A confusing feeling passed through me after hearing about the exchange of 1027 Palestinian detainees for the only Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was held captive by the Palestinian resistance fighters.
I don’t know whether to feel happy or sad.
Gazing at the faces of the prisoners’ families in the solidarity tent in Gaza City on October 18, I see a look that I have never seen before: eyes glittering with hope. Thinking about those women whose relatives are most likely to be released and seeing their big smiles makes me happy.
But at the same time, thinking about the other 5000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who will steadfastly go on with their resistance in the prisons makes my heart break for them.
When I arrived at the tent on October 18, the wife of prisoner Nafez Herz, who was sentenced to life-long imprisonment and has been jailed for 26 years, shook hands with me and said excitedly she had heard that her husband would be freed.
Then she said: “But you can’t imagine how much my heart aches for those families whose prisoners will not be released in this exchange deal. All prisoners’ families have become like one big family.”
While writing this article on October 18, among the crowd of people at the Red Cross building, I suddenly heard people chanting and clapping and could see a woman jumping with joy.
While on the phone, she said loudly, “My husband is going to be free!”
Her husband is Abu Thaer Ghneem, who received a life sentence and spent 22 years in prison. I met his only son, Thaer. He was hugging his mother tight while giving prayers to God showing their thankfulness.
“Congratulations! How do you feel?” I asked him.
“I was only one day old when my father was arrested and now I am 22 years old,” he said. “I’ve always known that I had a father in prison, but never had him around. Now my father is finally going to be set free and fill his place, which has been empty over the course of 22 years of my life.”
The families of the 1027 detainees will celebrate the freedom of their relatives, but what about the fate of the rest of the prisoners?
Let’s not forget those who are still inside the Israeli occupation’s prisons and are on hunger strike. This hunger strike wasn’t held for an exchange deal, but for the Israeli Prison Service to meet the prisoners’ demands.
The people who joined the hunger strike in Gaza City included those with loved ones in prison. We have to speak out loudly and tell the world Israel must address our living martyrs’ demands.
We will never stop singing for the freedom of Palestinian detainees until the Israeli prisons are emptied.