Generating a fearless and humanising narrative on Palestine!

My father’s memories from the day of his release in 1985 swap deal



My parents Ismail and Halima

Twenty-seven years ago, my father’s eyes saw the sun after being in the dark of Israeli prison for 13 years. On 20 May 1985, my father regained his freedom.

“I was sentenced for seven lifetimes plus 10 years and I thought that this prison, Nafha, would be my grave. Thank God I didn’t stay that long there, and I was set free to marry your mother and to bring you to this life,” my father told me, smiling. He considered the 13 years of misery as not that long. Yes, it’s not that long if compared with the life sentence to which he was bound if the deal to exchange Palestinian and Israeli prisoners didn’t happen.

I can’t recall that Dad ever showing any regret or sorrow for how the precious years of his youth were stolen from him.   His prison experience is instead his song of life. He believes that it is his treasure, the reason behind his rich culture and beliefs, his strong character, his intimate friendships, and the reason why he values life. I’ve always been proud that I am my Dad’s daughter, and I’ll always be. He is a mix of experience and knowledge.

The story of the exchange deal all started when Ahmad Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine  captured three Israeli soldiers (Yosef Grof, Nissim Salem, Hezi Shai) in revenge for thousands of Palestinian prisoners kidnapped by Israel without any apparent reason. After a long process of negotiations, both sides struck a deal that Israel would release 1,250 prisoners in return for the three Israelis that Jibril held captive. My father was included in the deal, and fortunately, he was set free. Among the prisoners released were the Japanese freedom fighter Kozo Okamoto who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, and Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas who was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in 1983.

History repeats itself. On 18 October last year, we experienced a similar historical event with a swap deal involving the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was arrested by the resistance in Gaza while he was on top of his war machine (an Israeli tank). Just like what happened with Shalit, the capture of three Israelis caused uproar in the Israeli public opinion and international media at that time, but the thousands of Palestinian prisoners behind Israeli bars were not noticed, except for by the resistance fighters that have always forced Israel to meet some demands regarding the Palestinian prisoners.

When I deeply think about these events and the way the international media reacts, I get angry at how unjust this world is. Why did the world make a big deal of Shalit and the three soldiers when they were attested by the “terrorist” Palestinians while thousands of  Palestinian political prisoners are left behind in Israeli jails enduring all forms of violations and torture and the world chooses to look away? 

My father told the story with tears struggling to fall. He was staring at a picture stuck on the wall of his room; a painting that my father drew during his imprisonment of flowers blooming among barbed wires. “I cannot forget the moment when the leader of the prison started calling off the names to be released,” he said.

Among the prisoners was Omar al-Qassim, a leading member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Al-Qassim was asked to read the list of the names loudly. He was so excited at the beginning hoping that his freedom would be restored. Every time he said a name, a scream of happiness convulsed the walls of prison. Suddenly, his face’s features started to change. He became reluctant to speak because he noticed that his name wasn’t among the names. This was another incident of psychological torture that the prison’s manager committed against him. But he left him no chance to make fun of him. He withdrew himself silently and went to his prison to continue with his resistance. Sadly, he died in a horrible narrow cell after 22 years of resistance, pride and glory.

The tears of happiness and sadness mixed together. The freed prisoners were happy to regain their freedom but they were upset at leaving the other prisoners in that dirty place where the sun never shines. “We were like a big family sharing everything together. We all handled the same issues that we were united to fight for,” my father said. “Although I am free now, my soul will always be with my friends who are still suffering in there.”

My father has always said that “prisoners are the living martyrs.” He also described Israeli jails as “graves for the living.” Let’s unite and use all the means available to help 4,653 Palestinian political prisoner have fewer years of suffering. We share this responsibility as we can’t leave them as prey for those criminal jailers. Their freedom will be a triumph for humanity. 

