About Refugees, By Refugees
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“I’m the son of this earth and I want to be able to travel wherever I want without being questioned. And I wish this for everyone,” dreams Nidal Bulbul (35), a Palestinian journalist living in Germany. Nidal lost his leg while on assignment, and he then left Palestine because life would be “very miserable if I go back with my disability to a situation where it’s very difficult to sort of overcome your disability and rehabilitation because of the shortages and the blockade that in Gaza.” Nidal doesn’t like to be defined by his experiences as an amputee, a refugee, or by the violence he saw as a journalist: “I learned to overcome everything that I’ve been through.” He strives to be grateful for what he has: “Yeah, of course you lost a leg, but life gives you so many other things for it that you have to be thankful of. So I think it’s just very important to… every human being to be satisfied and happy with the person he is or she is today.”
We will talk about current situation and what kind of housing do you live in? And can you describe the condition? Who do you live with?
Yes. What kind of apartment?
I live in Berlin, Schoneberg. One of old Berlin apartments. Sharing my apartment with a roommate. It’s a good situation. Let’s say.
And, how is condition, do you feel? Relax?
I managed to create a home out of this space, so I’m trying to renovating it and put it in a good shape so I could feel home. So, just putting some furniture and plants and repaint the walls and put some paintings and also to put some details that represent my background or where I come from, sort of for the place to feel home.
And ho do you spend your time here? Do you work or…
Normally? I’m running kind of a cultural platform where so many people from different backgrounds, musician artists, they come. It’s also a cafe bar. And at the moment, because of corona, it has been closed since March, 2020. So we don’t work.
Oh. And what are some of the things that bring you joy?
At the moment is really nothing more than just reading and finding time to reflect on myself. So what are my values and focusing on the things that bringing me joy is sport, listening to music, meeting people, socializing with people, which is a little bit difficult today. So it’s hard to speak about joy and the corona situations because every aspect of fun is already prohibited and forbidden. Um, yeah.
And how how has life been since you are in Europe and what’s been good about being here? What’s been difficult?
Well, the idea of of like reflecting back to ten years being in Berlin is it’s a hell of a trip. I would say, ages, things that I’ve learned since things that I’ve learned through this trip, things that I’ve also took from my home, I came with here narrative that I’ve grown up with. It was very interesting to the point, if you would have told me today, like ten or if you would have told me ten years ago, “Nidal, in ten years you would be doing this and that and you will be having this and that.” I will tell you, “You’re crazy. It’s not it’s not possible.” But life just, you know, moved on and brought me to the situation I am in now. Despite all, I would say, I’m happy and this is how it should be or should be happy to the to who you are today and . Yeah, and it has been a very interesting trip, I would say. It’s hard to adapt in a situation of, it’s, OK, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible to adapt in a situation or in a place where you didn’t you you weren’t born here. You didn’t grow up here. So the whole cultural tradition, communication of the of European society is different than where I come from. So it took me a while, of course, to overcome so many things and some of my personality. So this 10 years of a trip was was also including so many, um, pain and joy, suffer, mixe feelings. But I think I made the best out of it. Let’s say I sometimes laugh about who I was and how I thought about things back then. But yeah, it’s the matter of today. What you think today and how to approach your life today.
Mm hmm. And can you describe it how living here has made you feel?
Hmm… Well, I was always aware, because I come from a big city, Gaza is a big city, so because I come from a big city, I was always aware that living in a big city is a bit exhausting and tiring. And if you don’t build your own network and your own family, I would say, then you will feel lost and individual. And this is, like Berlin is a city of individual people. So I was always aware of my steps and the city. I didn’t want to get lost in the city because you have so many colorful opportunities around you. But if you are not careful enough, the city can just take you away. It’s like I will always put in Berlin and picture of hipster woman, I was like with the light makeup and you dream to, actually she is very beautiful, just sitting in a bar and you dream to talk to her and to date her, I would say. So you could go on and speak to her. But if you’re not careful enough, she can take you away. Like she can get you lost, you know. So, I was always aware of what I want here and what are my goals, and I just limited myself from getting lost, I would say. So, I didn’t like I had lots of fun, but, yeah, I always knew my boundaries and where I should stop.
And how does being away from the rest of your family make you feel?
