(In September, 2018, we published the story of Tarek (pseudonym), a Palestinian who spent years wanting to leave Gaza and ask for refuge, and whom our Sisters in Ecuador, Argentina and Uruguay accompanied and helped very much. Today he himself, now using his real name, shares with us a new witness.)

The night of the encounter is an experience which I approached after having gone through a long journey until I arrived in Uruguay. I am a Palestinian from Franja in Gaza, and I experienced the occupation of my land since before I was born. Through life and my work I met my wife, an Argentine woman; we struggled to build a life together. Nothing of this was easy. In the midst of the occupation, it is not easy to believe in love, in solidarity, but we always had faith, faith that love can do anything. I remember that while I was still in Gaza Juli sent me a phrase; I did not know then, but it was a psalm that said

“And now, thus says the Lord, he who made you, he who formed you, because I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name, you are mine.

 If you cross the waters, I will be with you, and in the rivers you will not drown; if you walk through fire you will not be burnt, and the flames will not consume you.

 Because I am the Lord, your God, your savior.

 Because you are precious in my eyes, because I treasure you, and I love you… do not fear, because I am with you. “

It is a psalm that Juli’s best friend had given her; his name is Eusebio, the most wonderful priest I have ever met.

Every day we strove to live, to trust, to continue forward, and we succeeded in having me leave Gaza, but nothing, nothing of this did we do alone.  God always has the best plan, and so marvelous people, like Euse, were placed in our path. Constanza is a wonderful Sister from Argentina, who ALWAYS trusted in me; she put Juli into contact wtih the Handmaids in Montevideo. I remember when Juli told me, “I feel at home with them.” In order to reach Uruguay I had to go through Turkey and Ecuador. I was there and Juli here… a journey that lasted almost 4 years… but nothing of this did we accomplish alone. Daniela, the Superior of the Handmaids, took a risk for us. She opened to us not only the doors of this country but also her heart. The first time that I saw her, I told her that she reminded me of one of my sisters (Sara), and I still feel this way.  Each one of the Sisters taught us something… because in each person that we meet we can see that life is a miracle.

When I participate in the night of encounter, I think of that. I think that at times what people need is just the opportunity to be listened to, or to feel respected, because I am sure that no one wants to die alone, or in the street, or in a war that we didn’t begin. The people in the street, when I say that I am from Gaza, answer terrorist, and they shake my hand, and we laugh together. Perhaps it is not so funny, but we laugh together, and that is what makes the difference. Some do not even understand me when I talk, but sometimes we do not need that… a smile… an action is worth more than a thousand words at times. When I arrived in Uruguay as in every airport they stopped me, only this time they asked my pardon for the delay. I think that that employee probably doesn’t even remember it. However, I will remember it for the rest of my life… asking my pardon for  a 5 minute delay… me, a Palestinian who has been humiliated thousands of time in airports.

Without the small or large acts that each of the persons who pass through our life does, and each one of us does, we would not be who we are. I like to think that who I am, a man from Gaza, a PALESTINIAN who lives in Uruguay and does what he can so that this world may be a bit better… every day that we get up we have that opportunity. The Israelis say that we Palestinians teach our children to be terrorists and to hate. Nevertheless, to grow up in Gaza, under the occupation, and to leave there, and to live with the knowledge that you don’t know when you’ll be able to return, and to live without hate, for me is just the opposite. It is a proof of faith and of love… because in the end love always wins, because when it is given to us we win, but when we can give it we also win.

If Jesus, the PALESTINIAN, taught us anything, it is that love is giving, not what we have left over, not what don’t want; it is giving what our heart tells us, and thus the other is going to receive it. To hate, to be angry is easy, but we have a mind that allows us to think, and a heart to feel, and every day, every minute we have the possibility of thinking, feeling and being better. If this time it does not go well, patience, perhaps next time… that is living, a miracle, and at times we do not realize it…

Ayman Abusharekh July 1, 2019