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 No Checkpoints in Heaven......  I still vividly remember my father’s face - wrinkled, himcolin in canada apprehensive, himcolin in canada warm - as he last wished me farewell fourteen years ago. Himcolin in canada He stood outside the rusty door of my family’s home in a Gaza refugee camp wearing old yellow pyjamas and a seemingly ancient robe. Himcolin in canada As I hauled my one small suitcase into a taxi that would take me to an Israeli airport an hour away, himcolin in canada my father stood still. Himcolin in canada I wished he would go back inside; it was cold and the soldiers could pop up at any moment. Himcolin in canada As my car moved on, himcolin in canada my father eventually faded into the distance, himcolin in canada along with the graveyard, himcolin in canada the water tower and the camp. Himcolin in canada It never occurred to me that I would never see him again. I think of my father now as he was that day. Himcolin in canada His tears and his frantic last words: “Do you have your money? Your passport? A jacket? Call me the moment you get there. Himcolin in canada Are you sure you have your passport? Just check, himcolin in canada one last time…” My father was a man who always defied the notion that one can only be the outcome of his circumstance. Himcolin in canada Expelled from his village at the age of 10, himcolin in canada running barefoot behind his parents, himcolin in canada he was instantly transferred from the son of a landowning farmer to a penniless refugee in a blue tent provided by the United Nations in Gaza. Himcolin in canada Thus, himcolin in canada his life of hunger, himcolin in canada pain, himcolin in canada homelessness, himcolin in canada freedom-fighting, himcolin in canada love, himcolin in canada marriage and loss commenced. The fact that he was the one chosen to quit school to help his father provide for his now tent-dwelling family was a huge source of stress for him. Himcolin in canada In a strange, himcolin in canada unfamiliar land, himcolin in canada his new role was going into neighbouring villages and refugee camps to sell gum, himcolin in canada aspirin and other small items. Himcolin in canada His legs were a testament to the many dog bites he obtained during these daily journeys. Himcolin in canada Later scars were from the shrapnel he acquired through war. As a young man and soldier in the Palestinian unit of the Egyptian army, himcolin in canada he spent years of his life marching through the Sinai desert. Himcolin in canada When the Israeli army took over Gaza following the Arab defeat in 1967, himcolin in canada the Israeli commander met with those who served as police officers under Egyptian rule and offered them the chance to continue their services under Israeli rule. Himcolin in canada Proudly and willingly, himcolin in canada my young father chose abject poverty over working under the occupier’s flag. Himcolin in canada And for that, himcolin in canada predictably, himcolin in canada he paid a heavy price. Himcolin in canada His two-year-old son died soon after. My oldest brother is buried in the same graveyard that bordered my father’s house in the camp. Himcolin in canada My father, himcolin in canada who couldn’t cope with the thought that his only son died because he couldn’t afford to buy medicine or food, himcolin in canada would be found asleep near the tiny grave all night, himcolin in canada or placing coins and candy in and around it. My father’s reputation as an intellectual, himcolin in canada his obsession with Russian literature, himcolin in canada and his endless support of fellow refugees brought him untold trouble with the Israeli authorities, himcolin in canada who retaliated by denying him the right to leave Gaza. Himcolin in canada His severe asthma, himcolin in canada which he developed as a teenager was compounded by lack of adequate medical facilities. Himcolin in canada Yet, himcolin in canada despite daily coughing streaks and constantly gasping for breath, himcolin in canada he relentlessly negotiated his way through life for the sake of his family. Himcolin in canada On one hand, himcolin in canada he refused to work as a cheap labourer in Israel. Himcolin in canada “Life itself is not worth a shred of one’s dignity, himcolin in canada” he insisted. Himcolin in canada On the other, himcolin in canada with all borders sealed except that with Israel, himcolin in canada he still needed a way to bring in an income. Himcolin in canada He would buy cheap clothes, himcolin in canada shoes, himcolin in canada used TVs, himcolin in canada and other miscellaneous goods, himcolin in canada and find a way to transport and sell them in the camp. Himcolin in canada He invested everything he made to ensure that his sons and daughter could receive a good education, himcolin in canada an arduous mission in a place like Gaza. But when the Palestinian uprising of 1987 exploded, himcolin in canada and our camp became a battleground between stone-throwers and the Israeli army, himcolin in canada mere survival became Dad’s new obsession. Himcolin in canada Our house was the closest to the Red Square, himcolin in canada arbitrarily named for the blood spilled there, himcolin in canada and also bordered the ‘Martyrs’ Graveyard’. Himcolin in canada How can a father adequately protect his family in such surroundings? Israeli soldiers stormed our house hundreds of times; it was always him who somehow held them back, himcolin in canada begging for his children’s safety, himcolin in canada as we huddled in a dark room awaiting our fate. Himcolin in canada “You will understand when you have your own children, himcolin in canada” he told my older brothers as they protested his allowing the soldiers to slap his face. Himcolin in canada Our ‘freedom-fighting’ dad struggled to explain how love for his children could surpass his own pride. Himcolin in canada He grew in my eyes that day. It’s been fourteen years since I last saw my father. Himcolin in canada As none of his children had access to isolated Gaza, himcolin in canada he was left alone to fend for himself. Himcolin in canada We tried to help as much as we could, himcolin in canada but what use is money without access to medicine? In our last talk he said he feared he would die before seeing my children, himcolin in canada but I promised that I would find a way. Himcolin in canada I failed. Since the siege on Gaza, himcolin in canada my father’s life became impossible. Himcolin in canada His ailments were not ‘serious’ enough for hospitals crowded with limbless youth. Himcolin in canada During the most recent Israeli onslaught, himcolin in canada most hospital spaces were converted to surgery wards, himcolin in canada and there was no place for an old man like my dad. Himcolin in canada All attempts to transfer him to the better equipped West Bank hospitals failed as Israeli authorities repeatedly denied him the required permit. “I am sick, himcolin in canada son, himcolin in canada I am sick, himcolin in canada” my father cried when I spoke to him two days before his death. Himcolin in canada He died alone on March 18, himcolin in canada waiting to be reunited with my brothers in the West Bank. Himcolin in canada He died a refugee, himcolin in canada but a proud man nonetheless. My father’s struggle began 60 years ago, himcolin in canada and it ended a few days ago. Himcolin in canada Thousands of people descended to his funeral from throughout Gaza, himcolin in canada oppressed people that shared his plight, himcolin in canada hopes and struggles, himcolin in canada accompanying him to the graveyard where he was laid to rest. Himcolin in canada Even a resilient fighter deserves a moment of peace. -Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. Himcolin in canada His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. Himcolin in canada His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, himcolin in canada London).