By Salam Abu Sharar
NABLUS, Palestine (AA) – Yasmeen Najjar, a 25-year-old Palestinian woman, did not let her disability keep her from following her passion of mountain climbing.
She lost her leg in a car accident when she was 3 years old, and has since lived with a prosthesis that has to be changed every three years.
Every morning, she looks at the mountains surrounding her house in Nablus, West Bank and dreams of climbing them one day.
“Here in Burin (her village) there are four mountains that have been occupied by (Israeli) settlers and we can’t reach them,” she said.
Since her childhood, with the support of the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, Yasmeen used to travel between Nablus and Jerusalem for medical care. But later on the Israeli occupation forces banned her from entry due to alleged security reasons.
“When the occupation banned me from entering Jerusalem, the alternative solution was to travel to other countries, which was a great chance to work on my passion for mountain climbing,” Yasmeen told Anadolu Agency.
During one such journey, Yasmeen met Suzanne Al Houby, a Palestinian mountain climber, who was the first Arab woman to climb Mt. Everest.
“When I met Suzanne for the first time she was preparing to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with many children and I decided to join the group, and make my childhood dream true,” Yasmeen said.
- New horizons
For a year, Yasmeen did intensive exercises to prepare for the journey.
“Six months before the expedition, Palestinian novelist Ibraheem Nasrallah heard about the project and decided to join us, to write our stories,” Yasmeen added.
Nasrallah wrote his novel, The Souls of Kilimanjaro, based on the group who reached the mountain peak on Jan. 23, 2014.
Yasmeen was the first girl with prosthesis to reach the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and she raised the Palestinian flag there.
“Climbing allowed me to learn a lot about myself and it made me a person who is in tune with everything around me, including accepting help from others,” she said.
Yasmeen considers the moment when she reached the top of the mountain as the most beautiful moment of her life.
“There are many mountains inside every one of us and we have to climb them,” she added.
Recognizing her efforts, the Italian Climbers Club gave Yasmeen honorary membership, giving her a platform to raise the Palestinian voice.
“I traveled and climbed many mountains with the Italian Climbers Club and gave many talks. I could see the shock in the eyes of people (when I told them my story),” she added.
Recently, Yasmeen got a new prosthetic leg that allows her to continue her passion for climbing mountains around the world and carrying the message of Palestine everywhere she goes.
“The new prosthesis opened new horizons for me, to climb professionally not only to walk, and now I’m preparing to climb Mt. Lobuche (in Nepal) which is 6,100 meters high,” she said excitedly.