Approximately 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners have entered their 39th day on hunger strike in Israeli jails. Prisoners are demanding some of the most basic rights, such as bimonthly family visits.

Palestinian prisoners have engaged in hunger strikes as a nonviolent method of protest since 1968, after Israel occupied the remaining Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Some strikes have been regarded as successful, while others were seen to have failed to reach their goals.

Here, Palestinian activist and writer Shahd Abusalama reflects on her father’s experience participating in a mass hunger strike in an Israeli jail almost four decades ago.

READ MORE: What it means to be a Palestinian prisoner in Israel

“If we had not resisted through mass hunger strikes, we would have remained like the slaves from the Middle Ages,” my father, Ismail, told me during a Skype call after I forced him to revisit his memories from the 33-day legendary Nafha prison hunger strike that he joined 37 years ago.

His memories sounded shockingly vivid and descriptive, given how distant they are. His eyes were fixed to the ceiling of his room at home in Gaza while he continuously scratched his chin as though he could picture everything he was narrating. His body language evoked a suppressed anxiety.

In 1980, my then 27-year-old father had been in Israeli jails for 10 years, which seemed trivial compared with the seven lifetime sentences he had been given for his affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) group.

He would have ultimately ended his days in Israeli prisons, had he not been part of the 1985 prisoner exchange