Hopes for 2006: From Gaza, Khalil Bashir

On the eve of the Israeli pullout from Gaza, Palestinian school principal Khalil Bashir hoped merely to visit the roof of his home, which the Israeli army had occupied for five years. He made it. Now he'd like the soldiers to return, but as civilians... and as his guests.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Today's the day many of us take time to reflect on the past year and on our hopes and dreams for the new one. So throughout tonight's program, in addition to the news, we're going to bring you a year in voices.

2005 dawned in the wake of the Asian tsunami. It was a year in which one pope died and another was elected, a year when Katrina crippled a major American city, bombings in London, riots in France, indictments, appointments, historic trials. These were events that captured the world's attention. And along the way, there were individuals who captured ours. We wondered about their hopes for the year to come.

In August, one man's hope was simply to go upstairs.

Mr. KHALIL BASHIR (Palestinian Resident in Gaza): I will breathe freely. I will stop being a stranger in my house. This is a blessing.

ELLIOTT: That's Khalil Bashir, a Palestinian school principal speaking on the eve of the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip. For five years, the Israeli army had occupied the upper floors and roof of his home to keep watch over the Kfar Darom settlement next door. We called Khalil Bashir to see if he had made it to the roof. He described a state of ecstasy as he climbed the stairs and took that breath of fresh air. But he also spoke of a short-lived happiness. Bashir wanted to celebrate the end of the Gaza occupation, what he calls a bleak moment in history.

Mr. BASHIR: But I postpone the celebration because the Israelis will not be able to accept my invitation, will not be able to come. My hope for the next year is to be able to welcome the Israelis at my home, as friends, not as soldiers as before.

ELLIOTT: So you would like the very soldiers who were occupying the upper floors of your home to come to your home now as civilians to celebrate with you.

Mr. BASHIR: Yeah. Because let me please clarify this point, when they were occupying my house, I am sure they were suffering exactly as I was suffering. Both of us were suffering.

ELLIOTT: As for the former Gaza settlers, some are now suffering the waiting for life to begin again.

Ms. MAYAN YADAI(ph): My name is Mayan Yadai and I lived in Gush Katif in little Hazani. It's very hard for me to say I lived there in past because I still in my heart and in my thoughts and in everything, I'm still there, like all of the people of Gush Katif.

ELLIOTT: We spoke with Mayan Yadai days after she gave birth to a son, but she didn't bring him from the hospital back to the place she considers home. Instead, she brought him to a hotel in the Israeli controlled Golan Heights where her family of five now lives in two rooms. In fact, she says half her village lives in that hotel. We asked Mayan Yadai about her hopes for the year to come.

Ms. YADAI: I just want home. I just want to give to my kids home, a normal life. I want to bring my kids after the kindergarten to her room and to open my container where is all my things and take my pictures out and very small things I want and I need in my life. Very, you know, basic things. This is my wish. I just want to start everything from the beginning.

ELLIOTT: Former Gaza settler Mayan Yadai, one of the voices we'll be hearing throughout tonight's program as we mark the passing year.

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