For our last visit of the day, we had the honor of spending time with the most loving and caring couple I’ve ever met. Oum and Abu Humza have been married for over forty years. But more than just being married, they also have been deeply in love and are still going strong. I have never seen a man of Abu Humza's age as youthful and energetic as he was. He is known famously throughout the HHRD team for his positive and bright spirit, constant jokes, and poetic-like words that are so beautiful that they are often hard to translate properly into English.
But Abu Humza has been recently diagnosed with leukemia. And his family has decided not to tell him this, for fear that his spirit would be lost. So, he does not know. But his wife does. And the way she talked about him and his condition, it was so clear to us how much she loves him more than anything in this world. And she said to us that she would do anything for him. Likewise, he constantly said the same about her. He even used his poetry when describing her to us, calling her his eye, his love, and his pearl that he found in the sea.
When they first met each other, and fell in love almost instantly, Abu Humza's father was opposed to their marriage. But Abu Humza actually stood up to his father, and was willing to sacrifice everything to be with her. Throughout the tension, they used to communicate with secret signals. He even said that he was willing to fight his father for her. Eventually, his father accepted.
We were so curious, so we asked for advice: "What made your marriage so successful? What is the secret to a strong, life-long relationship?" They said that the key for them was honesty, trust, and genuine and mutual respect for each other. In an area of the world where the Western perspective back home has been skewed to think that all people living here are conservative and oppressive, this couple proves this belief incorrect. Yes, there are significant differences in the political regimes of some of these countries' governments. But the culture surrounding social oppression lies with the authoritative figures, not with the majority of people in the nation. Abu and Oum Humza truly believe in an equal and loving partnership, and in the empowerment of the family as a whole. This is the Islam I know and most Muslims see, but what so many others don’t realize.
They told us that they have been blessed with eleven children. They also told us that three of their sons were killed in Syria. It was incredible to see not only how loving they are towards each other, but also towards us, people they just met. Before we even stepped foot in their home they told us they would like to welcome us from the bottom of their hearts. They called us their daughters. And they told us that every centimeter from the road to the very back of their home belongs as much to us as it does to them.
Months after I returned home, I received incredibly sad news that Abu Humza had passed away on June 28th. It was an absolute honor to have met such a loving, kind, and generous individual and my heart breaks for his wife and family. He has had a positive impact on anyone who had the chance to meet him. I hope that he is at peace and his family is granted with patience during this time. And it is more important than ever to never forget this man, this family, and this story. And use their voices to advocate for these families back home.
Reflecting back on the day’s memories and experiences from them, I think today was a day of immense learning. I’ve learned more on this day than I have in my entire life. The children from the camp where we set up the mobile learning center in the morning, especially Madria, taught me how to be truly grateful for the education that I am blessed with and renewed my excitement for school forever. The family we visited afterwards taught me genuine hospitality and generosity with everything that they offered us and how they were willing to sacrifice for their children. And the beautiful couple of Oum and Abu Hamza and their entire family showed me what true love means and how to never take family, friends, and the ability to smile for granted.
The inspiring people that we met and spent time with today gave and taught me so much more than I could offer them, and for that I am eternally grateful and forever indebted to spend the rest of my life trying to give back.
Stories of Palestinians: Inside Settlements of Jerash
Wednesday, January 8, 2020