Israel-Palestine war: Farewell Mahmoud, my kind, generous, joyous friend
Yet, when I sat down to try and pay tribute to my compassionate colleague, Mahmoud al-Naouq, I grappled with the inadequacy of words to convey the profound sense of loss.
Mahmoud will never be a mere statistic among the Palestinians killed in the ongoing Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip; he is a human being, a soul, and a story that transcends the numbers.
Mahmoud, whom we affectionately called Abu al-Naouq, was a remarkable young man - ambitious, dreamy, strong, courteous and generous.
Israel killed Mahmoud and 18 members of his family, including 15 children. They were among the 60 percent of victims who perished in the so-called "safe zone" during an Israeli air strike on their home in the Deir al-Balah neighbourhood in central Gaza on 22 October.
As Mahmoud often reminded us, our martyrs are not mere numbers; they are living stories, dreams and entire universes in their own right. Each martyr possesses a unique narrative, and their absence leaves a profound void. Their loved ones deeply miss their conversations, humour and laughter, and reminisce about their aspirations and dreams.
But for us, Mahmoud's colleagues and friends - Mahdi, Ahmed, Muhammad, Alaa and myself - we do not have the luxury of mourning those who have been ruthlessly killed by the occupation without any justification.
Today, our primary focus is to highlight the Israeli occupation's crimes of genocide, starvation, violence and devastation against Gaza, "the world's largest open-air prison".
Just as Mahmoud used to do. He trained many young men and women in the accurate translation and documentation of everything related to exposing Israeli narratives.
It was Mahmoud who initiated my immersion into the intricacies of accurate translation, a debt of gratitude I will carry with me eternally, whether he is with us or not.
Individuals like Mahmoud never truly depart from our lives; their legacy persists and continues to inspire us.
Mahmoud once confided in me that the work that affected him the most was translating the texts of Zainab al-Qolaq, who expressed her emotions following the loss of 22 family members during the Israeli aggression against Gaza in 2021.
He revealed how this task profoundly affected his compassionate soul, leading him to contemplate for hours the unfathomable grief one endures when losing one's loved ones in the blink of an eye.
As you can see in the photo, Mahmoud was a constant presence, with a smile adorning his face, always driven by the pursuit of diverse skills.
In addition to his outstanding translation work, Mahmoud also served as a communications officer at the Pal Think Foundation. His dedication and proficiency led his supervisor to choose him two months ago for a special training programme in Malaysia, where he successfully earned a fundraising certificate.
It was the only time in his life, which Israel decided should last only 25 years, that he ventured beyond Gaza's borders.
Mahmoud never missed an opportunity to pursue education and gain knowledge. He enrolled at the Islamic University of Gaza to take a diploma in project coordination, a testament to his dedication to both Pal-Think and his commitment to enhancing the institution's work.
He often expressed his happiness at being part of the foundation, where he could engage in decision-making and continue expanding his skills and knowledge.
Mahmoud excitedly told me that he'd been awarded an Australian scholarship to pursue a Master's degree in international relations. His joy knew no bounds
On that trip to Malaysia, Mahmoud shared his immense joy at witnessing an airport for the first time and boarding a plane. He insisted on reserving a window seat, describing the view of the clouds while airborne as "dream-like". Mahmoud took many photographs and videos of his trip.
His fascination with the world beyond the besieged Gaza borders was reminiscent of a thoughtful person who was certain that a vast universe existed beyond the confines of occupation, bombings and ceaseless injustices. He often discussed the beauty of nature.
Prior to the outbreak of the Israeli aggression on Gaza, Mahmoud excitedly told me that he'd been awarded an Australian scholarship to pursue a Master's degree in international relations.
His joy knew no bounds.
The last words Mahmoud shared with me, just two days before his killing, revolved around the profound sense of oppression. He couldn't fathom the magnitude of the crimes committed by Israel against us in Gaza, coupled with the lack of assistance from the world.
Mahmoud transcends the confines of mere digits; he is no diminutive entity. Within him, a universe unfurls.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.