Monday, December 06, 2004

Azzam Azzam returns to his family

Yesterday, after 8 years and a month, Azzam Azzam was reunited with his family. Charged with spying for Israel by the Egyptians, he was a much less visible prisoner than Jonathan Pollard has been but diplomatic activity going on below the horizon led to his release and return home.

Watching the pictures of his release and listening to his words of thanks to Prime Minister Sharon and the Government, of love towards Israel, I asked myself how a man who has suffered so much because of the fact that he is an Israeli could profess such loyalty and love to the State.

We live in a generation where genuine suffering is something that we experience at arm's length; either through history books, the filter of a CNN cameraman or, if experienced first hand, with the knowledge that we have a safe home to return to. Not so for previous generations, who survived the Holocaust, the First and Second World Wars, the Great Depression and rationing; for those who left Europe to drain the swamps and fought for their existence in '48 and '67. For those who have suffered, have had their rights and freedoms taken away, who have fought for an ideal, the achievement of what we think of as normality means far more than for those of us who have never known any different.

For Azzam, having lived in a free and democratic state, to have been incarcerated for 8 long years not really knowing if he would ever be released, the first breaths of freedom must be like being reborn. He returned to his wife and home - to a child who was 6 months old when his father was taken away from him, to being able to choose what to do and when. The emotional ordeal of being freed will be extremely taxing.

We constantly moan - about paying too much tax, about the political system, about the weather. Yesterday, watching a man being released from captivity, provided a valuable sense of perspective and shrank the mountains back to molehills. It was a reminder of how important it is to see the cup as being half full. Let all the things we have to complain about be trivial....


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