Speaking of my today ideology, I would say today way of thinking and point of view, I love my family and it’s a great institute to have a family. It’s a great feeling that it’s an insurance for us, which is somehow European exchange it with the insurance trust, the trust, the insurance and they trust the system more than the family. We created a family in the Arab society or the Middle East society because it’s involved with feelings and emotions, which is in both ways it can be good and it can be harmful. But for them it’s different from a person to another person. From my side, I really love my family to have been always there for me and I have been always there for them. Therefore, despite the distance between us, I managed to build this bridge of communication between my sisters and my brothers and my mother, my father, my grandmother, to have a constant exchange of how I’m doing today, how they are doing. At the end of the day, we, like my life, took me a little bit far from them. But we still have communication and they accept me. The way I am and I accept them the way they are. Of course, there’s a big gap of of of like way of thinking between us and the things that we believe in today. But still, they are my family and I accept them the way they are. And I think this is our duty and this is our job, the today generation. We live this generation today and therefore we can actually pass it on them and find a way to communicate and not to conflict with them. And, you know, things that the people believe back then and my home are different from the things that are here today. So I don’t want to shock my family. And it’s not my job to change their way of thinking, but I’m passing on to them how other people think. And at the end of the day, the social connection between me and my brother, my sister, my father, my neighbor, my cousin, anybody, like this is a community, a big community, the social connection between me and them does not allow me to have a power to change their destiny or to change their future to decide for them. Speaking of like, I want to bring my family here? No, I never want to bring my family here, because this is a very selfish decision, like deciding to bring 50 or 60 years old mother just because I think it’s better for her to be in Berlin where where she’s actually enjoying her life and the rest of her life. As she said to me, I’m enjoying being there. This is where her roots are, where her friends are, where her where she feels more safe. And this is her narrative and the space she grew up with. So she told me, “Nidal,” my mom, after being two weeks in Berlin, she’s like, “I want to go home.” And I was like, “Mom, but we can live here. We can create a home here.” She said, “This is for you, but for me, I’m like an old tree. If you took me off my roots, I will die here.” And she was damn right like she she was there was a very emotional talk because of course, it makes us feel good to have everything that we like and we love in the place where we decided to live. But this is a very selfish way of thinking. So we have to let them also think what’s the best for them.
And how does the feeling of of not belonging, discrimination, stigma impact you? Can describe this?
Well, I don’t let it go. Would say where in any situation I feel discriminated because of my color skin or my language or where I come from or anything, I don’t let it go. I just like… You shouldn’t be violent about it. You should just express your point of view, your way of thinking, and should give it back to the person that he’s discriminating you. So I have the rule. We are all human. This is where we start. We are all human despite our backgrounds, skin color, nationality, traditions, religion, whatever can prevent us from each other. As a human, we, this is the basic rule. We are human and we deal with this that way. So I don’t it doesn’t actually get through to to hurt me because I’m a very strong person, but because also I stop it and I stand up right away, giving it back to the person, not insulting him or her, but just, you know, standing for my rights because I learned the first thing to stand for my rights. So, I of course, I’ve passed through, you know, so many situations where I’ve been discriminated and when I’ve been like in the racist situations, but this is not it wasn’t all, you know. And let’s talk about it openly. The situations were also existent in my country. We always think of the black people different. You know, we always think of like people with disability, you know, we, it’s it’s different. We have different also kind of racism in the Middle East. It’s all about the family. Like, which family are you? And this is also discriminating. In which part of are you from? The city of the village? This is also discriminating. Which kind of skin color of skin we have in Gaza, for example, where I come from, we have black people, we have blond people, we have brown people. But if a black guy wants to marry my sister, I think and I believe my father would have a problem with that because of his skin color. And this is racism, so. Not because we are a little bit brown, that makes us a little bit less racist than a white European or Western guy or woman, so I experienced lots of racism here. And I think it’s but also lots of good things. So, the language was a big part of how to overcome this. So if I and this is something I got to know from the very beginning. So I have to learn the language enough well enough to speak to for my rights and to know exactly in which tone this person or this guy is talking to me. And if I’m welcome or not welcome in the German language, you could actually sense that very it’s a it’s a tone play you know? You could say the same sentence, but it’s uh, so I can name some situations where I also reacted different. You know, I also respond to this racism right away. But I didn’t insult him. I didn’t insult the guy. I just, you know, brought it back to him.
And could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle this situation or how have you been able to overcome, survive it?
Of racism situations?
Yeah, yeah. Or, you know, you came here and how are you?
