Thank you co-blogger Nuraina Samad, for reminding me that it was already New Year and I have yet to update my weblog.
As Stevie Wonder's 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' song goes ...'no New Year's Day, to celebrate...' (I sang this number to qualify for the finals of NST talentime in 1987), I was beside an ailing friend at Pantai Cheras Medical Centre on the eve of January 1, 2009.
Palestinian businessman, Tareq, 51, lost his wife and 2 lovely daughters during a raid by the Israelis on Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza, in 1991. That dawn raid on August 12 also took away his younger brother and a few friends.
Devastated, he went to Jeddah in November and operated a small grocery store until an Indonesian managed to persuade him to migrate to Jakarta in 1996. During the students demonstration in 1999, his bazaar was burn down.
He came to Penang in January 2000. I came to know him when former Palestine Ambassador to Malaysia, Ahmad Al-Faraa invited me to a dinner at J W Marriott in 2001. That's how we became friends.
I remember Jabaliya well enough during my trip to Gaza Strip in 1985, about two years after the massacre at Sabra and Shatila. It was worse than that reported.
Tareq suffers from kidney problem.
"I dont mind if Allah calls me to rest, brother Jelani. I have tried to live a life without being haunted by the past... but I am just a human being. Losing your loved ones is most shattering. What have I done to deserve this?
"Nobody knows how long this war will go on. I dont know what happened to my relatives in Gaza and other parts of Palestine... I hope they are fine. The last time I spoke to my good friend in Jabaliya was on Christmas eve... two days later the line was cut."
Amid prolonged frustration and the agony of watching his homeland being reduced to rubbles, Tareq has a good heart.
"I hope the Palestinians and the Jews can end this war. We dont need the superpowers to broker the peace. We, the people of both countries had wanted peace a long time ago but some leaders were against it.
"Do you know that most Israelis, too are against this confrontation? No matter what their regime had done to me and other Palestinians, I hope we will live in peace somedays. If its not for me, its for the future generations."
I stayed on with him until the fireworks around KL came to an end. Back home, I went through my e-mails, some of which sent by friends from overseas and also from the United Nations News Centre.
Again, I was taken aback reading about more than two million people suffering from hunger in many parts of Africa.
What was there to celebrate... I asked myself.