PCFF Palestinian General Manager Mazen Faraj, at the 10th Joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony
My name Mazen Faraj. I was born and raised in the Dheisheh Palestinian Refugee Camp.
Just being born a refugee in your own land ensures that you will be consumed by, and suffer from the Nakba, from the first day of your life. The Nakba uprooted an entire people from its land and its fields and its homes. Most importantly, the Nakba deprived the Palestinian people of its own life to this day. But the Palestinian people still dream. They still love and are loved by life, even if they are unable to grasp it.
I grew up in the shadow of this heavy history that I still carry on my shoulders. Like all the Palestinian people, I was active, during the first Intifada, in order to be part of this struggle against the occupation, to struggle for freedom, for the dignity, and the life that was plundered from me. I was imprisoned for more than three years. Imagine a 15-year-old child experiencing prison life and harsh and difficult investigations. And most important is what occurred afterward and an extended period of anticipation and fear, within a dark and frightening place. This was the prison in which they wanted to punish us or stop us from sounding our voices; but they did not succeed and will not succeed because we have the inspiration, and the goals, and the dream.
The suffering intensified became I was unable to complete my studies and I lacked the opportunities and the security necessary to plan and build my future. I did not choose to be in prison; it was not my decision, but that is the significance of living under the occupation.
The suffering did not stop at this. I could not possibly anticipate that I would live with pain and suffering throughout my life but on 10 April 2002, we received news of my father's death. He had been shot by a soldier of the occupation forces on his way home.
My father was 6 years old when he and his family, were torn from their home, and he found himself a refugee. He lived his life as a refugee, in suffering and misery. My father dreamed of building a house and a family and being able to protect them from the rigors of life. But how can a man build and protect a family when he lives under an oppressive military administration? My father died when he was 62 years old. After this catastrophe, I set out on a new and bitter journey of bereavement in spite of the fact that life had to continue normally, but believe me, there is nothing normal after this suffering. I started looking for options - What can I do? Where can I position my suffering and my pain and sorrow?
For more than two years I found myself in an internal conflict, emotional and mental. Then I was invited to meet with bereaved Israeli families. It was difficult to join them. Throughout all my life I identified Israelis either as settlers or soldiers, or intelligence officers. I was unaware of any other images of Israelis, but I decided to go to the meeting. And I actually found a new situation that I was previously unaware of.
At that moment I began a journey of reconciliation with myself together with an understanding of the other. It was a very deep journey of discovery exposing pain and suffering, even if the causes of our suffering differ. Since that time, and to this day, I have dedicated my life to this sacred mission, which brings hope, even if everything around us drives us to despair. We will not lose hope as long as we breathe. Thank you.