Of course not, to be to be frankly honest about it. I didn’t know what was waiting for me, but I had so less fear of what’s coming up because this is life. We live it. It’s a trip. You know, if I left and stuck in my fear back then of like a fear of the future, what’s what’s heading to me, I will never made a step further. I think I was eager to learn, I think because of the situations that I lived in back then, I was eager to just go out and experience what is the world look like? What is the world about? So I was exposed to so many new things in my life here, which is also shaped my personality to the way I am today. No, I didn’t actually know what what was waiting for me. So as I said at the beginning, if you would have met me 10 years ago and tell me one day Nidal you will be running a bar in Berlin, you would be you would work as a journalist here, you would do this and that. You would be sitting in this apartment here. I would tell you. No, no, no, no. This is like a dream. We always heard about those refugees and asylum applications. And you have to go through the process of blah, blah, blah. I didn’t have to go through all of this, to be honest. And maybe I was one of the lucky people because I took a step back and I managed to enter the system here and to apply to get papers through my work. And not, of course, honestly, the German state pushed me to apply for asylum because back then I told them, listen, I am stuck here. I cannot go back home because my border, the borders to Gaza are closed and I still have visa and mine, and my passport. And back then they were actually pressuring me to apply for asylum. If you want to stay here, you have to apply for asylum. And it went a long procedure was like, hey, I’m actually stuck here. I want to go home. I don’t want to stay here. And you have to give me a right to work or to live until I find a way back home. And this is what I was looking for. And when I decided to actually fight for that and I knew I’m living in a Democratic state here, I want to just fight for my rights. I managed to take it and I didn’t have to go to refugee status. Yeah, so but I know to so many people, situation were different. You know, for me, I came with an airplane, I lande and I just got here. For some others, it was really a hell of a journey, you know, to walk through borders, forests, mountains across oceans, to come to the paradise of Europe, which is surprising, like surprising. And it’s shocking them that that’s not it’s not it’s not paradise. This is just a hell of a different world, you know? And I think they start appreciating where they come from. Some of them like this are appreciating what they have back then back home, despite, of course, the conflict and and and the way of living. I would say that the safety feeling, you know, is the feeling that you are safe and protected. You’re missing it here a lot. Yeah, so.
And do you think you developed the ability to deal with this challenge or do you think you already you know, you always have those skills?
I mean, for the you know, for overcome all this station, do you think that you develop a developed the ability to deal with these challenges or do you always have the skills before you’re?
I think I’m a strong person, I because of the things, because of the way, how I grew up, . It just made me a strong person, to be honest. Like reflecting back to where I come from, from a very early age, I decided to work. No one pushed me to work to support my family. So I was running, trying different jobs to get money to support my family because I see the struggle that we are facing there. And then with, where my life took me to work as a journalist and I lost my leg and how I reacted to this. It’s actually shocked me. Like I didn’t feel damaged, I didn’t feel hurt, I didn’t feel weak that I lost my leg. I woke up the next day and I was like, all right, so what’s come? What’s come after/ so I was like, chill Nidal, you know, you just need to take time for yourself. But I was very strong in and dealing with my life. And I think this is also was surprising so many people around me, including my family, of how I overcome so many things in my life. And there’s nothing impossible. It’s all, as you said in your question, it’s all challenges. And this is what keeps me alive. You know, if I face challenges and difficulties, it doesn’t mean that they’re impossible. You can overcome them. And tomorrow’s a new day. Then you live. Of course you can. You could have just met me today, just a depressed guy sitting in the wheelchair, long beard, black dressed and maybe a drug addict because of the trauma that I couldn’t get over from the things that I’ve seen back back home, all the things that I’ve experienced myself. But I didn’t let this happen. It’s also this. I’m not saying everyone could do that because I understand the trauma is something really heavy that many people cannot get over. But I advise everyone to be able to take care of your trauma. At least you have to get yourself out of the situation where you and because you have to observe it from a different place. I didn’t have a problem to sit in a wheelchair, but I believed back then that this is not this is just a temporary situation. I will stand up, you know, and I stood up. Despite the fact that all the doctors around me were saying, Nidal, you know, it will be difficult for you to get a prosthetic because you have a short limb, you know, amputated above the knee. But even that didn’t actually