WASHINGTON (WJLA) – As the fighting between Israel and the Palestinians escalates and people in Gaza are being warned to leave their homes for their own safety, ABC 7 News spoke with a young man who knows about the violence in the Middle East all too well.
Yousef Bashir is spending time in Washington, D.C. visiting friends who have become a second family to him here in the United States, sharing his experiences as a child living in Gaza and hoping to inspire change in the future.
It has been 10 years since Yousef Bashir was shot in the back. But even now, he remembers as if it were yesterday. Israeli soldiers had taken over his home, during a time in which he describes having to ask permission to use the bathroom in his family's home in Gaza.
“It was one gunshot that took place and that's when I fell to the ground,” Bashir said. “My entire life changed right there.”
For the next year and a half he was in a wheelchair, paralyzed after being shot by an Israeli soldier while United Nations officials were visiting his family.
“I thought I was dying at that moment,” Bashir said.
He spent his time recovering in Tel Aviv, Israel. To this day, Bashir maintains he had to get shot in order to see past the anger and frustration of what happened to him that day.
“So, the fact that one Israeli shot me and many Israelis saved my life showed me the importance of my dad's philosophy for peace,” he said.
Bashir says it has been difficult watching the news lately, as the Palestinian death toll continues to rise with more than 150 lives lost. It appears that neither Israel nor Gaza’s Hamas rulers are backing down, despite international appeals for a cease-fire.
“It makes me sad, it makes me worry,” Bashir said. “I have my family still there and many of my friends are living there, but hopefully the fact that I am here speaking to you gives me some kind of hope that one day the free world will act and help change the situation.”
Over the years, Bashir says he has learned to forgive the soldier who shot him and hopes that others will follow his lead in making the first step towards ending the violence.
“This hopefully will allow us truthfully to see the rights and feelings of the other side. It all starts with us listening to one another,” Bashir said. “I hope people get inspired to not let the historical hatred that we share together define the future.”