Painting for Palestine

Channeling Helplessness Into Art

By Feryal Aboshama

Jan/Feb 2024

In 2021, I would scroll through social media and watch my people be hurt and bleed for simply existing and standing up for what they believe. Every night tears uncontrollably slipped down my face as I thought about the Palestinians. I would cry silently, feeling helpless and guilty, and constantly wake feeling guilty for being blessed with another chance to wake up, while millions of Palestinians either didn’t or, if they did, woke up orphaned and alone. All I could do was watch the people protecting our Holy Land die gruesome, inhumane deaths that traumatized the children and made them fear for the future they won’t have. 

I constantly questioned myself and wondered what I could do, because a simple social media post that only took a second to upload didn’t satisfy me. And so I turned to doing the only thing I could do at that moment: making protest posters with different sayings, like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “75 years is enough,” “Free my people” and plenty of other sayings, all painted in Palestinian colors. I then went on to paint a canvas to donate or sell for the Palestinian cause — but I kept the first one. 

Every Stroke

That painting depicted a tattered Palestinian flag in the background. On top, in bright white, it said “Free My People” with the shape of Palestine as the period. Every stroke of red reminded me of the unnecessary bloodshed. Every stroke of black reminded me of the smoke filling the air and the lungs of innocent Palestinian adults and children. Every stroke of green reminded me of the olive trees that used to stand as strong as the people fighting for their rights. Every stroke of white reminded me of every kafan (the cloth used to wrap the deceased) wrapped around an innocent life that departed too soon. Every stroke filled me with rage and sadness — rage because that isn’t what these colors represent, and sadness because that is what I am now constantly reminded of. 

While I still found myself feeling guilty, I turned to art, and day by day continued channeling that pain and sorrow in my art pieces, converting those emotions into hope … a hope that every Palestinian holds with pride, knowing that one day, with God’s Will, they will be freed.

Now, every day I turn on my phone and go straight to Instagram for real-time information. I would never have done this before, but here I am. Opening the app, I go through different Palestinian journalists’ accounts from Bisan to Motaz to Plestia and so many others who’ve become household names. Constantly praying and making dua for them, I hope that next account won’t be about another 1,000 quickly dismissed deaths.

One quote has stayed with me: “Even if the world was against me, I would still fight for what I stand for, until death.” I’ve always stood with Palestine, and will to the day I die. When I was younger, my parents taught me about Palestine. They told me when I fight for what I believe in to fight like a Palestinian, to have patience like a Palestinian, to smile like a Palestinian and leave it to God. Even back then I knew I had to fight for Palestine because, although I’m not Palestinian, they are my people — not just because I’m Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, but especially because I’m a human being who cares for all of humanity. This means that when my brother or sister gets hurt, I feel their pain. 

Today, I live in a constant state of awareness, gratefulness and dua. I’m aware of everything going on in Palestine, as well as everything I’ve taken for granted while innocent people don’t have an ounce of what I do. I’m grateful for every day I get to wake up and be with my family. I make dua that everyone in Palestine continues to fight with the strength provided by God. I pray for the day I get to see Palestine free. 

Feryal Aboshama, the second place prize winner of the Islamic Horizons essay contest, attends Eman Schools in Fishers, Ind. She will soon be going to university to study neuroscience and psychology, with a minor in Arabic.

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