Category Archives: My Gaza

My life in Gaza,my thoughts and my reflections on everyday occurrences. Being a student, a parent and struggling to make a difference among my people.

Is There Eid In Gaza?

Just had some thoughts about Eid holiday in a flash of a second. Funny how one of the  things that makes it feel like holiday is the way we name the days of the Eid as ” the first day of Eid, the second…” so that we actually have to remember what day of the week it is. It’s like our minds want a break from anything having to do with our regular lives including school, work and every other form of commitments we have.

Eid is presumably the happiest time of the year for Muslims. What could be better than having a couple days of lethargy without feeling guilty? But when I truly think about it, or rather measure the intensity of my emotions towards this big event in my life, I’m poignantly thwarted. There’s no real sense of being overjoyed or thrilled, in fact Eid has become one of the most depressing times of the year for many not just me. I try to think happy thoughts, but find it challenging and defeating. I try to push away the impact of the hard facts on the ground both here in Gaza and in the region. I’ll start with the regional situation first, that is Syria. How can anyone be expected to put a smile on a face or celebrate while watching bloody images of untold horror torture and death stories. It’s been 20 months into the Syrian Revolution and hearing the death toll of Syrian martyrs has appalled any sense of trust and faith in the international community which I might have had one day long time ago when my mind wasn’t mature enough.  It’s absolutely sickening how the life of humans is worthless when weighed against the economic benefits and lust to dominate. So instead of sending NATO planes, as it did in the rich oil reservoir  of Libya, to put an end to the monstrous killings, it has chosen to stand idly and let the Syrian Dictator Regime rampage on in its ruthless killing spree. I’m no political analyst here, but I want to state the facts in their simple matter of fact way because it doesn’t require a genius to analyze what is going on. So that’s one thought which certainly disturbs the Eid.

The second fact which spoils my train of happy thoughts is inside Gaza. Despite the hardships of siege and pre-Eid extra-judicial killings of fellow Palestinians carried out by Israeli drones and F-16s, I suppress my mind to think only about the happy occasion, square my shoulders and take my kids out to shop for new clothes. After all, that is a rock solid Eid ritual embedded into our culture; new clothes and a new everything if possible. As I set my foot into the streets, I find majority of shops packed with women and children grabbing garments before they run out. I can understand a child’s excitement to buy new clothes and try to remember how it must have been a nice feeling when I was my kids’ age. I could tell this by the light in their eyes as they put on that new piece of clothes as if they’re a royal prince or princess. May be I need to keep looking into their eyes so that magic can be transferred or caught communicably. It’s sad how this magical feeling starts to fade as they move into more mature phases of their lives.

As I walk with one of my daughters by the shops, the rattling of the roaring power generators does more than enough to obliterate any thoughts of peaceful thinking about the upcoming holiday. Every single shop has one of those monsters chained to its door giving off the most horrible smell and unnerving noise.  Despite this, the shoppers seem to be deaf to that noise bustling about. But for me, I think it just spoils the serenity and purity of the atmosphere.

Today has marked the last day of Eid, uhh… yes, Monday and my mind will be tuning back to my normal routine, but the abnormal life of Gaza still persists. However, I will absolutely shun this pessimistic behavior and remind myself of the blessings we have as we await the visit of the King of Bahrain in only three days who also happens to be Hamad.

 

 

Memories from Gaza War

A new daybreak  as I hold my pen now. So calm and peaceful are the early morning hours I wish they could extend a bit longer so my mind and body can absorb the pure invigorating morning breeze and my eyes can be tickled by the soft dew drops hanging from the leaves, and the sweet singing of birds who peck at my windows gently to boast that they’re always the early risers.

Glancing at the sky from my living room sofa takes me to faraway places. Places which actually exist yet have been concealed from the human eye until the time comes. The unseen world of spirits where martyrs are living in the eternal Paradise (Jannah) above make my mind ponder pensively.

