Occupied Minds: When only one bullet ends an entire family’s dream

By Janaina, MSF psychiatrist

Bassim* and Ali were two very close brothers.  At the end of September 2013, during the Sacrifice Feast (known as Eid al-Adha), Ali decided to postpone his wedding which was already booked for November. The idea was to find a lucky fiancée for Bassim, so both could get married on the same day in April 2014, the new date set for a special and unforgettable day for the whole family. The dream was a challenge for all the family but the wish was attractive and realizable. Bassim was such a special person and loved brother that every effort would be worth it.

At that point, the family had not the slightest idea that one month later the entire dream would collapse in just one second as a bullet hit Bassim in the chest.

Bassim was 23 years old and the fourth in a family of eight siblings living in Hebron city. The two brothers used to travel weekly to manage the family’s shops, located in different cities around the West Bank. They needed to cross Israeli checkpoints constantly. This had never been a big fear for them despite all the time spent and the persistent annoyance caused by the soldiers with their inspections each time Bassim and Ali crossed the checkpoints.

Bassim was a dreamer and had a tremendously important role for his family. Full of innovative ideas and good ambitions, he was the manager of the family's trade and responsible for looking after their income. That was not all; he also was the funniest son, and the family comedian. Always attentive, gentle and caring, it was he who used to take the younger siblings out at the weekends. Bassim was also the one "lifting the mood" when some of children were sad or worried, with his famous jokes and his hilarious noises.

But on a Thursday in November of 2013, this young man overflowing with love, hopes and dreams had his life brutally interrupted. As usual, he and Ali were going back home after spending part of the working week at the family's shops in Jericho and Jenin. Bassim was really exhausted due to a sorrowful start to the week. Three days earlier, all the family had buried his cousin who had died suddenly of an unexpected health problem. The already painful week was also marked by a lack of sleep and more trips around the West Bank than usual.

Bassim was sleeping so deeply in the passenger seat, with his feet up on the dashboard, that he could not even hear his phone ringing several times in his pocket while Ali was driving with the sound of Bassim’s snoring. When the car reached the checkpoint container the car passed over a bump, Bassim woke up quite confused. Then, the car stopped at the checkpoint and, still extremely sleepy, he opened the door and got out of the car to stretch his body. Unbelievably, this simple innocent gesture was enough for a soldier to shoot the unfortunate bullet that made his strong young body topple to the ground. He died instantly.

From that moment, and for many months, his family struggled to come to terms with it, but their nightmare continued.  The family had yet to deal with the father’s heart attack, followed by delicate and complex heart surgery, just a few months after the incident. Added to that, the sequence of events caused their financial situation to change drastically in a short time, since none of them were in a condition to think about the family business.

After almost one year, the family started to recover slowly with the help of their friends, extended family and the support of MSF, which is providing them with individual psychotherapy. Just recently, during the last Sacrifice Feast at the beginning of October 2014, they were able, for the first time, to enjoy the family gathering and have a little short-lived pleasure in their lives.

However, this brave family has more distress to bear ahead. After all that had happened to them, they also lost their permission to move from the West Bank to Israel. So they are not able to cross the checkpoint as before. Apart from all the disturbances that this can cause, they were also separated from part of their extended family without any reasonable justification. In two weeks, a relative who lives on the Israeli side is having a wedding party. However, until now, they have no idea if they will be able to go.

*The name has been changed to protect the privacy of the patient.