Drowning in my memories
THE PALESTINIAN DIARIESISMAAT MANSOUR
After finishing work, I strolled back to my beautiful home, in the shimmering sunlight. A soft breeze brushed my face, which brought short relief from the anguish that was to come in my mind.
My joy rose as children played before me using a bottle as a ball, but suddenly, the sound of their toy in my day dream, brought me back with a bang to the sound of a water bottle being passed around by twenty hunger strikers in a dark cell some years ago.
I had been on hunger strike along with other inmates in an Israeli Occupiers’ Prison.
Water was all we had whenever we were about to fall unconscious or suffered nausea.
Back then, it wasn’t easy being a member of a hunger strike’s leadership group, even when our demands were clear and unambiguous, like the need to move prisoners out of death cells (isolation cells) and getting permission for family visits for a prisoner’s family from the Gaza Strip.
To be in charge of a hunger strike was a great responsibility, all I worried about was the fate of the strikers and the desire of the hungry souls for freedom, not food.
After twenty days without food the prison’s administration used vile strategies to torture us, but these actions only increased our belief that we were in the right and had chosen the correct path to achieve out demands.
I took part in discussions with the prison authorities, who attempted to offer us limited concessions which despite our weakness and hunger we clearly said ‘no’ to and returned to our cells with patience, their show of weakness gave us a ray of hope to hang on to.
Going back to those hunger strike days of 2012, I recalled that our faces were pale and our bodies were weak, our blood seemed lost under our skins but we did not despair.
New and harder sanctions aimed to break our determination followed further discussions with prison authorities but this time things had changed, prison authority representatives appealed to us, to try convince prisoners to end the strike.
We felt a little dignity when one of them said: “We will give you everything you want, but stop this crazy thing.” I could not believe what I’d heard and asked him to repeat it several times, until smiles appeared on our faces.
When the hunger strike finally ended, we were happy to tell the prisoners about their victory. Forgetting the pain in my exhausted body, I made my way as swiftly as I could to my fellow prisoners in Ofer Prison to tell them the good news.
I didn’t have to speak, the expression on my face said it all. On realizing what it meant there were outpourings of relief from the weak bodies of the brave strikers, howls of joy could be heard throughout the prison.
They hugged each other, while remembering the long days of hunger and pain they had bravely suffered together.
The proud hunger strikers, by their efforts had struck a blow in the battle for humanitarian rights in the harsh conditions of an Israeli occupation prison.
This is a chapter from The Prisoners' Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, a compilation of 22 Palestinian prisoners' experiences in Israeli jails.