How did you feel leaving Palestine to come to America?
I’ll always be angry I didn’t revenge my best friend. I wanted to string up that solider that killed Bassam. I was angry coming to America, I still wanted revenge. Revenge is all the Palestinians have, but I don’t want that for my country. I want peace.
How was your life different after Promises was released?
My life changed so much after showing Promises. I got emails and messages from kids all over the world who saw the movie. China, Mexico, Sweden, Australia. People were asking me to come talk to them at their schools, to fly out to New Zealand and speak at a school there. I wanted to do something helping the community. So I decided to speak out.
In America you have to have an open mind, there are so many different people here living in one country. In Palestine having an open mind is called being a traitor. In Palestine I am a traitor. In America I am a hero and a movie star. Maybe hearing people’s stories is more important than medicine or water.
I decided to open my mouth and tell people how I feel. It destroyed a lot of people and woke a lot of people up. I don’t know if it helped or destroyed more.
Do you think you will eventually return to Palestine to live or do you want to remain in the U.S?
I don’t know yet. I miss my family a lot. I’m a very family guy. Family is so important to me. I have two younger brothers and three sisters, but I am the man of the house. I’m making so much money at my job, and I don’t have any time to spend it so I send a lot home.
I visited one of my sisters in London. She was getting married; it was the first time I had seen her in something like five years. I didn’t tell her I was coming. I had a flight come in the day of her wedding and I only told my cousin; it was a secret. That was probably a very bad idea. I showed up just as she was about to walk. I put my arm in hers; she looked at me and passed out on the ground. Cold. All I wanted to do was surprise her!
My brothers would love to come to the States. My mom would come here and never leave. Never go back home to Deheishe. She says that if she had enough money she would buy a boat and sail around the world. I told her, ‘Mom, you are better off buying a canoe.’
What was living in Amherst like?
I am at peace there. When I’m in Amherst, I am a different person. It’s so beautiful. I feel free in my life. I go hiking up in the mountains by Hampshire College.
And UMass, you can’t find a school better than that. It felt good to be a part of the community there, especially during the Red Sox games. I live in New Jersey now but I swear I‘m a Red Sox fan. It felt great to feel like a Bostonian, cheering with all the fans, but I couldn‘t believe what some of the students were doing [referring to the riots at UMass during the 2004 World Series]. Do we have nothing else to fight for at UMass? At home we throw things and fight for our country and here they fight for a game! I mean, we are not talking about a revolution here!