This wasn’t 12-year-old Ibrahim Hammad’s first war, but his parents said it was the first war he’ll remember. The youngest of five children, Ibrahim was born in Gaza and has never left. Outside of narrow exceptions, Gaza residents are unable to leave the 140-square-mile territory. Ibrahim has Down syndrome, and his disability is apparently not worthy of an exception. There are therapies and services outside Gaza that Ibrahim cannot access.
I’d never met Ibrahim before we spoke last week, but his face was familiar to me. Down syndrome is one of the most common intellectual and developmental disabilities. His round face and almond-shaped eyes are characteristic of the condition. He looks very much like my friends’ children, siblings, uncles, and aunts with Down syndrome. When we spoke, his hair was freshly cut and combed, parted the same way as his father’s. He loves to imitate his father, a professor at Al Aqsa University Palestine named Abd Al Qader Hammad. Sometimes, Ibrahim will go on Zoom and even pretend to give university lectures. When Ibrahim smiled at me and waved, I couldn’t help but smile and wave back.