The Gift of Life
by Ulrike Reinhard
Sep 11, 2012 | 2088 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After Ismael Khatib’s son Ahmed was killed by Israeli forces—they mistook his toy rifle for a real weapon—Ismael donated the boy’s organs to three Israeli children: his heart to a Druze girl in Pklin, one kidney to a Bedouin boy in the Negev and the other to an Orthodox Jewish girl in Jerusalem. Against enormous odds, Ismael opened a theater in Jenin, a battle-scarred city in Israel’s West Bank, intending to bring positive change to the neighborhood. Cinema Jenin tells his story.

Ulrike Reinhard: Why did you donate your son’s organs?

Ismael Khatib: Losing your own son is the worst thing which can happen to you in your life. It goes beyond anything I’ve experienced so far. It creates a hellhole in you that never stops aching. So donating my son’s organs wasn’t an easy decision, it was probably the most important and difficult decision I’ve had to make in my entire life. Donating his organs and letting them continue to live in other children gives me at least the feeling that Ahmed is still somehow around. I loved him so much… and this is a way to see him still alive. He isn’t gone forever. … When I decided to donate his organs to people no matter where they came from or what religion they belonged to, I really hoped that Ahmed would be the last victim in this conflict.

Reinhard: You had already been imprisoned several times. Why did you take this decision in a totally opposite direction?

Khatib: Living under occupation is something very difficult and I guess very hard for anyone to imagine. The Palestinians have suffered it for more than 60 years now. We’ve tried different methods to fight against it: demonstrations, writing on walls, throwing Molotov cocktails, weapons … but still the occupation is there. It’s still there. Nothing has changed … no end in sight … I took part in demonstrations and then I went on to throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers and their checkpoints in town. ... There was a lot of violence on both sides. There were a lot of suicide bombings in Israel, and the Israeli army overran Palestine, and in 2005 it hit my son Ahmed ... I was ready to find a new philosophy. I started thinking about setting up a new initiative and sending a new message to Israel and the entire world: The fight has to stop! No more war!

Reinhard: What was the reaction on both sides?

Khatib: During these last 60 years there were times of good relations between Israelis and Palestinians. I worked as a car mechanic in Israel. I had a lot of Israeli friends and also customers. And this was true for many Palestinians. We were even invited to celebrate with them and we invited them too. But this became so much more complicated in 1987 with the First Intifada. We can really say that our relations went completely downhill. We were almost disconnected. But I still have Israeli friends. And I have made new ones, not only with the families who received Ahmed’s organs but also with different people throughout the Israeli community.

There is a huge and very important difference between those who command this terrible occupation and the Israeli people who want to live in peace just as much as we do. I know that. So what I can say about the feedback to my decision is that far more than 100 people from both sides, both Palestinians and Israelis, contacted me as a key person, wanting to contribute and help to support finding a solution to finally put an end to this conflict in a peaceful and permanent way.  

Ulrike Reinhard is the editor of We Magazine, from which this article is excerpted.

CINEMA JENIN

Israel, 2012, 95m

Director: Marcus Vetter

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