A light of Hope by H., Gaza, Palestine

When I recall that year and how exactly it passed by, I am not sure if I should smile, sigh, or feel sorry.

The year 2012 was the start of everything for me. I graduated in 2007, and since I’ve applied and participated in various programmes that were implemented for the new graduates. Not one of them gave me the experience that I longed for. Five years passed, and I fell into complete despair— no career and not a single hope of me getting either my masters or becoming what I wanted to be: a professional interpreter. That was until one fateful day when my husband called me and said, “It’s all set up, I gave him your C.V. and he wants to meet you, so you got an appointment at 1:00 pm tomorrow.” I hung up the phone, my mind sank into deep thought as question after question jammed into my mind— what will I do, what will he ask me…

The night of June 12th in 2012 was a long night that I will never forget. Inside my head, I imagined that he would ask me several questions that I wouldn’t be able to answer, and then, he’d tell me, “Sorry, you aren’t fit to work with me.” But, then after a while, my heart would try to force some optimism into my head. I don’t really remember how I managed to fall asleep that night, all I can recall is that while my eyes were closed, a bunch of meaningless images flashed through my mind.

As the breeze blew through the window, I  jumped out of my bed looking at my phone to see what time it was. I was nervous but my husband wasn’t at all. He kept saying, “Relax, everything is going to be alright.” You see, to my husband he was his relative whom he and my father in law would visit now and then, he knew him very well. But to me, he was that well known political/peace activist/psychologist and I knew working with him would add a lot to my career. My partner in crime— as I like to call him since he always has my back in every single situation and decision that I make, no matter if it’s right or wrong— got off the bed, dressed, and then started to drink his coffee. As he was sipping it, he looked at me and noticed that I was staring at the newspaper but my mind wasn’t reading anything. “Psst, you’ll do fine, I will come along so you won’t feel lonely, I know you can’t do anything without me.” I looked at him and smiled, “You perfectly know that don’t you, Mosab.” He finished his coffee and left to go to work.

When the time of the appointment was close, I prepared myself. My husband came, as he promised, and we went together. As we knocked on the door, it was opened. I thought that one of the people who worked there would lead us in, but as I looked at the one who was standing at the door to welcome us, I realized that I was wrong. A man in his late 60s was standing there, wearing casual clothes, nothing formal, and a pair of slippers. “On time, welcome! Please come in”.

I walked in and all of the fear faded away. We sat down in the living room. “Your C.V. is very interesting, it’s not easy to find a very fluent English speaker who has a good background in project management.” “ He is only complimenting me, nothing more”, I thought to myself, because I always felt that I needed more experience but wasn’t given the chance. “ My assistant will contact you in a few days to tell you about the tasks, and no worries, we’ll work together on your management background to empower it”.

That was it. He did not ask me anything. He simply praised me and enforced my simple experience and express the will to enlarge it. Indeed he is a special man, I am talking about Dr E. This one of the kind man made a change in my life and me working with him removed the jinx that had taken over my life for a while.

Dr. E. is a well-known character who knew how to deal with everything using his wit, but, at the same time, always remained the family guy. At the time, studying psychology and becoming a specialist in the field was not a very welcomed idea in our society. Especially because he got his certificate in from the U.K.. When he came back to Gaza, he came with one dream and idea; to find a special place where he could practice what he had studied, and so he did. He founded the Gaza Community for Mental Health Programme in 1990. Through it, he wanted to help the traumatized people, and his main focus was on the children who suffered during the uprising of 1987. He believed that a generation who lived in a violent atmosphere will only reproduce violence. And since every action had an equal reaction, where there’s hatred, violence and/or a lack of justice, the same would be given back. His main concern was to build a society that would not live as victims under the shades of blood and imprisonment, but a society that would look to build a brighter future. His small clinic grew bigger through the years, and his vision and mission spread to include women who had lost their spouses, brothers, children as well as those who were facing domestic violence.

