Sami Awad is the Executive Director of Holy Land Trust (HLT), a Palestinian non-profit organization which he founded in 1998 in Bethlehem. HLT works with the Palestinian community at both the grassroots and leadership levels in developing nonviolent approaches that aim to end the Israeli occupation and build a future founded on the principles of nonviolence, equality, justice, and peaceful coexistence. He has been to many Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats and is a close friend of Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko.

Sami Awad, on Auschwitz, fear, and the meaning of nonviolence

Sami Awad’s article “It was a Life.”

woman-crying Every killing of every human is a story and a life that was, that is and was to be. It was a heartbeat that stopped before its time. Itwas a dream that disappeared abruptly like a television set that suddenly lost its power.

It was a young woman who ate her last meal; it was not her favorite dish, but she did not want to upset her mother for cooking it. “Next time make pizza mom,”
she yelled… then she yelled her last cry. It was a wife who did not know that her husband’s last look into her eyes would be imprinted as her eternal memory of him.

It was a child who was learning to ride a bicycle. He fell, scratched his knee and cried. It was the father who gently put his hand on the wound, kissed his son’s forehead, wiped the tears, and told him “I am here for you.” A second later they were both not there. It was a young teenager who finally found the courage to send a Facebook message to a girl he admired. It was the young girl who received the message and blushed and wondered what she should do.

It was the mother who just finished praying for her son to find a job. It was the son who was running home excited to have found his first job in 5 years; now he was going to take care of his family, buy new clothes for his kids, and take his wife out to dinner… something he never did. It was the businessman who called his wife and told her that he had found the right person for the job, “thank God”. It was also the man who was fired from that job and was thinking death would be more merciful than to break the news to his wife. He did not really mean it but it happened.

It was the grandmother who was telling old-time stories to her grandchildren. It was her four grandchildren who were not paying attention, looking out the window eagerly wanting to play football at the beach because they were bored, the weather was just right, and it felt safe.

It was a doctor who was still trying to figure out how to pay his student loans with the little money he was making. It was the garbage collector who was saving every bit of money to send his only daughter to medical school. It was the student who was flipping through internet sites, Harvard Medical, UNC, Stanford… day dreaming, smiling, knowing she will never have a chance to get in any of them.

It was the father who just caught his son and friends smoking cigarettes behind the house and started yelling at them. It was the kid who ran away to the wrong direction of the neighborhood, the father followed him, they both did not return. It was the mother who called her sister joyfully telling her that her baby has grown up and no longer needs diapers. It was the baby.

It was a young man who felt there is no choice but to carry a weapon and shoot it into nothingness. It was the young man who felt there is no choice but to carry a weapon and shoot it into someone’s existence. It was both of them who ended up shooting the emptiness and the humanity out of each other.

It was a life… It was a mother, a father, a son and a daughter. It was a smell, a touch and a look. It was putting on makeup, brushing teeth, hanging with friends, and arguing which team was going to win the next soccer game.

It was a smile, a cry, a kiss and a hug. It was learning to say “please”, “thank you”, “hello” and “goodbye”.

These lives have now been lost, living as painful memories in the heart of their beloved who now carry stories of deep pain, hurt, fear and disbelief. These are mothers, fathers, sons and daughter who will never again smell, touch and see their beloved again. These are humans like me and you whose lives have been altered forever but hopefully never becoming members of the “it was a life”.

5 Responses

  1. Thank you for reminding me that it is us, all of us. Not “them”. Some other, some ‘them’ I can distance myself from. It is my sister; my mother; my father; my brother; my child. It is me. Life.
    Death is the teacher that erases the lines between me and them. Between her and I. Between all of us.
    Thank you Sami.

  2. One of the hallmarks or Bernie’s teachings is not-knowing and “it’s just my opinion, man.”

    That translates for me into never being certain that your perspective is the only right one, no matter how certain you are. And the more certain you are, the more certain it is that there are other ways to look at things.

    Here’s another perspective on Sami Awad:


  3. thank you for the clarity of showing the human pain ,by this small daily life activities , it allows us to connect to this huge pain ,by our bodies ,hearts , belly and other organs ,not by our mind. may this contact will help heal our wounds and the pain of humanity .

  4. From The Mike Report:

    Awad is a pioneer in subverting Christian imagery and utilizing anti-Semitic tropes as weapons against the Jewish state.

    From The New English Review: Sami Awad’s Back Pages

    After having watched Sami in action at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem in March, I had some hope that Sami would transcend the propagandistic legacy left by the previous generation of Palestinian Christian leaders.

    …Awad‚Äôs group, the Holy Land Trust, has taught Hamas and other militant groups that seek Israel‚Äôs destruction how to speak the language of peace activists in the West and appeal to the conscience of human rights activists in the U.S. and Europe.

    That is not a good thing. That’s a bad thing. People who are truly interested in peace do not give totalitarian Islamists media training. But that is what Holy Land Trust did.

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