نمر عوض Nemr Awad
Today Mohammed Awad (pictured here with his grandfather in 2012) buried his grandfather in a cemetery in Gaza beneath a sky full of terror and bomb blasts.
Nemr Awad was 87 years old, born before the Catastrophe or Nakba in 1948 when his family was forcibly expelled from Burayr برير and made their way to Gaza.
I didn’t know him well, met him on only one occasion at his home in the Jabalia Refugee Camp in northern Gaza where he lived with his family. He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Arabic. But when I asked to take his photo, I sensed he was a very proud man with great strength of character.
Nemr نمر means Tiger in Arabic. He must have lived up to his name.
Today his family mourns his passing. He’s been ill for 8 years and so his death doesn’t come as a surprise, but their loss is deep nevertheless.
I suspect Nemr نمر kept hope alive that the family might be able to return to their homeland one day, that the brutal occupation would end, that their status as refugees just miles from Burayr برير would be acknowledged, an apology and reparations would be made by Israel.
Instead, he suffered and died under Israel’s occupation.
Nemr نمر had five children (3 sons and 2 daughters). His wife and two children preceded him in death. One son now lives in Belgium where he emigrated after being wounded in Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009). One daughter and son remain in Jabalia.
Speaking as a grandmother, I think Nemr’s hope for the future probably came from watching his grandchildren. I don’t know how many he had, but I know Mohammed well and Nemr نمر must have been very proud of him.
Mohammed has a degree in English Literature from the Islamic University of Gaza. He teaches and tutors students of all ages, and I’ve witnessed his love for teaching. And his love for learning.
I wonder if Mohammed got that love for learning from his grandfather.
Even growing up in very difficult circumstances, never setting foot out of the Gaza Strip, witnessing death and destruction up close and personal, Mohammed doesn’t hate. He doesn’t speak of revenge.
Mohammed has a curiosity about philosophy and religion and people and what makes the world tick. We sat and talked for many hours (at first Skyping online and then in person when I arrived in Gaza). Mohammed introduced me to new ideas and ways of looking at the world which makes me think he is probably a very old soul.
Occupation + Climate Change = Double Trouble in Gaza
Mohammed is the neighbor any loving family would want to have next door.
Nemr نمر —— you raised your family well, with honor and dignity, with courage and intelligence. May you rest in peace knowing that you succeeded as a father and grandfather. Your children and grandchildren will carry on your memory. عظم الله أجركم الله يرحمه