When that small chit-chat came to an end, I went home thinking about what my task was going to be. My thoughts didn’t take a lot of my time to develop. Dr E.’s assistant called me and told me that there would be a meeting that would be held in Al-mathaf, a hotel in Gaza, and he suggested my title to be English Interpreter. “Please be there 6:00 P.M. sharp”, he said. “ Great” , I said to myself, “It’s going to be a great experience and an opportunity for me to meet new people.”

I never took into account that what will come up will be a very tough challenge. On my way there I was thinking, “It’s not going to be a big deal, perhaps a group of five members, ten at the max.” The driver dropped me off and I went to ask which hall the meeting was held in. When I entered the hall I was shocked, the hall was filled with many people with different nationalities and different languages. I was mesmerized, could not move, until a man in his 40’s came towards me and said, “Heba, right!!” I didn’t reply. I simply nodded my head as a sign of affirmation. “Dr E. has recommended you and said that you are a qualified interpreter, please sit here”! He pulled the chair out and I sat down. Next to me was a British man, unfortunately his name completely slipped my mind, he gave me an outline of the meeting. “Read it, you can find all your answers here. We’ll be starting in 5 minutes”, he said. My heart skipped a beat. “Is this man talking for real, the outline is almost 15 pages long, where do I start?”

At that point, I was lost, but I pulled myself together, “I will make it.” I said to myself.

The meeting started with talking about the crisis in the Sinai, the outcomes and the side effects in both Egypt and the Gaza Strip. That meeting was almost two hours long, and I was moving from one table to another to translate what was being said and discussed. At any point that I would feel lost, I would challenge my weakness and turn it into strength. Yes, I managed to get through the whole meeting!

In the last 15 minutes, Dr E. stepped in the hall, welcomed everyone, continued the discussion, or what was left of it, then dinner was served. To be honest, I was starving, but I didn’t eat that much. Before the dinner came, a young man came to me, “Would you like some juice, you look exhausted!” “Yes please,” I replied without any hesitation. Later on, I figured out that was Dr E.’s son, Waseem. What a gentleman. The meeting came to an end and I was a complete mess. I thought to myself, I should have done better. To my surprise everyone in the meeting was pleased with my job and complimented me. You know what they say, a perfectionist’s work is never done…

As the day came to an end, I journeyed home to give my husband a play-by-play. “It’s going to be a great start,” Mosab said, “ I am optimistic.” The next day, Dr. E. called me and told me that everyone at the meeting was very pleased with my work, and assigned me another job, which was to translate his articles and afterwards to attend a meeting he had with a journalist. So I wrote down everything.

Working with him was a good start, indeed. I applied for a 2-month contract and I got the job. I even got an excellent evaluation at the end of it. As my contract ended, I got accepted for another job with a good salary, but I did not stop working with Dr E. even though it was a part-time job. I respected that man very much, he had a clear vision for everything and above all, he loved his family more than anything.

As days passed by, I learned he left the strip to get therapy, and his condition wasn’t getting any better. Dr E. had blood cancer. He overcame it before, seven years ago when he got a marrow transplant, but the disease came back. This time was worse. I did not know what to do. I felt bitter, sad… that man gave me hope and he believed in me. I started to pray that he’ll get better and beat the disease as he did before.

In December 2013, Dr E. left this world, leaving behind all of his beloved ones and those who he affected deeply. I felt sorry, so sad because such people cannot be easily found. He was a man of his word, knew how to criticize and speak up his mind, but never had enemies from any party. It’s true that he got arrested on orders of the late Yasser Arafat, but he maintained a strong relationship with everyone.

Dr E. lit a light of hope inside of every desperate person. He dreamed of a better future for Palestine and all the people here. He gave me hope in the time I was about to lose it. I know everyone has a different view of him, nevertheless, he left his fingerprint. Whenever his name is mentioned, struggling and speaking out for what is right comes to mind. May his soul rest in peace.

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