After years of moving from one hiding place to another in an attempt to stay clear of the Israeli security establishment, Kamal Ghanem – who up until recently "starred" on Israel's list of most wanted Palestinians – is beginning to get used to his freedom.
Ghanem learned that he was targeted by Israeli security forces after reading a report published on Ynet in 2004. On Monday, he was surprised once again to discover that his name appears on a list of most wanted people pardoned by the Israeli government.
"For me, it means closure and a return to normal life," said Ghanem, whose presence in Ramallah's Mukataa compound along with former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat was one of the main reasons behind Israel's long siege of the area.
"The pardon is a step that gives me a real chance of normally and fully integrating back into life. Now I can focus on my family and go back to work and to school," he said.
As recently as Wednesday, Ghanem was declared as only entitled to a partial pardon. At first, he was instructed to stay inside the PA's headquarters, and later he was allowed to move within areas under complete Palestinian control.
"Now I can finally take my children out of Ramallah so they can visit my grandfather," Ghanem said excitedly, "This creates a new hope to start a new life, which I can only wish upon the entire Palestinian people. We are thirsty for freedom and dignity, and hope the Israelis give peace a real chance."
'Paid price for struggle'Although his path to freedom was already paved, Ghanem said he would not be able to erase from his memory all the events that took place throughout the years – from the beginning of the intifada until today.
"It was a period of time in which we tried to find a particular way to achieve freedom and liberty, and we paid the price for our struggle. Today reality is different, there is a phase that allows you to think of a different life," he said.
When Ghanem talked about the high price, he was referring to the six years during which he could not remain in the same place for more than a few hours for fear he would be assassinated.
In 2003 Ghanem's brother was killed when the family's woodshop was blown up by the IDF, who claimed it served as a hiding place.
"This period had many experiences that a whole generation went through. Many of my good friends were killed, others were arrested – so I was not alone," he concludes with a smile.