A couple of years back, I remember that I had to stay up on New year’s eve till the clock struck 12 to cheer out a ” Hey!” in welcoming the new year. I would scold my husband for not joining in and by his passive: ” So what?”. As the wheel of time turns, I witness a striking change in my attitude towards the notion of time.
Two years ago, new year was pouring hell over Gaza, so that totally obliterated any elated feelings one might have inside towards treating this annual event. Here in Gaza, it has become commonplace to hear people say when new year draws near: ” It’s been a year since the war; it’s been two years since the war”. So, I’ve come to think that the people of Gaza have developed their own calendar system. This is supported by yet more evidence where people now remember certain occasions in their lives by dating it to the war. So it’s become obvious to hear things like:” No, that happened before the war; or ” Yeah, I graduated 2 months after the war”.
Given these facts, it will be hard to erase this system from the minds of the people here soon. I tested my own children on the New Year holiday to see what their little minds bore. So on this presumably happy occasion I asked my five year- old daughter: ” Huda, do you know why we’re all on holiday today?”. Unwilling to give no for an answer, she bent her little head against her shoulder and answered with a smile: ” Because of the war”.
I was struck silent for a moment, but my curiosity rose, so I prodded: ” What is war?”. She replied in an assertive voice:” it’s the qasif; (shelling)”. I wondered, if this is what evolves in their little minds at the age of five , when will they live the phase of childhood? The minds of children in Gaza will strike you with wonder when you hear their conversation. No matter how hard you try to detach them from the harsh surrounding circumstances, it’s impossible to escape the questions they confront you with. For example, when they are immersed in watching TV and suddenly the power goes out, they’ll throw up a fit and scream: ” Mom, who makes the power go out?”. Or, when they refer to any broken object in the house as having been: “shelled!”. The question that overwhelmed me the most was when I had told them about their dead grandfather who had gone to Heaven, one of them instantly replied:” Who shelled him?’. It’s quite clear that their mental dictionary has retained terminology that many other children in the outside world will never learn during childhood.