Saturday, April 14, 2012

Vittorio Arrigoni, 15th April 2011. Restiamo Umani.

Vittorio Arrigoni

Vittorio Arrigoni was just another activist for the Palestinian cause, yet like any other activist, he left a story which is uniquely his. Like the late Rachel Corrie, he also worked with the International Solidarity Movement and spent several years in Gaza. He was a writer for Il Manifesto, and many a times his reports were printed on the front page of the Italian newspaper.

He was abducted on the 14th of April 2011 by, some sources say, men from an Salafi militant group in Gaza, and murdered in cold blood the next day. Some other sources stated that the murder was pre-planned and much more complicated... was he a threat? Whoever plotted against him is heartless, thus inhuman and has no religion. His murder was an act that betrayed Palestine.

Fishermen in Palestine are restricted to fish within three nautical miles off the coast, but the late Vittorio Arrigoni often stood with the fishermen and they went beyond three miles for bigger catches to sustain Palestinian lives. I wonder, what was in his soul that kept him going strong? What made him stay in the world's biggest open-air prison? What made him risk his life when he could simply stay in his homeland... if he did, he would've been alive, now. What ran through his mind while captive... can you imagine what gripped his heart at his last moments?

How can anyone not pray for his soul to rest in peace? The Most Merciful knows Vittorio's heart, and where he stands later in the Hereafter. The righteous is with the righteous, and who can judge Vittorio save the One who knows him best?

We remember Vittorio Arrigoni. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un. To God we belong, and to Him we shall return to. He used to say, "Restiamo Umani", which means, stay human. Do you think he found his humanity there while in Gaza? We should remind ourselves with his two words. Stay human.


The Last Dance of the Sea, by Asmaa' Shaker

"Shaking his hat off his glutinous hair, wet with sweat and the salt of the waves... waving his tattooed arms, from far away, as if he was reducing the wind and the remaining distance of the water... sharing with his new friends; the bread and the longing to what they don't know there... speaking each other's names in broken languages, laughing, until their delight brings them on the verge of crying... when the port beach comes into view, of canoes and children scattering chromatic carnations on the surface of the sea...

There, the story of that Italian man began, the man who used to sing in his hoarse voice: "Unadeekom, wa ashoddu ala ayadeekom"... stretching the words in his own-somewhat funny-way, soon calms his clatter, ceases waving and dancing, to bend unexpectedly and kiss the soil of the land he loved, burying his face in his arms like a child would, and cries.

Vittorio was so much like Zorba the Greek; in dingy sun faded clothes, with his dirty old hat, his huge shabby boots, and Cuban cigar. He resembled Zorba when he cried and when he stretches his arms out in the air, lifting his feet off the ground to start dancing anywhere: in the street or in the café. Or even on the borders in front of the soldier's military equipment and helmets. Then he sang and played for them with his imaginary trumpet; telling the soldiers in English: "We are civilians and unarmed, we just want to help the farmers to drag the body of their martyr whom you killed near the fence, when he was harvesting his wheat and picking the ripe strawberries in his land. The soldiers answered him and his fellowmen with bullets!

But when he got out in the dawn, along with the fishermen, with his camera and trumpet to escort them in another death trip towards a few forbidden meters of drag--nets. He stood as an ancient sailor from a distant country; avoiding the machine guns of an Israeli cruiser as it tried to sink his ship. While crossing the sea to sink their boat, so he goes back making fun of them and his wet clothes, speaking of them nervously with an angry tone; the fishermen stole the fishes from their own sea!

Nevertheless, he never stopped dancing or teasing; whether alone or with company. He could be with the boys in the camps, the dustman on the street, with Gazan friends in demonstrations, or at a football match. He may admire the eyes of a beautiful lady crossing the road, so he would salute her with a smile on his face: "You have beautiful eyes" he would shout and then continue on walking. He danced for the land, he loved it.

The frightened children in war loved him as well, he told them bed-time stories and asked them: "Are you scared?" And when they nodded "yes", he would say: "Well, I'm also scared like you!" so the fear would run away from them!

Gaza did not grant this man a decent and beautiful death. Instead, he was given love and a shroud of its flags; sending him back to the sea..."

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