matter to me. It’s like you guys are bullshit, no, I’m going to walk again. So and I walked. I stood up. I made it to Germany. I wear at the highest production of of of you know, prosthetic legs, not because I’m a rich guy. No, I made my way. I believed in you know, I remember this moment when I was back in Jerusalem sitting with my laptop in the rehabilitation center, Googling and researching the, you know, the production of prosthetics and where it made and who makes it. To the fact that I got to a place today, I can name it. It’s called Ottobok Medical Center at Potsdamer Platz. It’s literally now, I live ten minutes away from this place. When I came to Berlin, a few months later, I managed to apply for a visa and I came into this place that was, that meant the world for me, because I’ve seen this place as a building. When I was back in Jerusalem and I knew this is where I’m going to do my leg. This is where I’m going to have a leg. I walked in, I didn’t walk in this place, I rolled my wheelchair into this place, I had I came to Berlin with a wheelchair. Three months later, no one, when I entered this place the first time, I was like a huge impression, you see all this like a modern industrial like technology and prosthetic hands, prosthetic legs. And, you know, they see that it’s a huge place. Three months later, I was working there. I convinced the people that that they are there. You know, I can do modeling for the agency… And I got my prosthetic done. And through the insurance here, also, I could finance my prostatic and my situation. But trust me, not so many people are determined to reach their way. And so many people also have got prosthetics, but they cannot use it. Why? Not because they cannot use it, because their trauma are very strong, that they are stuck in that place, that they are not over. They cannot overcome losing a part of their body. You know, this is our body. If one part fall, it doesn’t mean that we cannot continue. Of course you can continue. If I would have lost the other one and two of my hands, I’m still alive. I’m healthy. I can eat, I can talk and I can see and I can. We have so many things to enjoy. But it’s your decision. Because the trauma and the pain is more mentally, you know? If you stuck on it, it will hurt you deeper and deeper and deeper. And I’m not making fun of other people trauma by comparing my my strength and my power and being determined to reach what I want. But I know it’s difficult for uh, some other people to to do this, you know. Now, maybe shortcut it that way. Being an amputee does not represent me. It’s not the only thing that represents my personality. So I do not come, you know, by saying, hey, my name is Nidal and I’m amputee. No. This is maybe during, like I can tell you about so many things in my life that I’ve done and uh, I would tell you after sometimes and by the way, this is what happened, but it’s not to thing that first comes in my life and it shouldn’t. If you see it that way, then people will see it that way. If you feel disabled, then people will treat you as disabled.
Disability is not just an act. Disability is a way of thinking. If you think that, then you will act like this.
And how has COVID-19 affect you in terms of daily life?
COVID-19. Affect you in terms of daily life and your mood, feeling, emotional well-being?
Well, so many people actually, I know, including myself, also recognizing that the corona situation is, is it it is bad. It’s a pandemic that affected so many aspects of our life. People are dying. People are frustrating. And at the end of the day, we live here in Europe. We are waiting for the vaccine, to have it, you know. But I wondering and I’m listening and I’m watching other countries how they’re facing the situation. Where they don’t have this, this medical system, you know, or those hosptals. And they cannot if they are poor, they will not be able to afford the vaccine for themselves. And we had so many crises in our our world more than, I wouldn’t say, more than COVID-19. You know, so many countries are struggling for food and water, for the access of, like, simplicity, of like things that we have here as normal. What does it mean for you, like waking up in the morning and not being able to take a shower? You will freak out as someone living in Europe here, you’ll freak out. “What? There’s no water here. I cannot take a shower?” But just four hours flight away from you or five hours, people are not finding a healthy water to drink. You know what I mean? Yeah, but not not exaggerating. We live in a fucked up world today. And honestly, this COVID-19 situation affected our life like my business is shut down. Yes, we are struggling. But to be honest, this is not the end of my life, you know? And if it collapsed, it collapse. It means I have to start something else. I have to think about something else. We are facing high finance crisis and also so many people are dying from it and this is the most bad thing about it. But on the other hand, it made me aware of so many things. It made people aware also of so many valuable things for their lives. It made them reflect about what matters for them. It makes them reflect on how important it is to socialize with each other, to have real friends, to care for you. Everyone has the fear of dying and getting infected and being alone, you know. So I think it just also influenced our life in a good way, not just in a bad way.
And why did you leave your country? Can you describe what happened?
