To your living soul, Vittorio Arrigoni
Devastated. This is me since you passed away Vittorio. This utter shock won’t leave me alone. It’s the fifth day since your heartless killers cut your life short.
When I learned that you were kidnapped on the 14th of April, we were just welcoming Majed, my brother, home, after 10 months of traveling around Europe. One hour after his arrival, my dad received a call informing him that Vittorio was kidnapped turning the festive atmosphere into sadness. I didn’t believe what I heard and I shouted, “Impossible! This can’t be true. And if so, he would be joking with his kidnappers repeating his favourite word ‘mushkili!’” I laughed but quickly paused as I read concern on everyone’s faces. I hurried to call you and I found out that your mobile was still turned off. Then my heartbeats started getting faster and faster as I tracked back my memories from the day before.
You texted me during the evening of the 13th saying, “I will be free at 16:00. Bring your drawing book to do my portrait. I have a bar of chocolate for you.” I called you multiple times since the morning of the 14th, expecting to meet you at Al-Salam Cafe, our favourite place at Gaza beach. It was turned off.
“You Italians beat Arabs when it comes to disrespecting time,” I remember thinking. I was planning to argue with you when I see you next or when you turn your mobile on again, thinking that you had cancelled on me. It didn’t come across my mind that there was any chance you could be in danger, here in Gaza where you always felt home! I am very sorry I misread the situation. You neither forgot about our meeting, nor my addiction to chocolate. And you wanted my drawing, until the day that I refuse to accept it being the last day of your life.
I’ve done your portrait, my dear, and I know you are smiling up there in paradise. With tears uncontrollably falling, I insisted to make it for you as I always promised. However, it breaks my heart that you weren’t able to see it. I wish I made it for you the moment you asked me to. I have to say that part of it was your fault. No. It was your humanity. You sometimes cancelled appointments with me so you go visit families of those who fell victim to the latest Israeli attack on Gaza, or to report on a new attack against fishermen by the Israeli Navy, or accompany farmers to their lands that Israel declared ‘a buffer-zone’.
You called me on the 7th of April on Friday to inform me that you delayed your travel to Italy because there were talks about another Israeli offensive on Gaza. You said then sarcastically, “Don’t worry. You have more time now to do my portrait.”
I sometimes think silently, “perhaps if you weren’t truly humane, and you didn’t care that much about the people of Gaza, this wouldn’t have happened to you, and you would be safe in Italy now.”
I know that I should not think in this way but it is my unspeakable shock over your loss that leads me to such thoughts. I went to your funeral trying to accept that you’re gone for good. I tried to be strong for you. I kept reminding myself that for a great hero like you, we shouldn’t sigh, but we should celebrate your life that you devoted in pursuit of justice for the oppressed, your courage and nobel cause.
On the third day of your funeral, your mother showed presence through a live call. Your mother is as great as you. The sorrow over your loss made Palestinians united, and your mother managed to make Italy and Gaza united, singing in one voice, “Bella Ciao.”After we finished singing “Bella Ciao” together, I spoke to your mother, assuring her that “revolutionaries never die!”
My dear Vik, I want you to know that you only left us in body but your soul will be living forever. I want you to be sure that everybody who believes in you and in justice for Palestine will keep on taking your path. I want you to know that you are our hero; you define humanity for us. ‘Stay human’ was the motto that guided every step you took. Dear Vik, you are the winner that you wanted to be. You are the dreamer who never gives up. So I hope now, my dear friend, you are resting in peace.