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Gaza mourns deaf activist Hashem Ghazal, killed in Israeli strike

Tributes have poured in for the accomplished carpenter, disability activist, and organiser at the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children

The New Arab, 14 May, 2024

Hashem Ghazal and his wife were killed in an Israeli strike in Gaza [Getty/file photo]

A prominent figure in Gaza’s deaf community has been killed alongside his wife in an Israeli strike on the enclave, activists and Palestinian media said on Monday.

Hashem Ghazal was a disability rights advocate in the enclave, and was known locally as Gaza’s “Godfather of the Deaf”.

Seven of his children, some whom are also deaf, were severely wounded in the strike.

Born in 1966, Ghazal was a prominent organiser of craft workshops at the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children NGO, located in Gaza City.

The NGO has been active since 1992, and provided speech therapy, income-generating programmes for the deaf, as well as vocational and community training. Ghazal had been with the NGO since 1994.

Online, many remembered Ghazal as a skilled carpenter, who was the first to establish a wood workshop for deaf carpenters, providing opportunities for the community.

In tribute to Ghazal, Palestinian photojournalist Wissam Nassar said: “Hashem Ghazal’s influence remains deeply ingrained in the hearts of those he touched, embodying resilience and unwavering dedication to improving the lives of deaf individuals in Gaza.”

Nassar said he personally worked with Ghazal, adding he experienced “first hand his infectious enthusiasm, genuine warmth, and commitment to inclusivity”.

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In 2015, the disability rights activist delivered a TedTalk entitled “Let the fingers do the talk” in the Shujaiya neighbourhood in Gaza City.

Throughout the presentation, Ghazal detailed anecdotes from his life, from his father’s passing at a young age, the challenges he faced in his childhood as a deaf youngster, and learning carpentry.

As an activist, Ghazal had travelled to several countries representing the Gaza Strip’s deaf community. He also appeared on the Al Jazeeranetwork.

Academic and researcher Nour Naim described Ghazal and his wife as “spiritual pillars and role models for the deaf community in Gaza”.

Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip has had a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities, NGOs have said.

Those living with disabilities experience added vulnerabilities, as they are exposed to various protection risks, such as separation from their primary caregivers and assistive devices.

Israel’s brutal military onslaught on the Gaza Strip has killed at least 35,173 Palestinians since October 7, with Israel’s atrocities against Gazans described as a “genocide”.


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