Like any other Malay or Muslim in the country, the Fridays’ sermons by the Imams for the past weeks were no longer listened with sleepy eyes. The sermons were louder, longer and even more emotional to the speaker as well as to the listeners. These were the days, when Muslim in general and Malay specifically united across political boundaries. And that is what prompted my brother to be part of the MERCY Gaza mission. He felt that this time, his field trip to Gaza is not just another voluntary job, but more towards his responsibility as an able Muslim, to help the needy Gazans. A responsibility that he took with an opened arm and willing heart, with no self interest on his part.
In the Name of Allah the Most Beneficent the Most Merciful
Gaza humanitarian effort is catastrophically unique. It is not an aftermath situation. The ongoing life threatening experience made the whole situation like a battlefield itself. Humanitarian groups all over the world involved in Gaza, are like ‘soldiers of heaven’. No one who came out from Gaza was not affected. They are just like the war victims themselves. The shocking revelation of chemical weapons used, the incurable injuries, the upscale numbers of civilian casualties, the toxic air, the unexploded shells and foremost, chances of fresh air/ground strike by the IDF. The ceasefire is still fragile. All of these have never been encountered or heard of not just by the experienced volunteers, but also by the world audience. There has never been any war story documented or filmed that is as gory, as inhumane and on such a scale. There are no words to depict and no picture to describe the dooms that had befallen Gaza during the 22 days war. It is indeed mind boggling.
Decades of political and life struggle of the Palestine against the occupation has become so mundane so as it has become another sideline story. The most it gained has been our sympathy before we turned to the next page of the international section. However, the recent War in Gaza was an eye opener. Grueling stories, horrific pictures, aggressive assaults on a mass scale with the use of banned/chemical arsenal , random targets and worst, the deed was done with smiles on their face. No remorse. Yes, we Malaysian indeed were moved to the plight of the Palestine. To some we donated our precious money (in the anticipation of global recession). And to some others, we joined the organized street demonstration in line with the angers poured by the worldwide audience condemning the atrocity of the war. Once the ceasefire took place, the excitement subsides, Al Jazzerra website hits came down, the audience of the world started to go back to their daily normalcy. From a remote corner of the world, there are few who had now arisen.
On 23rd January 2009, my 36 years old brother left for Gaza under MERCY’s flag. His siblings including myself arrived at the KLIA around 11.00p.m to send him off. He arrived from the ERL terminal just few minutes later, with one small size luggage and a fat knapsack as his hand luggage. His wife, Dr. Something Something (not her real name) and their three children were not there. Unlike the other MERCY missions that he had been, the trip to Gaza ground zero is definitely different. We have never sent him to the airport for his other MERCY missions, but this time we came. We thought of giving him the courage, strength and support that he might need. But when he arrived with that big smile on his face, we all know that he is well prepared physically, mentally and spiritually. As a matter of fact, he was the one who gave us the comfort and strength over the wave of worries that we, the family encountered the minute we heard of his Gaza mission. Whenever, wherever there is a catastrophic event in any part of the globe, we will monitor the situation closely from the printed media, international broadcast and online news. Not so much that the event is close to our heart, but the chances that my brother will follow up physically. That gives us the impetus to dig as many info or data that might be valuable and useful for his humanitarian mission.
Nobody at the airport noticed anything peculiar with our cheerful way of sending him. The moment he arrived he brought his easy going style that strengthens our heart. He took the whole situation lightly, kind of a free vacation, zero returned airfare, free lodging. Wow! Who would not want to miss that for the world? (But the tears from his wife and children at home only know the possibilities.) Yes, indeed this type of ‘vacation’ is where he usually spent his entire annual leaves at and sometimes it requires more than the leaves he has left. He thanked his employer who not only gives him the paid leaves he needed but most of the time, the monetary and the moral support that he always brought with him whenever disaster strikes.
The whole family took group photos at the departure hall where we did not even do that during our Raya gatherings. (Since at least someone would be missing for whatever reason they have). Suddenly a bevy of Qatar Airways stewardess passed by, and took the attention of the men in the family. My brother cracked another joke saying that his wife had actually prayed that he would not come back with an extra ticket/baggage. (The “Coffee, Tea and Me?” joke, got it?). To the outsiders, it looked like we are sending our brother back to his University kind of feeling. But the non bullet proof MERCY tag jacket, reminded us that we are indeed sending a truly Muslim Malay hero to the Gaza battlefield.
And to think about it, he did generate a sense of pride amongst us where such thing has long been absent. Prior to that, he received a text message from a prominent Malay personal who had invited him to go to Gaza under his humanitarian group. But it was declined politely by my brother. He has always been with MERCY and he felt that there is no reason for him to leave under a different banner. My brother is one of the logistic officers. He is in-charged of procurement matters and the welfare of the doctors/surgeons in the MERCY team. Despites having a controversial Persian name (for whatever reasons our father gave him) instead of the common Arabic name that we Malays always have, my brother is the only one in the team who speak Arabic. Though we thought it is ‘broken Arabic’, he always insisted that it is actually the street language (‘bahasa pasar’). His name is no doubt made us feel jittery especially with the diversion between the Syiah and the Sunni, and with the on going tension between the America/Israel, and Iran, nevertheless, he assures us that it is his rounded ‘Malay’ nose would actually be his Malaysian passport.
Like any other Malay or Muslim in the country, the Fridays’ sermons by the Imams for the past weeks were no longer listened with sleepy eyes. The sermons were louder, longer and even more emotional to the speaker as well as to the listeners. These were the days, when Muslim in general and Malay specifically united across political boundaries. And that is what prompted my brother to be part of the MERCY Gaza mission. He felt that this time, his field trip to Gaza is not just another voluntary job, but more towards his responsibility as an able Muslim, to help the needy Gazans. A responsibility that he took with an opened arm and willing heart, with no self interest on his part. As always been, his involvement in the humanitarian work were undertaken without seeking any compensation, popularity or even recognition, only that of God. My brother is in Gaza to bring back the dignity of the Palestine that the war was trying to kill.
27th January 2009