At some point when I started, actually, I always had to dream to go to study abroad, you know. But Israel made it very difficult for me, despite having a visa in Gaza, to leave the country and to study abroad. And by the time that actually settled myself and I started having a job back then and journalism and my life was settled. Life was hiding different destiny for me. So when I got injured and I woke up in a Israeli hospital in Jerusalem with result of having my leg amputated and then I had no way back, I would say. I knew my situation in Gaza would be very miserable if I go back with my disability to a situation where it’s very difficult to sort of overcome your disability and rehabilitation because of the shortages and the blockade that in Gaza. So I knew that my life will take me somewhere else. And I had no way back to see my family. Or. You know. Then I left from Jerusalem to to Germany, which, like all all of that has has so many little details that affected. Like basically when I got injured in Gaza and I had to be transported to an Israeli hospital because of my work with an international media outlet like Reuters, I worked with Reuters back then. So they had to transfer me from Gaza and I had to get rehabilitation in Jerusalem and to get hospitalized in Jerusalem. I got to the Israeli checkpoint, which is really, really tough checkpoint where the medical guys from Gaza, they have to drop me on the ground for, in a zone, in a place until the Israeli medical people will come and pick me up from there. It was December and it was very cold. I wasn’t allowed to have any clothes on me. My leg was injured and bleeding. And I was there from 2:00 afternoon until the next day. Twelve o’clock at night until the medical guys in Gaza from Israel came and picked me up through the border. Back then I got a permission from the Israeli authority, which is allowing me to come to the Israeli hospital. This permission duration was only for seven hours and those seven hours are over. So when I got to the Israeli hospital in Jerusalem, my colleagues from Jerusalem office were actually waiting for me there. And they had to fight with the Israeli army. And because they didn’t want to let me in the hospital, because I didn’t have a permission. And I would say [it was] not just not the injury that led to the amputation of my leg, it’s actually the time that I lost getting to the hospital, the time that I was just there on the cold ground of the checkpoint, surrounded by tanks and the watchtower, and having military guys coming and checking my body just over lifting the blanket that was over me with the guns to see if I have anything around with me. So, yeah. And to be honest, after all this miserable situation, I was so happy to be alive. And then when I got conscious and, you know, I got over the amputation and I was happy to leave the hospital there. I knew that my life will never bring me back to where I ws before. I will not be able to do the work that I had done before. So I have to leave the country to build a different life or to have a better life. And uh, I was there in Jerusalem as someone from Gaza, I’m not allowed to be there without permission, without an Israeli permission, and this is the country where I was born and I was not allowed to be there without permission. Despite all this fact, I spent almost two years being brave enough to move around and to live there without Israeli permission. But now. Time had come, so I would have to leave the country and there was another story. Within those two years, I didn’t manage to see my family. None of my family have made it to come to visit me. And now I need to leave the country to go out to Germany. So I had to apply for a visa, German visa, and I have to fly from Amman. But crossing from Israel to Amman to Jordan, that was a hell of difficult situation where it took me a while to manage that. And then I got to Amman and from Amman I fly to Germany.
How did that make you feel at that time?
I was numb, to be honest. I wasn’t realizing in which situation I am in. But again, I was so determined and was not afraid of anything that I’m facing. You know, I didn’t feel hunted. I didn’t feel hunted in any mental situation that I’m in because of my situation, my amputation of the current situation, I was in, um, and I wasn’t hunted or afraid of the Israeli occupation back then. I knew that I’m a human being and I’m actually fighting for my rights. I want to leave to get a better life. So this is how I presented myself back then. I was missing my family, but part of the strength that I got because I didn’t see my family back then, you know, it would have made it difficult to see my mother, my siblings watching me you know, very week after my amputation and stuff like that. So they would have you know, their reaction would have influenced my way of thinking, I would say, because they would cry. They would you know, they would think that I would lost it. That’s it, I’m not going to be able to stand up again. And that would have influenced my way of thinking. So I communicated with them and I was telling them everything is OK. My mother didn’t believe me until I got to Germany. And a year after that, I could actually apply for permission for her to come to Germany. And she saw me here. And at that point she realized, OK, now you’re strong, you are OK, and I’m happy to see you that way. And yeah, that was a hell of work.
And how was the journey to Europe? Um, is there an experience that was particularly difficult that you could tell us about it?
It’s nothing really like the starting from applying to you know, um, for a German visa, I had to find a course which is related to journalism that I can take part in and the whole visa procedure. I managed to to do this. And then leaving Jerusalem through an Israeli checkpoint and going to Jordan, first of all, I have to face the Israeli Secret Service, you know. [They asked] Where I was? What did I do in the time that I spent in Israel? All those questions. And at the end of the day, I was really strong to to deal with them. Telling them what what I am planning for, and I just wanted to go to my future to build my future and just let that happen to me. And I think at the end they had nothing to do with me. So they just let me go. And then facing the Jordanian part of it was like, how did you make it? You collaborate with Israel? That’s why you are here? And I was like, guys, just give me a break, you know, um, so it was an interrogation for a few hours where they, you know, just tried a couple of questions on me. And I was really mentally tired, you know, just to not, didn’t wanna to piss them off. And I was just like guys, you know, I’m just a random guy who have been injured and spend the time in the hospital and now I’m on my way out. So I’m not going to stay in Jordan. I have nothing to do here. I don’t work with Israel. I don’t cover collaborate with Israel. And I’m just going to Germany to see my future. And that and they just let me go to because they have nothing against me.
