In the words of a Palestinian peace activist
The story of Ghazi Brighith will be shared in installments. Ghazi Brighith is a Palestinian peace activist who was persecuted for his peace activities and was forced to flee to the US where he continues to advocate for peace. This is his background.
I was born on January 18th, 1962,
as the first child to a Muslim family in a small farming town of Beit Ommar in the West Bank, Palestine. At the time 14,000 Palestinians lived in Beit Ommar, which is located south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem and north of Hebron. My father was a farmer and earned his living by trading crops with the Israelis.
June 1967 the six days war
broke between Israel and the Arab neighboring countries and the Palestinians with the dream to wipe Israel from the map but that dream turned into a nightmare when Palestine became an occupied land. They chose the price of war instead of the price of peace by accepting the State of Israel, share the land and save lives.
For me that time was a double nightmare as during the war, at the age of 5, my parents got divorced and blamed each other for an accident I had in the kitchen during which I was set on fire. After the fire, while my father were trying to find transportation to get me to the City of Hebron, where was the nearest hospital, an Israeli army truck driving through the town saw my father carrying a child in his arms in the middle of the road while screaming and calling for help. The army truck driver stopped right away and offered assistant to the poor farmer. Luckily my father looked into his eyes and saw not an Israeli occupier but a human being offering to help his child. This comes to show how we need to stop with our preconception about the other side and view them as people just like us. Once we will be able to go beyond seeing them as enemies, we will be able to make peace.
Both of my parents
remarried after the divorce, I have one sister and one brother from the same parents and 14 brothers and sisters from my parents’ second marriages. I am equally close with all of them and like many Palestinian families; we do not have distinctions within families.
Soon after my parents' divorce
I was sent to a catholic Christian mission in Bethlehem (The Holly Land Christian Mission for Orphans) even though at the time I was not an orphan. My father told us that our mother had committed suicide although I knew that she was still alive somewhere.
I remember one night at the orphanage, while we were in our beds sleeping, right after midnight, a big explosion took place at the playground of the school next to the building that we were in. That explosion, we found out later, was caused by the Israeli army. I am not quite sure if targeting the mission orphanage school was an accident or not, but the important thing to know is that in such cases the civilians, and especially the children, are the ones who always pay the price and this time it was me. The explosion caused very bad injuries to my head and left eye. Though I did not felt scared as I thought it was a game, the only concern was not to bleed out as the night teacher told me we had to wait until sunrise to go to the hospital because the only cars that were allowed be on the road at night were army cars and ambulances. I asked why they don't call for an ambulance and he looked at me feeling powerless and said that the explosion damaged the power and telecommunication’s lines. The only thing he could do was to put powder coffee on my injury to try and stop the bleeding which it did. I survived the night and was sent to the hospital the following morning.
was everything to me; my home, my parents, my family, my friends and my town . I loved it, but the sweet lovely dream didn’t last for long. One morning, 10 years later, I started a fight with the priest during the morning prayer. When the priest asked me to stand up and pray for Jesus, I said to him: where is Jesus? Jesus says he will help those in need, where is he when I need him? The priest kept insisting that I will stand and pray so I hit him with the bible which caused him to injure and I run out of the church. Following this incident I was expelled from the mission. I was 15 years old.
After being expelled from the mission
on September 2nd, 1977 my father took me home where I faced my father's second wife and her cruel, ugly, evil treatment. Soon after, my father was forced to send me to a Muslim Orphanage Missionary, a religious Islamic school, (Madrassah) in Hebron City by his wife because she couldn't have me living at the same house as her plus as I’m not her son it wasn't her responsibility to take care of me. I had to endure cruel treatment from my father's second wife till he died.
When I reached sixteen I was issued an identification card from the Israeli government (the civil administration of Judah and Samaria - the office that issued the ID cards for those who were living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and for me that was the day I was introduced to the occupation's shapes and faces which I never experience before in my life.
To be continued…