Over four years back, I decided to enroll in a one year diploma at the Islamic University of Gaza. It had been nine years since I was student. I dearly missed hoarding stationery and attending classes. So I walked into the Continuing Education Center to sign up. The secretary was a young gentleman who assisted me throughout the registration process, his name was Sharaf. A month or so passed and I was actually sitting on my student chair learning again. Nine months passed and on Tuesday Dec. 25th, 2008 I was taking an exam “Legal Translation”. Sharaf was monitoring the exam. The test was quite challenging and I could feel my eyes almost popping from the heat I felt as every cell of my brain was laboring intensively. At one point, I was overcome with relief when I found the word “alimony” translated since it was very unlikely any student would have been able to guess its meaning.   Some of the students started to make remarks and asked Sharaf questions just out of despair and to which he replied jokingly: “I think you’ll need a marriage official to answer that for you”.

 Four days later, war was declared over Gaza with the unanticipated 60 air strikes throughout Gaza Strip. The Israeli warplanes devastated Gaza with blood, destruction and grief from above and on the ground. Twenty two days passed and it was time to restart our lives as an obligation to move on with our lives. So I called up the Center to enquire about the resumption of classes. I talked to an employee and asked if everyone was ok and his words seeped into my heart: “Sharaf has left us”. Twenty two days of grief and horror had had their toll on me physically and emotionally, and so hearing that piece of news quickly recalled those images of corpses piled over each other on the first air strike on the Police Academy in Gaza and I just pictured him there. He had indeed died during the first few strikes and just gone to a better place, an eternal one with no toil or pain. He was one among tens and hundreds who got killed by the Israeli war planes and later became a figure in the Gaza War death count, but he must have been special to those who loved him.

This guy’s death and many other people I came across made me reflect on something very special; which is how we meet people in our lives yet we don’t know how much time we will actually spend with them. It is always better to keep that in mind so we can treat people with great respect and love. So one day when we are gone, they will proudly say: She was a wonderful person who made a difference in my life or she always greeted us with a smile. This will also make us think twice before hurting or backbiting at someone, because if suddenly they’re gone, how can we ever forgive ourselves for the damage we inflicted on them.

As I finish off this post, I pray from my heart that Allah may give comfort and peace to the families of every martyr who fell on the holy soil of Palestine and elsewhere in the world.

 

 

 

Save The Palestinian Prisoners

Save The Palestinian Prisoners

I took the kids on a national duty yesterday, as I felt it was, to partake in the events taking place at the tent set up for solidarity with the Palestinian Prisoners who are on hunger strike for over 65 days today. Although the experience may be a bit premature, I just felt an obligation to let them get a glimpse of the scene and not force them to internalize more than their little minds can. Aljundi Park is quite near, and so we walked a few meters then rode the rest of the way when a taxi stopped for us. At first they thought that the people who gathered at the scene were actually the prisoners until I pointed to the large pictures hanging over the place. One had four rows of about 20 photos each lined up with healthy looking young men and a few older ones. It was sad to think how their health must be deteriorated by now from the hunger strike. Today, one is confirmed to be in a coma, Bilal Diyab. It was devastating just to think of what they may look like or feel as I was staring at their pictures above. How they have resorted to this last and most painful option to regain their very basic rights of freedom and dignity.

There was an appeal in their eyes, in the way they seemed to be looking at us. It was an almost audible and clear appeal saying: I have sacrificed my life so you all can live in freedom, so please don’t let us down. Don’t forget the reason why are deprived of life, of light, of love and how we are living in the darkness of the earth. Our lives were stolen from us because we practiced our legitimate right to resist Occupation and injustice. We could no longer stand the cruelty of our oppressors in stealing our land with the construction of the entrenched Apartheid Wall; razing green pastures in olive ripening season; killing and capturing of anyone anywhere at any time. While the whole world remained deaf and blind to the calls of our people, we chose to stand up for their rights.