And how did that make you feel at that time?
I was so nervous. I remember that I didn’t fall asleep the entire time until I got to the airport and and the airport, this is my first flight ever. To fly to Germany. I flew to Munich and I didn’t sleep the entire flight. I was out of fear and excitement and you know, I was afraid that I’m going to miss something. You know? I was just super conscious despite I was super tired. And yeah, I got to the airport and then. Things went just like smooth. I took a German train from Munich to the place where I was supposed to be and those were my first steps in Germany. Yeah.
And do you think about these events often?
No, not really. No, I’m busy with life today. I mean, this is also a part of my past. You know, I am not stuck in it. I learned to overcome everything that I’ve been through. Beside of also my trauma, because I believe, you know, taking care of the trauma, you have to get out of the place that you were in. To observe it from outside and then to start, you know, overcome it. Of course, I have seen bloodshed in Gaza. I’ve seen so many ugly pictures of the conflict there. But I’m glad and I’m happy that nothing stuck in my head from those images. I don’t have nightmares. I am, again, lucky for that because I see my colleagues have been suffering from this but those also the ones who made it abroad are still not able to overcome their trauma and what they’ve seen there. Because it wasn’t easy like today, I’m, I don’t want to say indifferent, like, I still feel the impact of those situations and the stories on us, but it’s not as hard as I was there, you know, filming them and seeing them on a daily basis. Because, you know, working as a journalist it get you to the to places where you cannot even distinguish between your private life and your business, because the story that you are making now, it’s about your cousin or about your friend or about your neighbor or someone has been killed or his house or get bombed by Israeli um, um, air strikes. And this person you know. And or this person that he got killed or got shot, if you know this person. So it’s really hard for you to distinguish between your private life and your business and to do this as a story, you know. Until one time, also, a dear friend of mine, father of Shana. Um, we got hit, we got shot, we got targeted so many times from the Israeli army because of the fact that we are bringing the real story, the real photojournalist, the we are the messengers of this of this place to the world outside. And they knew this. We got threatened by the Israeli army a couple of times. And our phones, through our process, through messages, through other, through even live shots, they would shoot at us telling us, “Here, stop, what are you doing?” And our message was clear enough, you know? “You stop what you’re doing and we’re going to stop, too.” So our job was to deliver the story to the people outside. To tell them what’s actually happening in that situation. And I was always like, you know, so many journalists are working, eager to get the exclusive story, the exclusive shot, the exclusive video that they can, you know, bring to the world outside. So they get, you know, famous or they would say, to get an exclusive for them to get overrated for, to get rated by your agency or the place that you work in. And I was always thinking, like, what is the best exclusive ever in life, you know, as a journalist to make? 2008, this answer, the answer to this question came very clear to me when a dear friend of mine, father of Shana, was filming an Israeli tank from the top of a hill in Gaza, a small place where he was surrounded by kids and he was talking to the office and on the phone you could hear and the footage is that he was in the phone and he was wearing his flak jacket, which says clear that he is a TV, you know, helmet and his car down the hill it has a marks of like a TV marks all over. So within the Israeli modern technology of uh, of weapons that they have, even with your normal human eye, you would see that this person is a journalist. Despite this fact, they shot him by a missile from the tank. In the footage, you could see the missile goes from the tank until it reach him and the backshot turn black (storyteller note- trying to say “shot point blank”). So the answer for my question was the most exclusive is to film me on this and at that point, I lost it. I didn’t want to work as a journalist anymore. I had to stop because of the reaction of the company where we worked for. They didn’t care about his name. He’s a just a number, you know. And if that guy who be would be, I would say a foreigner, someone is not a local journalist that this person is British or or German or a French journalist. It would turn the world upside down. But this person was a random local, 23 years old, dreamer. That he got shot and killed, of course, you know, after a couple of times they had questionary and they they had investigation about it [splat noise] and it just closed. Nothing happened in the story. And the iller didn’t, wasn’t punished or put in jail. Um, yeah. So at that point I decided, no, I have to leave this region. I have to leave this country. It’s not healthy for me to stay there and to work in this situation.
How does the situation your face affect you today?
This situation, how does this you faced affect you today, this situation?
