George Rishmawi (right) visiting Birmingham in April 2008 with a resident of Bil’in, a village in the West Bank where the dividing wall has cut villagers off from their land. Each week peaceful demonstrations, supported by international activists march to the wall where they encounter rubber-coated rubber bullets, tear gas, sound bombs a foul water. They are at a demonstration in Victoria Square, Birmingham, where council workers are fighting to keep jobs and conditions.
George Rishmawi became a friend in 2004 on our visit to the Holy Land where we were sad to see people supposedly inspired by sacred scripture and tradition unable to translate that teaching into the high standards of humanitarian conduct they require. It is a land where killing and hatred is now deeply entrenched. We found, however people like George who has no religious pretentions, working like many others to resolve the situation.He and they believe in, and practice, peaceful resistance. It is they who preserve the “Holiness” here, not the extremists who claim the exclusive right to the land. It is the bigots who use religious zeal as the excuse for inhumanity, denying the rights of freedom of others in their demonstrations of piety. An army, supplied by the US, Britain and other Western powers, occupies the land of the Palestinians and often protects others who have seized the land illegally.
Now George’s father has passed away. Below George pays tribute to him and explains how he influenced him. They are a family with a Christian background, but Israeli occupying forces make no distinction between them and their Muslim brothers and sisters. All are as systematically and comprehensively oppressed.
We have had the pleasure of meeting George in Birmingham since we first met and have had the opportunity of honouring him in a modest way. I have video footage of our day in Bethlehem when we visited the empty and damaged Church of the Nativity. Yasser Arafat told us that we must ensure that it is restored. We saw the dividing fence, now a wall, between Jerusalem and the little town of the beloved carol, and we met the family of a man who had died the day before in Jerusalem, and whose family house had been destroyed by the Israeli army in reprisal.
George we send our deep sympathy and admiration for a life whose example we can all now share a little.
Greetings and Salaam from Palestine.
I hope that this message finds you well.
As some of you have heard that my father (Saliba Rishmawi, Abu George)
have passed away at sixty six years old last Tuesday August 18th at 15:40
Pm while sleeping in his house in Beit Sahour, which was the biggest shock
for my entire family.
My Father Saliba, was my best friend, my teacher and inspiration, because
of him, I do what I do now. He has taught me how to live with honor and
dignity, how to seek justice and freedom, how work with the community.
He used to host elections campaign for his political party in our house,
since I was a little child, campaigning for how making Palestine a better
place to live , so from early age, I used to see people coming to our
house, organizing for demonstrations around the area, preparing for
strikes, and working hard solving people’s problems.
My father was an active volunteer in the workers trade unions, helping to
make the struggling people have a better working hours and wages. Hard to
remember the number of cases he solves in cooperation with his friends and
My father was conflict resolution man, he used to solve problems for many
people in the town and for people from my family, until the last day of
his life, he was helping people solving their problems, hard to be
My father was very active in the popular committees during the first
Intifada, he used to urge me to participate in the demonstrations if one
day I did not go, he will get mad at me, he always told me you should be
there with your comrades all the time, never miss any event.
My father was active in the voluntary working committees, always
participating in helping farmers and people in our community by
volunteering his time and labor for them.
Words can not help me describing how he was, some of you reading this
message have met him in person and have spend time with him, he meant the
life for my family and I. He was the compass for our journey, he was the
captain of our ship, he was the leader he was he was,
It is very hard for me to write this message about losing him, very hard
to go home and not seeing him, very hard to say that he is dead now, I
wish he is in a better place now watching over me and my family.
The only thing we could do is to continue his journey for Justice and
freedom for Palestine. One of my friends wrote to me, that my father is
lucky and privileged that he was never a refugee, lived, died and buried
in Palestine, yes very true, he is privileged that he is buried in his
hometown, in Beit Sahour the town he loved.
The funeral was attended by hundreds of people, a local poet from the town
had written a long poem about him, and one of my cousins read it in the
church, during the funeral, it was really moving for all the town seeing
an honorable beloved man departing. Thousands of people came to the wake
after the funeral, according to the Palestinian traditions all families in
our town came and gave their condolences and all of the people who loved
him, came also.
Many of you have written to me and my family, on behalf of my family, we are
so grateful for all of them we are grateful for those of you who came to
Beit Sahour and spend time with my family and got to know him, we are
grateful for all of you who prayed for him while he was sick, we are
grateful for you of thought about him.
Please help us continue his journey by bringing Justice and Peace for this
part of the world. Salaam and Peace for all of you.
George Rishmawi and family
George S. Rishmawi
Siraj, Center For Holy Land Studies
Beit Sahour, Schoold Street