I expected that there would be an attack on Gaza soon, and still, I was surprised. I’m surprised every time a war starts, even though we’re supposedly ‘used to it.’ There are some things you can’t get used to. At around five o’clock on Friday, my youngest son ran inside our home and said, “a tower in Gaza has been bombed!” A heavy feeling of concern set in. On the one hand, it’s a familiar feeling, but it takes on a new form with every war I’ve lived through.
I see the panic in my family’s eyes. I’ve stopped counting how many times I’ve seen this fear in their faces. We all start operating on autopilot, without thinking what we’re doing or why; getting the house organized and getting the ‘war kits’ ready. I collect all of our important documents. I don’t know what we’d need them for if the house is bombed. I don’t know why we buy certain types of food that are obviously not going to get eaten. I don’t know why I turn off the lights in the kitchen. Maybe it’s because the kitchen faces east, but what difference does that make? The missiles don’t need light to guide them. Maybe it’s because of some inexplicable sense that if we’re going to get bombed, it might as well be in the dark.
We are extremely shaken up. I feel boredom at having to explain the same things, the same reality. My children ask big questions, and again, I have no answer. – Who’s going to work on a ceasefire? When will it start? Maybe the kids understand that a ceasefire is something that is created to put a stop to the killing. But information is everywhere, you can’t hide anything from the kids. You go on social media, and there it all is, the pictures, the dead, the stories of those left behind.
I try to eat, but food has lost its flavor. I taste the bitterness of the water. It doesn’t matter how much you drink, you’re still thirsty. Maybe it’s the stress. I can’t stop thinking about that kid who thought his martyred friend was talking to him again. New memories are added to our bank of war memories.
You wake up in the morning and ask yourself, was there really a ceasefire? Then you pull yourself back into reality; it happened. Now all that’s left is to convince yourself everything will be okay. After that, you try to get your smile back, try to look calm.
How can you describe life in Gaza, the impact of the wars, the stories you can’t forget? How can you convey people’s thoughts and feelings, or explain to the outside world how we attend to our basic needs when bombs are being dropped on us?
The hardest images are of the scared children; the ones who ran back from the beach on Friday to take shelter, sad and suffering, in their homes, feeling helpless, unable to believe what is happening to them, yet again; the children who’ve been killed; the children looking for someone to hold and reassure them.
People in Gaza live on the margins, struggling with their internal pain. What’s sad is that this has become the norm. You feel like the entire world is working against you, that everything you do to build a better life for yourself and the people around you is in vain. At times, even life itself loses its flavor.