It doesn’t. It really doesn’t. I’m asking myself if that’s actually normal. I think as I said before, I mentioned before I overcome all this trauma. Like I’m not stuck in the past. Those are memories that are things that I’ve experienced. Yes. But today, I’m able to tell you the story would not without getting emotionally involved in it. Which is maybe in a psychological world, is a healthy way of dealing with it. Like I remember when I did my therapy here because I was burned out through my work. And the my therapist, who she was asking me what I have done in my life and I was answering her. And of course, she asked me deeply into those questions when she knows, like I worked as a war journalist, she’s like, so how this? And I was like, no, no, no. We have to distinguish between what’s affecting me, what I’ve been through and what’s affecting me today. I’m actually talking about post trauma, which is today, you know, I’m not talking about the past. And she’s like, no, no, but this is the past is actually what is the cause. It was like, yeah, but those stories I’m telling you today has nothing to do with my current about the past has nothing to do with my current situation and burn out because of work, because of bureaucracy, because of so many things that I’ve overcome here. And there’s nothing to do with my you know. And it took her a while to understand this. Like I can tell you so many stories that I’ve experienced back then for you to hear it for the first time. It’s shocking. It’s emotionally effective, you know, but for me, it’s not. Because I’ve seen this and I’ve gone over it and I think I’ve just cut it out of my head. Or not out of my head because I still can tell it. But it’s not… it doesn’t really affect me mentally or physically or emotionally in any way.
And could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle that situation?
I will switch the question. If I would actually back then would have evaluated the situation I was in. If I showed you pictures and videos of the situations that I was in, you would think I’m crazy. But back then, I didn’t actually have the ability or the knowledge to say if that danger of I should go there or should do that. But today I’m looking at those video footage and photos. And I’m asking myself if I would have the choice to do it today. No, I’m not. I’m not going to do it. Not because I’m afraid of it. No, I have different um, you know, point of view. I have different like, I value my life because those are real dangerous situations. Uh, nothing going to be protect you there. Not a vehicle against shooting or not a flak jacket, not the helmet or anything would protect you. But we survived.
And how were you able to survive, get through it? Have you created any kind of coping mechanism to get through the hard times, memories? . Yeah, where do you find strength and support?
The source, it’s myself, my mother, she was a very strong woman, she help me overcome all this. And reflecting, talking to other people about it. I think this is what helped me overcome those situations. But as I said, even when I came here, like 10 years ago, those were not my main, like, I was focusing and determined to my future more than focusing on the things that I’ve been through. I didn’t want to victimize myself. And the point that, you know, I’m the refugee who experienced war and I deserve everything because I, you know, lived in this conflict. No. As, again, I’m not representing my representing my disability today as a first point to say, you know, I saw so many other things, chances that I want to do and not just being stuck in the past and talk about it the entire time. But again, this is also part of the strength. Those stories I shared with people that they deserve to hear or they ask about it, journalists, my friends, who actually want to hear closer. But I didn’t want to stand on the stage, you know, for working for NGOs, give those talks about it TEDx about how great I am. You know, I’m a survivor and I did this. I’m the hero today. I’m here, giving all those talks to all the retired Europeans to, you know, just tell them about where I come from.. I know it’s part of education sometimes, but honestly, I wasn’t feel victimized. The real heroes are those who still live there. That this is their life today and they’re still facing this kind of life in a daily basis. I always believed, like if we as journalists get the prize for a story that we made this prize belong to the people that they earned in this story. It’s not to us because we didn’t, we just picture the story. Yeah? But those people, they’re living the story and they still might be living it. So.
When you were leaving your home, what was your dream for the future? What do you think?
I think it’s just, first of all, to walk to to stand up and walk. But then I overcome, you know, like let’s say, I wanted to continue my journalist career. I was still back then believing in the journalism and career and stuff like this. And then I did it. But it took me five years to say, wow, now you did this because you wanted to have a proper European papers. I wanted a German passport. And when I got this paper, I was like, now you have the card of freedom. Now you can stop being a slave, working for anybody in this planet. Now you can just do and live for your own self. You know, just. And I quit my job. To start my own career, to start my own business, to start my own company and institute, you know, like its institute of yourself.
Before leaving your home country, what would you describe as your strengths, have you have you maintained this? If so how? If not, why?
Um, before leaving your home country, what would you describe as your strengths and have you maintain these? If so, how? If not, why?
