What can people locked up inside four walls do to refuse the reality imposed on them? Not a lot, but they can refuse to eat.

The fact that several jailed Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger strike for months afflicts me deep on the inside like a blow in the gut. Israel’s policy of detaining Palestinians without charge for long periods is well known.

The survival instinct orders us to eat and when we disobey, our lives are at risk. There are many stories about hungry people lost in an unfamiliar landscape who eat raw animal flesh, grass or leaves, or even kill and steal to fill their bellies. If Palestinian prisoners, in an enclosed, familiar space, choose to refuse food, it’s surely because they are desperate too. Does the survival instinct sometimes tell us to be free, even at the risk of death?

When I sat down to write this, the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association reported at least a dozen individual hunger strikers in Israeli jails. At that time we were in Ramadan.

During the fast I began to understand some of their feelings, though never for more than the length of a day, from sunrise to sunset, without food. As each hour passes the hunger-voice gets louder, our bodies feel weak, we are faint, we get headaches, yet our faith keeps us going. And of course we know it's going to end soon.

Hunger strikers can’t know this for sure. Probably hunger stings their veins like electric shocks, on and on, yet they keep the hunger fight alive, day after day, month after month, without knowing when it's going to end, until the time comes when they are no longer hungry. Of course they’d hope to survive. But in Palestine to eat is to continue down the road to death.