprisoned for slapping an Israeli soldier who had intruded onto her family’s property.

When Mohammed’s father, Sa’d Aldeen, asked his son what he would say to the Israeli soldiers if he got close enough, the boy answered in the Hebrew his dad learned in Israeli jail: “Anahno lo mefakhdim memkhem (We are not afraid of you).”

The Ayyash family represents the Gaza population today in another important way: They can barely get by. Sa’d supports the family on a disability pension from the government, due to the injury he received to his leg after being shot by Israeli soldiers during the First Intifada. He receives 1,100 shekels (about $314) a month, but must spend 700 just for rent.

Mohammed with another protester at the April 6 march, shouting at the soldiers

When asked how she felt about her youngest son participating in a march that has become so deadly (32 protesters have been killed to date and more than 1,450 injured), Reham says she refused her family members’ attendance at the beginning, fearing she would lose one of them.  But at the same time, she admits, she feels their participation is a national duty. And she encourages other mothers to let their children go to the march encampments so they will learn about their history.

As for Mohammed’s father, Sa’d, he believes it’s his duty to teach Mohammed to remember Palestine and demand his rights in a civilized, peaceful way. “In this way, we defy the Israeli thinking that the elderly Palestinians will die and the young will forget.”

And Mohammed?  He simply says he loves his homeland, Palestine, and wants to play a role in fighting for his people’s rights. He wishes his family could someday return to Yafa – the city from which their ancestors were forced to leave. That wish may seem impossible fulfill, but not for Mohammed.

“He is enthusiastic about going to the border every day because he naively thinks the Israeli occupation consists only of the soldiers he sees standing on the sand barriers in front of the border. And that Yafa is just behind those sand barriers,” Reham says sadly. “Thus, he thinks he only needs to shout loudly at the soldiers. For him, it’s as simple as that!”

When asked what he wants in his future, Mohammed says with a wide, bright smile, “I want to have my own playground so I can play football and basketball the whole day. I want it to be named after my new nickname, Abu Basala (the kid with an onion in Arabic).” He thinks a moment and then adds, “I also wish we could have a big, comfortable house with everything I need, including my own iPad.”

He is, after all, like all children everywhere.

A version of this article was first published by We Are Not Numbers on April 11, 2018.

About Asmaa Tayeh

Asmara Tayeh is an English literature student at Gaza's Al-Azhar University. She was born in Gaza and lives in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.

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21 Responses

  1. Jackdaw
    Jackdaw
    April 15, 2018, 2:27 am

    Sicko Hamas sends 7 year out to die.
    http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Hamas-sent-7-year-old-girl-across-border-fence-547528

    Asmaa is so proud of Hamas, and Mondoweiss cult turns a blind eye.

    • annie
      annie
      April 15, 2018, 4:22 am

      jack, relax. your over 2 week old “breaking” jpost article claims “A seven-year-old Palestinian girl was sent by Hamas across the fence, opposite IDF soldiers.” even they didn’t claim she was sent there to die. this is the same idf who claims hamas organized the protests (not true). how do you know this is not just a made up story or one of a little girl walking towards the border? how do you, or how does the idf know, hamas “sent” her? your article is old news hasbara. and then you add on to it by saying “to die”. massive #fail. if this had been true there would have been an update on it or photos or something. child walking towards border is not hamas send child to their death. grow up.

    • amigo
      amigo
      April 15, 2018, 3:30 pm

      Jokedaw can speak brilliantly upon any subject , as long as it is a subject he knows nothing about.

      Apologies to Oscar W for plagiarising .

  2. Jackdaw
    Jackdaw
    April 15, 2018, 4:43 am

    You are a full throated supporter of a internationally recognised terror group. You would make a pact with the devil in order to end Israel’s existence.

    But you and Hamas will fail.
    You and your BDS/Mondoweiss cult devotees live in bubble, divorced from the real world.

    Newsflash: The Great March of Return is colossal failure.

    • annie
      annie
      April 15, 2018, 5:53 am

      You are a full throated supporter of a internationally recognised terror group.

      googled operation timber sycamore lately? how about the MEK or PKK? iow, determining who’s a terrorist is highly subjective. the accusation just doesn’t pack the punch it once did. especially when tossed around by agents defending the empire.

      You and your BDS/Mondoweiss cult devotees live in bubble, divorced from the real world.

      so, onion boy scares the bejeebers out of you eh. good to know. yeah, he’s pretty creepy alright. think hamas set him up to it? the onion in that disposable surgical face mask? maybe you could get israel to blockade those surgical masks from gaza. photos like these are dangerous. i wonder where he got it. hamas or maybe one (or both??) of his parents are a doctor or nurse. maybe a hamas nurse? or an aunt or uncle? omg, the possibilities are endless. if this child were not a child but an adult with that onion disposable surgical face mask, just imagine how much more dangerous he might be.

      a hamas onion disposable surgical face mask — horrific.

      you would make a pact with the devil in order to end Israel’s existence.

      does the devil even make pacts with people supporting children bearing onion enhanced disposable surgical face masks? hmm. you might have a point. let me think about that in the morning.