I think my strength back then was my camera. My camera, my, my. It was the escape for me. From living into the situation I felt when I’m stepping behind the camera, I’m hiding from being part of that. You know what I mean? Like, I didn’t want to live the situation despite the fact that, yes, we are living it. But it felt that I’m in the other part of the world, you know? And my my strength to, I always tried very hard to distinguish my feelings from the story. To step, to take a step a little bit far. And not to be influenced by the story. So whatever things that I can tell you, that sometimes I shot photos, videos of my colleagues. When they were talking and goshing, before we starting an event, I was like telling them I had an instant feeling that those footages are will be used somewhere. And out of the blue sometimes, shit happens. They got targeted exactly at the moment where I was shooting them. And none of them would expect that. Do you know that I was questioned from the government in Gaza because of that. Because I had opened like my camera and I was filming, and all of a sudden an explosion happened. How the fuck do you want to convince them that you have nothing to do with this? You know, it’s a little bit our work was different, difficult. But also, like, you know, being a journalist in Gaza was very respected from the people, from the locals, because they, you are so much connected to them. You are the first, ah, person that they can let it go with you, you know, they want to talk, they want to let their anger out and this is where actually my strength came. My camera brought me closer to the people that they can just tell you their story. This is where my strength came from.
And do you feel like you have grown in any way as a result of this experience or has anything at all positive come out of it?
Definitely yes. Like I always ask myself, you know, this is also a little bit of my reflection of what if what if I was born in Europe? How would have been as Nidal? And to be honest, I despite all the pain that we we have been through and I’ve been through with my background, where I come from, I’m happy with who I am today. And I think everything every little details, um, just played a role or influence my personality today. And to be honest, I’m not wishing for a different person. No, I am happy with who I am today. And, uh. What again, can you repeat the question because I want-
Yeah, did did did, do you feel like you have grown grown in any way as a result of this experience or has anything at all positive come out of it?
Mm hmm. Yes, we all think and reflect back and say, OK, if I would go back in the time, I would change this and that. I think in my life I wouldn’t. Because if we would have the chance to go back, trust me, our shicksel, our destiny will bring it exactly as it is. And if you change that, it will not it will affect you in other aspects of life and, um, I think everything, like if I say, let’s give an example, if I would go back to change the situation, that I’m not going to lose the leg. Where I am today, this losing a leg that opens so many doors for me. Back then I spoke only Arabic. Today I speak five languages. Arabic, English, German, Hebrew and Spanish. Today, I am living in Berlin. I have this beautiful dog. I have beautiful house, beautiful friends around me, and I’ve seen so many. I traveled around. So. So you don’t just see the pos, like the negative part of it. Yeah, of course you lost a leg, but life gives you so many other things for it that you have to be thankful of. So I think it’s just very important to the to every human being to be satisfied and happy with the person he is or she is today.
And what are your hopes and dreams for the future now?
Health. Um, my dreams for the future, just like… I don’t have the dream to be a rich person and, you know. Can we stop?
You’re you were talking about your dreams and hopes for the future.
I hope that we can live in a better world. I would say, a fair one and with no borders, so everyone can just cross and go wherever they want because, you know, recognizing myself, I am from Palestine. This country is not existing anymore because got occupied by Israel and built the state of Israel on top of it. And I struggle to have paper to be able to travel, but I’m recognizing myself not just as a Palestinian, I’m the son of this earth and I want to be able to travel wherever I want without being questioned. And I wish this for everyone.
And is there anything you would like to add that might help people in Europe better understand the life of refugees here?
I actually hate the description of of refugees, you know. But it’s a media world. It’s a media word that’s been used to describe a situation of people. I would tell them that those are not scums. Those are not losers. Those are not criminals. Refugees are people who fled their homes, not because they want to because they were forced to. They were run for their lives to have a better safe place to live and to shelter, and they are not poor. Some of them, I would say, but they just need help for the start. And this is a situation that could happen everywhere, not just because of war, maybe because of crisis, you know. And history to teach us a lot. If you go back and go back in history, we’ll see how European were actually sheltered and refugees in Arab world back then. And I would like to say that, you know, for expecting so much from refugees and to understand where they are, it takes a while, you know, it takes a hell of work to settle. And you know, for some people, it’s easy and quick. For some others are not. And, everyone’s talking about integration into society. I want to tell you that integration does not mean to become German because those people are not German. Those people have, were born somewhere else, grew up somewhere else, grew up with different narrative and different traditions, different religion. But we have to accept them so they can accept us. And they can just, you know, mixed into the society. We are colorful humans all over the world. Doesn’t matter which religion we believe in or which sexuality we have or, um, which color of skin. This all doesn’t matter. We are at the end of the day, humans, and we have to accept each other the way we are.
Thank you so much Nidal.
Many 1000 Dreams interviews were not conducted in English. Their translation has not always been performed by professional translators. Despite great efforts to ensure accuracy, there may be errors.