I met Vittorio at a protest against the proposed Gaza Steel Wall, in Cairo. He was standing quietly holding a banner in Arabic saying: no to the wall of shame. He wasn't trying to grab attention or make a show. We exchanged a few words and I was immediately impressed by his modesty and sense of humour.
A few days later, I was surprised to find that the friendly stranger I met was a famous blogger and author who blogged and reported relentlessly from Gaza to the World, in Italian and English. To him, every Palestinian mattered. To the world, they were just numbers. He spent his time as a human shield with Palestinian fishermen who are randomly shot at by the Israeli navy just for fetching food and a source of living. He danced with the Palestinians, sang with the children, received Israeli fire on their behalf. Throughout Israel's brutal onslaught on Gaza in late 2008-early 2009, Operation Cast Lead, he was one of the few, brave voices who wrote down the madness and delivered it for the world to know.
On every single day, my and 5000 people's Facebook timelines would be filled with a story from Vittorio. He chronicled every single bomb, every death, every smile, every good piece of news that happened in the crowded and impoverished strip. On every single day, he risked being the next Rachel Corrie or Tom Hurndall. To find a Palestinian resisting Zionism is normal and understandable, but to find an Italian national putting his life on the line, leaving behind the relative safety and comfort of family and home, to live in Gaza and support its people in every way possible, is an act of heroism. And Vittorio is a hero.
I have always wanted to write this post, ever since I knew him. For some reason I never did. I did thank him in person for his activism, but he had always rejected any kind of praise. I knew that if I had written this post and showed it to him, he would have never read it. I expected him to die in Gaza, in one of the random missiles perhaps. But he has suffered, he has been singled out and murdered. Maybe this was the only way for him to not be a number, to make him known in more parts of the world, to let his voice, his Palestinian voice, be reached.
Vittorio Arrigoni is killed, but Gaza is not. Palestine is not. Our spirit is not broken. Every brave and just citizen of the world will continue to carry out what Vittorio Arrigoni stood up for; a free Palestine. Vittorio lived, and died, for Gaza to be free. We shall see to that, we promise. We will end the siege and set Vittorio's brothers and sisters free.