HER STORY #48 - hanan
I Can Help
My name is Hanan. I am from Palestine, from the Gaza Strip, and I am 28 years old.
I graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a general diploma in Education. After that I tried to do something with this certificate, but I didn’t find myself doing that.
When I finished high school, I recall seeing an ambulance in the street, looking at it, and hoping to one day work within that field. When I finished high school I knew that I had to go to college, and since courses to become an EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] were not available within Gaza in 2005, I decided to go into another field temporarily, and so I began studying English literature.
While studying, I kept searching for EMT courses and after some time I found out that such courses were offered at the Applied Future Polytechnic, here in Gaza. I began studying there for two years, and I graduated with an excellent average, which was really good for me. I knew I was reaching one of my goals with this step.
Following this I began working as an EMT and helping people in ambulances, which was difficult, since it involves injuries, and even death, including children. That became very difficult for me.
After this I decided to assist an association within the field of EMS (Emergency Medical System), working with ambulances, and I established an association called “The Palestinian EMS” in Gaza Strip with a couple of volunteers, a man and a woman. Our association was established, and we began working.
We received donations from Japan, including an ambulance, and we started helping people of all ages who suffered from kidney failures. We would bring them from their homes to the hospital, and from the hospital back to their homes, for no fees, since they were sick and poor.
Then I began training people in the border areas specifically, because the ambulances do not arrive quickly to those areas because of the conflict. I trained people in the border areas with first aid, so they would be able to do first aid on each other until the ambulance arrives. I can help people, a man, a child, to stay alive for a few minutes, until the medical team arrives, and I think that this is something really great.
My ambition is my strength.
I have a goal in life – not only to live, have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to visit friends, etc. I can do all of this. But you must have a goal to achieve in life.
I want to achieve something in life. I want to leave something for others to say, “Hanan did that.” I sometimes even have the ambition of becoming a brand name.
I am the first woman to have entered a football stadium during a match in the Gaza Strip.
Here, in Gaza, no woman plays football, only men, so men expect there to be only men at football matches, including male journalists, male reporters, and a male medical team. They think like this, but why should it be like this?
I am a qualified person, a qualified woman. Why can I not come to these matches? I can give medical help. I can help others, so why not? It’s a struggle. I struggled to be the first woman to enter a stadium during a football match here.
I talked with the manager of the association that I work with and I told him that I wanted to enter the matches. He didn’t want me to and said that the society also wouldn’t like it.
I had done a course for injuries in sports matches, a course especially regarding how to deal with these people, so when I finished the course, which I did with a high average as well, my manager then said okay to me joining the matches.
When I entered the football match, I cannot express how the men were looking at me, just because I was a woman – even the male journalists came to me and asked me what I was doing there and whether I was a journalist. I replied, “No, I am an EMT, a woman EMT.” One of the men said, “A woman EMT on the field here?
In one of the matches, there was an injury, and I helped him [one of the football players], but my work is not only medical. You have to reassure the player when he is injured, because he may not be able to play again, so you have to calm him down and make him feel comfortable.
People talked a lot about this on social media and a story came out of this. It became a big story. Even an American journalist, working for NPR (National Public Radio in America) came all the way to Gaza to report on this. I took her to a football match, and everyone there said, “Oh, a foreigner with Hanan!”
There have been positive and negative reactions from this. My mother, sister, uncle, and all of my family support me, but other people don’t and they fight me. Some even said that they would try to stop me, including the Palestinian Football Association. Some people on social media tell me not to enter matches again, but I tell them that they can’t prevent me from entering matches, because I have the qualifications. I have all the legal certificates. Why prevent me from coming and helping?
I will listen to them [critiques], but I think that I’m doing the right thing.
I am from Deir al-Balah, in the middle of Gaza Strip. I love this city.
I wasn’t born here however. I was born in Saudi Arabia and I lived there for sixteen years. My father died there so we [family and interviewee] couldn’t stay there and we came here to Palestine, to Deir al-Balah.
It’s a very beautiful city. Most of my work is done within Deir al-Balah. I make sure that my work is done here a lot because it’s my city, my people, my everything. It has everything in my life.
Yesterday I got an offer to work for an association outside of Gaza and a second offer to work with an international organization here in Gaza as well. I was thinking about it all night. I couldn’t sleep because it was a difficult decision, either to keep working in my city or to leave Gaza.
But I decided to work in Gaza because Gaza needs me. It needs its sons and daughters to help, to help Gaza. Gaza is suffering, and if we all left this place, who would build it? Who would help it to be the beautiful Palestine and Gaza? I need Gaza to be free. I need for all Gazans to be able to travel freely, so if we left, nobody would fight for its rights.
Still The Most Beautiful
I have internet but no electricity. For more than 20 hours a day the electricity is off, and you can’t even imagine how we are able to do our work.
Forget about the work – how can people, for example, have their basic needs covered in a home without electricity? How can they live?