11 responses

  1. A wonderful post! It's good to read from-within legend stories. Candles down the road, burning candles, living martyrs, the forgotten andprisoners of freedom, all are names Palestinian people call prisoners with; thesesnames reflect part of the bitter reality of those prisoners behind Israeli bars. My Allah save you all my beloved ones…


    May 26, 2010 at 6:45 pm

  2. A lot of ignorance on this earth. As long as humans do are not identified with life, there exists this kind of suffering. We're all son and daughter of life, that the only reality. Religions, governments led by fear and hunger for power that sustain poverty, which disgraces the entire human race. Receive my fraternal friendship.—————Beaucoup d'ignorance sur cette terre. Tant que les humains ne se seront pas identifié à la vie, il existera ce genre de souffrance. Nous sommes tous des fils et des filles de la vie, voilà la seule réalité. Les religions, les gouvernements conduit par la peur et la soif de pouvoir entretiennent cette misère, qui déshonore la race humaine toute entière. Reçois ma fraternelle amitié.


    May 27, 2010 at 10:19 am

  3. It's grace to see these supportive comments. Thank you Moh and Mr. Sosefo.Mr. Sofefo, It's honor to be your friend. Thank you for these words. I completly agree with you.


    May 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm

  4. Through this blood fog,Lovers see a path of beauty…(Rumi)Thank you Shahd!


    May 28, 2010 at 9:43 am

  5. Salam from Haifa dear Shahd. Your story brought tears to my eyes. I'm glad I discovered your blog and will be looking forward to read more.hugs,khulud


    May 30, 2010 at 12:17 am

  6. Thank you JoAnne And Khulud for these wonderfull comments.Khulud, I always see Haifa in my dreams. Every Palestinian poet was inspired with this holy city. I try to imagine it. They deprived us from seeing our land :( I can imagine how was your feeling while reading my writing because we have the same wound. Thank you. Actually your comment brought tears to my eyes. Please send لأaza regards to Haifa and all villages that were taken forcibly.


    May 30, 2010 at 1:14 am

  7. Dear Shahd,Rumi's Poem describes with grace what i think Human Beings still need to learn… In order to BE a REAL Human Being, we all have to learn to BE Love, to BE Peace, to Accept everyone else as manifestations of Love and Life & to ILLUMINATE everyone & everywhere our personal & shining LIGHT!I Was Deadi was deadi came alivei was tearsi became laughterall because of lovewhen it arrivedmy temporal lifefrom then onchanged to eternallove said to meyou are notcrazy enoughyou don'tfit this housei went andbecame crazycrazy enoughto be in chainslove saidyou are notintoxicated enoughyou don'tfit the groupi went andgot drunkdrunk enoughto overflowwith light-headednesslove saidyou are stilltoo cleverfilled withimagination and skepticismi went andbecame gullibleand in frightpulled awayfrom it alllove saidyou are a candleattracting everyonegathering every onearound youi am no morea candle spreading lighti gather no more crowdsand like smokei am all scattered nowlove saidyou are a teacheryou are a headand for everyoneyou are a leaderi am no morenot a teachernot a leaderjust a servantto your wisheslove saidyou already haveyour own wingsi will not give youmore feathersand then my heartpulled itself apartand filled to the brimwith a new lightoverflowed with fresh lifenow even the heavensare thankful thatbecause of lovei have becomethe giver of light ~Rumi~ translated by translated by Nader Khalili* * * * * * Thank for sharing your story with us <3Sending tons of Love, Light, Peace, Joy & Blessings to you, your family & every Human Being still suffering on EarthSara


    June 2, 2010 at 11:44 am

  8. Owesome Sara, these words made my body trempling. Thank you very much for sharing me this lovely poem. It's really words from heart to heart.I'd like to know you but there is no access to your blog.. Is there any way to stay in touch with each other?


    June 4, 2010 at 11:17 pm

  9. sabina

    Thank you very much, your drawings are really deep and beautiful… sabina


    April 23, 2012 at 6:13 pm

  10. argentina

    thank you , for share, is beautiful,


    February 8, 2013 at 7:49 am

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