October 2, 2000.
That day will be seared into my memory forever.
It’s almost impossible to wrap my mind around the fact that it was 14 years ago that my 17-year-old friend Asel Asleh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and a star participant in the peace organization for which I was working, was killed.
It was the start of the Second Intifada, and protests had erupted in Palestinian villages inside Israel, in solidarity with their brethren in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Asel had gone to a demonstration outside his village Arrabeh, located in the Galilee in the north of Israel.
He never came home.
According to multiple eye-witnesses, including his parents, Asel was standing on the side, watching the demonstration when three police officers climbed over the guardrail and, for no reason that was ever provided, charged at Asel, who turned and tried to run. One caught up with him and hit him in the back with his rifle butt. Asel stumbled and fell face-down. His parents (who had gone to the demonstration to bring their son home) could not see him after he fell, as the olive trees obstructed their vision. But they heard the gunshot. The doctor who eventually examined Asel’s body said the wound indicated that he had been shot point blank in the back of his neck.
There’s too much to say. Even now, 14 years later, there is grief, there is anger, there is deep sadness that is larger than words.
So instead, I offer you Asel’s words, from one of his most profound pieces of writing, read by people from all over the world in the beauty of their own languages.
Asel: You will always be remembered. You will always be loved. And you will always be at the heart of my own participation in the struggle for a more just world.
Until we meet in the field, my friend. Take care.