Everything is bad here. Life here is very difficult, without jobs and electricity, but in my eyes it is still the most beautiful city in the world, and we must help it to be the most beautiful again and again and again.
Hamas will say, “I am right” and Fatah will say, “We are right,” and the Palestinian people are the big losers in all this.
I hope that Gaza will be okay soon.
In the last war , I worked in Deir al-Balah. It was a very difficult war. It lasted for 25 days.
My neighbors’ houses, aside from my own and my uncle’s home, were destroyed.
I’m my mother’s only daughter who still lives with her. My two sisters are married and live in their own homes. They live next to us, but they are married. So I am supposed to take care of her [mother], while taking care of other people at the same time. It’s difficult.
[During the war] I would wake up in the morning and would either stay with my mother or go to the ambulances and help other people.
She [mother] is alone in the house. I am the only person living with her. She is older and needs special care, so it is always very difficult for me to decide whether to help people that are injured or to help my mother.
My mother was crying and didn’t want me to leave, but she then went to my sister’s home so that I could go to work regularly. She was comfortable at my sister’s. I also left her a mobile phone and turned on the radio on the phone, so she could listen to the news, since there was no electricity.
For 25 days it was like this, and Deir al-Balah suffered a lot during the last war. I worked with the ambulance and the EMTsand at the reception of a hospital. Usually I’d spend one day with the ambulance and the next day in the hospital.
When I graduated from the Islamic University with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, I taught English to children for two years, and one of my students was one of my neighbor’s. He had a son named Hussein.
[During the war, 2014], when they bombed his [student] house, Hussein died. I didn’t know who it was at the time, because I couldn’t recognize his face from the injuries that he had suffered.
I took him to the hospital, holding him in my hands, and when I entered the hospital, his father said, “Hanan, you are bringing Hussein.” I let Hussein down from my hands and cried. I just cried and cried, because I hadn’t known who he was.
Hussein was a very beautiful boy. He was eight years old.
I still remember this instance sometimes, and sometimes I see Hussein my dreams.
I had another, more positive experience [during the war, 2014]. It was when I helped a woman give birth. She wanted to give birth in her home because they were bombing, and she couldn’t reach the hospital, so I went to her and helped her give birth.
She gave birth to a beautiful girl and called her Hanan, and that’s something special. I sometimes see Hanan in the streets, and I play with her. Now she’s two years old and she can walk.
So there were positive situations and bad situations during the war.
I am not afraid of anything here in Gaza, nor outside of Gaza. Nothing can make me afraid, except the fear of losing my mother.
She is very sick now. She has CVA [Cerebrovascular Accident], something that is bad in her brain. At some point she stayed at the hospital for two weeks and couldn’t speak, couldn’t stay awake, and she didn’t recognize anyone.
Now she recognizes me. She can walk, but she has very high blood pressure all the time.
I hope that she will be okay. I am beside her, and she must be beside me.
My mother is a very powerful woman. She helped me be who I am now.
God is with me all the time. I feel secure because God is with me and helps me.
I pray every day for him to be with me and to be beside my mother. My religion and my prayers to God make me stronger in life. Without my religion I am nothing, because God is the only helper for us in life.
I also wouldn’t be strong if it weren’t for the difficult situation of living here [in Gaza]. Gaza has created people that are strong all the time – not weak people.
I got a permit to enter the West Bank and the Israeli territory.
I visited Tel Aviv a year ago with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. It was for a course [work-related], but I also got to see the other side of my country, the West Bank, which I hadn’t visited before.
It was the first time I visited Jerusalem and Ramallah. Jerusalem is a very important religious place for the Muslims, especially the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and just Jerusalem in itself. It was all very impressive for me.
He Is Not My Enemy
I want to live in peace. I don’t want to live in war every four years, and I also need the Israeli people on the other side to live in peace. Why should rockets by us be fired on them? All of us must live in peace and within my field we must help all people, including Israelis.
If I found an injured Israeli, I am obligated to help him, because he is an innocent person. He is not my enemy.
Let Israeli People Know
I have never communicated with Israelis.
I am very, very sad about this conflict between us and the Israelis. It’s not that I smile at them when they kill us, but I know that it is the army that is responsible for killing us, not the citizens. This is the difference, and here it is not the Palestinians who kill Israelis – it’s Hamas, the defense here. It’s a shame to kill citizens and innocent people, like children, teachers etc. We are innocent people – us and the Israeli citizens.
I have read a lot about the conflict, many reports, magazines, and newspapers, and I have read political analyses, and I think that this is the right way to think. The situation is something political and has nothing to do with us citizens.
I just want to live in peace, to live a good life – that’s it.
So let Israeli people know that there are Palestinian people who love them. It’s not only about us fighting them and them fighting us. Let them know that on the other side there are Palestinians, who will spread peace for Israelis and Palestinians.
Interview conducted on November 30, 2016