(This post has been edited and re-upped from May 6, 2014)
May 6, 2015
My friend Aseel Asleh would have turned 32 years old today.
I often wonder what Aseel might be doing right now. He loved computers–might he have become a computer engineer? Would he have stayed near his home village of Arrabeh, a Palestinian village in the north of Israel, or would he have chosen to live elsewhere? In what ways would Aseel have used his rich talents and abilities to work for justice, equality, and dignity between Palestinians and Jews in Israel, and, indeed, for human beings all over?
A brutal impulse that lead to the firing of a bullet by an Israeli policeman point-blank into the back of Aseel’s neck on Oct 2, 2000 as he was lying face-down in an olive grove outside his village has meant that we will never know who Aseel, age 17, might have become.
But, we do know something about the vision Aseel nurtured–a vision of equality, inclusiveness. A vision of a “field” (as he was so fond of quoting from Rumi) where souls lie down on the grass and the world is too full to talk about. (full Rumi quote below.)
Aseel left many pieces of himself to those who loved him–in the practical jokes we remember him playing on us, in the ways we remember him challenging us. And he left us his words, those which he wrote down–and Aseel was a prolific writer. This video, Peaceful Thoughts, was created from an email Aseel wrote in 1998 contemplating Land Day, when 6 Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli security forces in and near his village.
At the 10-year anniversary of Aseel’s murder, theatre-artist Marine Mane and I distributed Aseel’s “Peaceful Thoughts” to people from all over the world, asking them to record themselves reading a line of Aseel’s words in the beauty of their own language. It was a way for us to bring people together, using Aseel’s own words, in a cyberspace version of that field, where all who come are treated as equal human beings. This video is the result.
When I remember Aseel, and when I ask others to do the same, it is not to dismiss or ignore the pain of Jewish Israelis whose loved ones were also killed in acts of brutal violence. Indeed, Aseel’s killing is for me a very personal reminder of the price that all Palestinians and all Israelis continue to pay for there being no justice, no peace, no equality between the peoples for whom Palestine/Israel is their home.
On this, Aseel’s 32nd birthday, I wonder what contribution he (and so many others) might have made, had they lived.
And I wonder what more the rest of us can do, to continue to nurture and bring about the vision of humanity, dignity, and equality that Aseel expressed so poignantly in Peaceful Thoughts.
Happy 32nd birthday, Aseel. And happy 4th birthday to your beautiful, precious little nephew, Aseel Jr, who shares your name and your birthday. May we all work together to bring about the “field” that you envisioned, so that Aseel Jr, his big brother Tayyeb, and his little sister Sham, can know it in their lifetimes.
With great love,
Founder, donkeysaddle projects
Picture 1: Aseel Asleh, age 16, who would have turned 32 years old today
Picture 2: Aseel Jr, who turns 4 years old today
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.” –Rumi