Yasmeen al-Najjar had one of her legs amputated when she was only 3 years old, after being hit by a car in her village, Burin, near Nablus. In January 2014, when Yasmeen al-Najjar was 17, she was very far away from Burin: 19,341 feet above sea level, at the summit of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro.
Climbing to the top took Yasmeen eight days and made her the first Arab amputee to reach the summit. She says: “I could not describe my feelings. I was very proud to carry the Palestinian flag on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.”
Along with 12 other participants representing different Arab countries, Yasmeen was participating in a journey led by Suzan al-Houby, the first Palestinian woman to climb Mount Everest. Yasmeen was encouraged and supported to take part by Palestine’s Children Relief Fund (PCRF) which works on raising awareness about the conditions of children injured in conflict zones, which also provided her with a special device to help her during training.
A youth activist in Burin Sport Club, Yasmeen trained hard for eight months before leaving for Tanzania, “Self-confidence, an ability to cope with surrounding conditions, focus and accuracy have helped me to reach the peak”, she explains.
Great Dreams and Strong Will
Yasmeen received great support from her family and community organizations. Her family tried hard to create suitable conditions to enable her to exercise at home and in Burin’s mountains, where Palestine refugees face the threat of violence from settlers. Yasmeen’s father, Mustafa al-Najjar, says: “I was very happy to see that my daughter had the strong will and ability to participate in this world event, telling the world that we have what it takes to achieve what we want despite our political and physical challenges.”
This is only one of Yasmeen’s great dreams. “I dream of representing Palestine in all of international forums and occasions”, she says, before adding, “I want to continue my higher education and study the engineering of artificial limbs to help children overcome their physical disabilities. My goal behind participating in this trekking journey was to send a message of hope to my people that tomorrow will be better, and to tell the world that we can achieve anything we want with confidence and strong will.”