Ahmed Helou

My family is originally from Gaza, but I was born and raised in Jericho. At the age of 15, decided I wanted to fight the occupation. I joined the local Hamas movement, and raised Palestinian flags and threw stones at soldiers. In 1992 I was sentenced to seven months in Israeli army prison as a political detainee. During family I first learned of the Oslo agreements – I was amazed to learn that the Palestinian flag could now be flown freely. It was in prison that I realized that there must be other ways to fight for liberation without risking death or lengthy prison sentences. I started to see that violent resistance was not only ineffective, it was counterproductive. I began looking for ways to help heal the conflict and end the occupation, while at the same time helping the people who are suffering.

After my incarceration I finished my studies and began volunteering in the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances. During the 1996 clashes in East Jerusalem I provided medical attention to many of the wounded Palestinians. At one instance I ran to help an unconscious man and to my surprise, discovered my close friend from Jericho, Firas. I lifted him into my arms and began running towards the ambulance, but was shot in his back by an Israeli soldier, and collapsed. On my way to the hospital I fell in and out of consciousness. In one terrible, lucid moment I heard the doctor ordering the paramedic to cease the revival efforts of the second patient in the Ambulance – my friend, Firas. He died in that ambulance with me. After six months of rehabilitation I slowly began to walk again, though the bullet is still lodged in the back of my neck to this very day. At the age of thirty I married my wife, Hiba, who is also originally from Gaza. Sixteen years have passed since Hiba has been able to meet her family in Gaza. Their four children have never met their grandparents.

I met civilian Israelis for the first time in various dialogue groups during the second intifada. I admit that up until then, all I ever knew about Israelis was from soldiers and check points. Even though Hiba and I have lost dozens of our relatives to the numerous wars on Gaza, I will never surrender to hate or revenge. I know in my heart that bi-national cooperation is the only way to end the occupation and achieve peace.