A story about my friend Ibrahem in Gaza

We have to move out of this circle of blaming others. Frustration is a power. It can prompt us to react violently, or to despair. We need to invest it creatively, building something, even if it is small.

—Dahoud Nassar


Ibrahem Shatali is one of the main reasons I choose to return to Gaza.

We met in 2005 on my first trip. He was cordial and accommodating, introducing me to the work and workers of the Popular Achievement program sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. He arranged my stay with 3 of his friends, and encouraged me to return. At that time the Quaker Youth Program director, Amal Sabawi, was stuck outside the country because of closure and Ibrahem was in charge.


Reviewing a design for the new Quaker Youth Program website

On my second visit in 2006 I offered training in photography and writing for the Popular Achievement coaches. Then the shooting in June 2007 and my utter devastation at the news: I wept. I felt a heavy load on my chest, I panted, I slammed my fists together, angry and aggrieved at the same moment. I believe I first heard about his shooting from an AFSC message. He I’d been considering returning to Gaza; this sealed my resolve: I felt I had to honor Ibrahem by sharing his life as fully as I could, undergoing some of the risks he and other Gazan face daily. To think that such a man as Ibrahim might be killed by other Palestinians while struggling for an end to the violence. Perhaps I could learn more about his life, how he survives, how his near death experience might have inspired motivation—or despair. I could try to show and tell his story of an extraordinary person.

Ibrahem is part of an informal nonviolent activist group called “The Initiative.” I met with them in 2006, attended several of their events, one a candlelight vigil in front of a building in which Hamas and Fatah were meeting to settle their arguments. The vigil called for the end of factional violence. We were well received by all parties, including soldiers and police.


At a nonviolent demonstration, Ibrahem in the middle, behind the Palestinian flag

As the fighting six months ago was intensifying between Hamas and Fatah, the two main political parties vying for control of the Gaza Strip, shooting erupted between them on the street. Ibrahim and about 8 others tried to intervene by walking slowly toward the center of the fighting. They called for an end to the violence. Without warning, someone from an area controlled by Hamas fired at them, instantly killing one of his closest friends, shot in the head. Then a woman fell, severely injured. Ibrahim went to one to help and was hit. The bullet pierced his back, tore thru his right lung, and sped out near his nipple.

Friends got him to hospital, the bleeding was profuse, his condition critical. After 3 hours of surgery, 2 days in intensive care, and 3 weeks in hospital he recovered—physically.

One question is how has his spirit been affected? Three of his friends were killed, about 20 injured. He thinks Hamas did the shooting. He drew me a map of the action, showing the direction of firing, explaining the wounds and how they could have only come from Hamas’s controlled area. Hamas claims Fatah did it, Fatah Hamas. No one has taken responsibility.

At the office telling me this story, he showed me two photos of his chest made within days of the injury, the entry and exit points, the long stitched section of his side where doctors entered his chest to repair the severe damage. Not wishing to alarm his mother with whom Ibrahem is very close, his brothers knowing the truth told her the gunshot was merely to the shoulder. No great risk, he’s OK mom.


(These two photos made by a friends of Ibrahem’s, courtesy of Ibrahem Shatali)

Later at his home recently he showed me the blood stained clothing he’d worn and the Palestinian flag he’d wrapped around his shoulders during what he calls “the accident.” Pointing, he said, “There is the bullet hole, thru the flag.” He also showed me a poster he keeps over his desk with two images of his murdered friend, Shadi El-Ejla, a much beloved young man volunteering at a local youth organization.

His T shirt

Note the bullet hole in the lower white section of the Palestinian flag

Despite the seriousness of his condition, he believed he would live. He feels the kinship and support of Allah and the prophet Mohamed, and grants responsibility to them for his survival. He has work to do and a mother to help care for.

I detected in Ibrahim’s manner a profound sadness at the current situation, brothers in the family and in the struggle warring against each other—Palestinians kill Palestinians.

“Die? For what?” he asked. “We should be fighting for the end of occupation, not killing each other.”