      • Jackdaw
        Jackdaw
        April 15, 2018, 11:45 am

        Nobody but BDS/Mondoweiss Kool aid drinkers believes that Hamas ‘went Gandhi’ overnight.
        https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/15/world/middleeast/israel-hamas-gaza-great-return.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

        I see in Hamas a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the same way I see an Iranian juggernaut dividing and conquering the Arab world.

        Israel cannot afford to live in a bubble. Her vision is crystal clear, and that’s what you can’t stomach; the fact that Israel has outthought, outsmarted and outmaneueverd her enemies again and again.

        No pasaran!

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan
        April 15, 2018, 12:56 pm

        Israel’s strategic genius was to reoccupy Gaza in 1967 and take the discarded people of southern Palestine back onto the balance sheet. True Jewish genius.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        April 15, 2018, 1:39 pm

        ” Israel has outthought, outsmarted and outmaneueverd her enemies again and again.”

        Please don’t go too far smarting and maneuvering. The rest of us Jews are hostage to Israel’s actions.

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 15, 2018, 2:28 pm

        || Jackdaw: … Israel has outthought, outsmarted and outmaneueverd her enemies again and again. … ||

        Factor in America’s generous economic, military, political and financial aid and it’s easy to see why the “Jewish State” will last a Thousand Years!

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan
        April 15, 2018, 3:10 pm

        Israel’s soldiers were surrounded by the Hezb after a failed mission and were only saved by a ceasefire in 2006.

        The idea that the IDF is a great army is nuts.

      • annie
        annie
        April 15, 2018, 4:39 pm

        “onion boy scares the bejeebers out of you eh?”

        jack: Nobody but BDS/Mondoweiss Kool aid drinkers believes that Hamas ‘went Gandhi’ overnight.

        strawman! nice divert tho! onion boy scares the bejeebers out of you eh?

        jack: hamas hamas hamas hamas yada yada hamas yada yada hamas

        onion boy scares the bejeebers out of you eh?

      • Jackdaw
        Jackdaw
        April 16, 2018, 12:32 am

        I’m not afraid of onion boy.
        He’s the sad tool of a sick organization of grown men that stick their fingers in the air and pray to their imaginary spaghetti god.

        Obviously they are doomed to failure.

        That you idolise Hamas, speaks to who you are and your failures as well.

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 16, 2018, 8:22 am

        || Jackdaw: … a sick organization of grown men that stick their fingers in the air and pray to their imaginary spaghetti god.

        Obviously they are doomed to failure. ||

        That’s no way to talk about Zionists and their Thousand Year “Jewish State”.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        April 16, 2018, 3:23 pm

        “I’m not afraid of onion boy.”

        Give ’em the Mao Zedong quote, “Jackdaw”: “like a pig putting scallions in its nose and claiming it is an elephant”

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan
      April 15, 2018, 6:25 am

      BDS scares the bejaysus out of the Zionist elite. Because hasbara is broken.

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan
      April 15, 2018, 6:53 am

      The real world TM is only available in Hebrew becaue the only way to think is in Hebrew. Join Israel and meet real sexy people who in other countries would be nothing, soulless husks in sad bodies.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      April 15, 2018, 8:54 am

      Internationally recognized? Say Jackdaw. How many countries actually recognise Hamas to be a terror group besides your beloved Apartheid terror state? More than 15% UN member states?

      It would also answer the question who really lives in a “bubble, divorced from the real world”, wouldn’t it?

      • Jackdaw
        Jackdaw
        April 15, 2018, 11:39 am

        Internationally recognised by the countries of the free world, those countries that aren’t third-world shitholes forced to suck up to the Saudis for oil their money.

    • zaid
      zaid
      April 16, 2018, 4:20 pm

      No Jackdaw Hamas is not internationally recognized terror group , actually most of the 194 country in this world does not consider it a terror group.

  3. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    April 15, 2018, 7:00 am

    I really do feel sorry for these poor IDF ” soldiers”. They get it from both sides and live in constant fear of having to act like professional soldiers. For example all these rocks being thrown at them. Mind you having said that the rocks thrown by Jewish settlers are not really life threatening and don`t merit shooting and killing the throwers whereas the Palestinian “terror rocks” well they are the real life threatening deal and the throwers or anyone in their vicinity of any sex or age deserve to be shot dead as :
    https://www.timesofisrael.com/pelted-with-rocks-idf-soldiers-fire-in-air-during-violent-outpost-demolition/

  4. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    April 15, 2018, 1:07 pm

    Latest news is that Zioland`s newest and arguably greatest hero Elor Azaria is to be released on 10th May. He must be really pissed off that he has missed all the freebie IDF killings on the Gaza border especially the opportunity as a trained medic to terminate lots of wounded Palestinian civilians. Still the Nakba demonstrations are due to last until 15th May so in theory he could get a compassionate posting to the Gaza “border” and be able to put his Ziomedic ROE to very good use in the few remaining days.
    As for his future well a senior cabinet post and even the Premiership could be his for the taking in due course ( Begin and Shamir got there with absolutely no need to go Gandhi at all ).

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