Remembering Baha Nababta

A year ago this week, Baha Nababta was killed.

I wrote the following post then:

One of the best people I’ve met in a very, very long time, a social activist and community organizer from the Shuafat Refugee Camp, Baha Nababta, was murdered three days ago by an unknown assailant, while fixing a road with hundreds of others, inside the Camp. I feel completely shattered, fluctuating between disbelief and horror, more or less minute by minute. I am still not sure how to process this. The Saturday I spent with Baha, along with the author Rachel Kushner, in and around the Shuafat Camp two weeks ago, was one of the most optimistic days I’ve had in a long time, despite the fact that we were in a cage-like refugee camp surrounded by the Separation Wall, with burning trash piled in heaps, which were only the tip of the iceberg of the vicious neglect perpetrated by the Jerusalem municipality and the occupying Israeli forces. Baha was so hopeful as he told us about his efforts to improve life inside the camp, training volunteer emergency relief teams, and his smiling conviction that before too long, the wall would fall.

I don’t feel like I have the words, yet, to memorialize Baha as he deserves to be remembered. I need more time. I keep thinking in some part of my mind that, maybe, soon, I’ll find out that it’s not true, that he wasn’t killed. This is horrifically sad, for his family, his wife and his two little daughters, and his friends and community inside the Camp, and every single one of us who knew him and even those of us who didn’t, because he was the kind of person who was trying to make Jerusalem better, more decent, more free, despite all of the forces committed to the opposite.

Baha’s wife, Hiba, was pregnant when Baha was killed. Last September, Baha’s son was born — and named Baha, after his father. In December, Rachel Kushner’s piece about Baha and the Shuafat Refugee Camp came out in the New York Times Magazine. Yesterday, a few of us attended a vigil in the Shuafat Camp, commemorating Baha, and protesting the fact that there has been no progress in the police investigation of the murder, despite the fact that Baha was shot in the middle of the street, with hundreds of eyewitnesses present.

I feel angry at this horrible reminder of one of the occupation’s many manifestations: in a radical disregard for the wellbeing and lives of the occupied.

And I also just feel very, very sad. May Baha’s memory continue to be a blessing.