Shadi El-Ejla, good friend of Ibrahem’s, martyred by other Palestinians in a nonviolent attempt to stop the interfactional violence

He seemed tenuous about his direction, not willing to take such huge risks now, exhibiting anomy. He is considering other forms of political action. He is pleased with his work at the AFSC, thankful for their support, both locally and internationally. He is a hard worker, dedicated and tireless. Recently I was with him visiting Popular Achievement sites in Beit Hanoun, near Israel, one of the most dangerous areas in Gaza. We might have been struck from the air by an Israeli missile fired from a US made Apache helicopter or while walking in Beit Hanoun killed by artillery fired from Israel. Despite this potential death from the sky and from the hands of other Gazans, Ibrahem continues his devotion to nonviolent change.


Doing a dabka step


With Skip Schiel at a dinner in Ibrahem’s home


“American Friends Service Committee youth Worker Wounded in Gaza”

Candle light vigil to stop the factional violence, 2006 (photos)

Dinner with Ibrahem (photos)

Youth from Palestine (developed partially by Ibrahem)

13 thoughts on “A story about my friend Ibrahem in Gaza

  1. Long live Ibrahim. I am amazed of the high spirit Ibrahim enjoys. I am so glad to have met you and looking forward to see you again at peace.
    take care..even though it has limited meaning with danger in Gaza and larger Palestine from everywhere.


  2. Skip, you are great
    Thank you very much for this story about my best friend Ibrahim (Abu alAbed) 😉
    be well always man

    with my best regards and best wishes to you Skip and to Ibrahim ..


  3. Many thanks, Skip for your article and photos. I knew Ibraheem Shatali from my own experience in Gaza. I’ve conducted art workshop with Palestinian students in Gaza in 2004 at Tamer Institute. He helped a lot with coordination of such event as well as to make it smooth and productive in such difficult conditions. My impressions about him were positively good. He is an intelligent, resoursefull, human and indeed ‘non-violent’ person.

    I was very shocked to know what has happened to him recently.
    With much hope that such terrible “accident” wouldn’t put Ibraheem off from his beliefs and he could continue to work towards peaceful resolutions in his country.

    Alyana Cazalet/ freelance artist&illustrator


  4. Dear Ibraheem
    realy I would like to inform you for many greeting and feel freely in your life so i sad when i saw your photo it is hard situation i hope to be well in live in peace.
    issam sammour


  5. Dear friends,
    Thank you thank you for sharing this story. It touched my heart and resolved my spirit to continue working to end the causes of war. Peace be with you. Connie


  6. Ibrahim has to feel very proud of being hurt while he was struggling for non- violence in his country. He was one of those very little people who were brave enough to walk in the middle of the Gaza streets and raised their voices against violence exposing their personal lives for dangerous. Ibrahim is a real hero and he deserves all support, respect and appreciation from all Palestinians and from all peace strugglers in the world. Special thanks for Skip Schiel for document Ibrahim story in this professional way.


  7. Before the beginning of all, I would like to thank my dear friend Skip, for writing about me this beautiful story, and the breadth of his vision and his view of things, and for his solidarity with the people to live in freedom and love.

    As I thank all my friends across the world who have shown solidarity with me, whether or visit or contact via e-mail, or to comment on this article, especially Martha Yager, Fida shafi, ibraheem Khadra, Alyana Cazalet, issam sammour, Connie Green, Manal Bashiti.

    wish all of you all peac & Love


  8. ibrahem,

    across the oceans, over time, whether together physically or not, we are friends. this is love in action. i’m pleased we can remain friends despite the obstacles.

    as hilllel, the great jewish sage, said, treat others as you yourselves wish to be treated. the rest of scripture is mere commentary on this one teaching. i think another great teacher and prophet, mohamed, would agree.



  9. Skip,

    I found this quote from the theologian/philosopher Paul Tillich which speaks directly to you, Ibrahem and all peace seekers:

    “Help has become almost impossible in the face of the monstrous powers which we are experiencing. Death is given power over everything finite, especially in our period of history. But death is given no power over love. Love is stronger. It creates something new out of the destruction caused by death; it bears everything and overcomes everything. It is at work where the power of death is strongest, in war and persecution and homelessness and hunger and physical death itself. It is omnipresent and here and there, in the smallest and most hidden ways as in the greatest and most visible ones, it rescues life from death. It rescues each of us, for love is stronger than death.” Paul Tillich


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