My fellow brother and sisters in the lifeless prison cells: You are the sparkling rays of hope that shines light ahead and gives our life a meaningful goal to attain. To all those youths wandering aimlessly, or killing time in cafes smoking hookah, please remember that you live on a holly land inscribed in our Holy Quran and so you have a mission to accomplish. Our beloved prisoners were free like you one day, but have put their lives on the line for the love of their people and country. They yearn to breathe the air we breathe and embrace the warmth of the sun to relieve their weakened bodies. They long for the love of their families who have spent many Ramadans and Eids waiting for their return. Some have cried themselves to blindness and other to death. Their only wish was to hold their sons in their hands. A more humble wish for all was to be allowed to visit their sons, husbands, fathers and sisters in prison even if only for the limited period permitted by the oppressors. Untold stories of bereavement lie behind many doors among Palestinian families of imprisoned loved ones, yet there remains the unwavering hope and faith in the return of those heroes behind bars and underground. As I write this last line, the horrible howling of our neighbors’ power generators come to a relieving halt marking the end of this post.

 

 

The Cold and Dark Winters of Gaza and A Child’s Fantasy

The Cold and Dark Winters of Gaza and A Child’s Fantasy

(photo: aljazeera.net)

I’m not suffering from writer’s block, but rather writer’s lag. For some time, I have felt that I can’t make myself sit down and write as I promised myself. The passion is there, but the inspiration is quite lacking.

In my hometown of Gaza, amid the biting cold winter nights and hustle and bustle of our days, I constantly contemplate over our need as Gazans to “be”. But to my frustration, I find myself faced with daily new challenges which voraciously suck every bit of energy in every living cell of my brain. I try to find an atmosphere when my thoughts are most clear, but can hardly claim that my mind is untroubled at any time. Like my TV screen here which is blurred by the hideous Israeli drones, my thoughts are constantly turbulent which makes the attempt to focus strenuous. What is the cause behind this mental state of mind?

Electricity outages are at their extremity now in Gaza. Daily sporadic shelling and the howling of power generators rocking the neighborhood have all contributed to this heavy feeling of unrest. When power comes back on for the six or so hours, it’s only temporary relief just enough to rid us of the noise and air pollution we struggle with. But that is only if you stay inside your house. If you decide to go shopping, you’ll find lines of motors chained to shops venting their angry roars at by passers.

Time and time again, I decide that I need to do something extraordinary to bring peace to my mind. These days, I found my retreat in entering the colorful world of imagination and play my children have immersed themselves in. I contemplate over their little remarks and try to answer their tricky questions they suddenly throw at me. In their little minds, there are no boundaries set for imagination. One of my daughters asked me one of those pop ups yesterday: “Mom, is there a country called Syria?” What a good one to ask at such a time, I thought. Ever since the Libyan Revolution, I have become less enthused to watch the news five times a day as I used to. With the horror gripping stories of brutal murders in Syria, I’ve decided not to gaze too much at my TV screen for the sake of my own sanity. So I found myself giving my daughter a plain, “yes there is”. I thought I had told them enough stories about mad Arab dictators who killed their people, so I needed to spare them for the time being. It was a good decision, I thought, especially when one day as they were quarrelling, I was both surprised and amused by the names they were calling each other when my son called his sister a Gaddafi!

Into the Big World of Childhood

“Mom is a polar bear taller than a building?” my son asked me yesterday. Another one followed, “who gave shanta, (bag) this name?” So I thought I should take delight in responding to his questions and not to disappoint his fantasy. Hopefully, my imagination and creativity can be ignited again just like theirs. I think I’ve found my source of inspiration for the time being and my heart is set to dive into the world of the fledgling fresh minds of childhood. I may even ask them my own questions to see what their creative mental faculties have in store.

So my resolution is to: set aside the fuel, gas and electricity crises and pretend to live in another place with my soul and mind. I’ll let myself travel through time and space to free my heavy heart from its burdens. I’ll stop having a fit when the power is out or when my daughter tells me that the light in their classroom wasn’t on today, so the teacher had to open the door. But here goes the struggle again between my conscious and I. What about the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who have been killed and continue to this day for freedom. I am adamant to adhere to the long and enduring belief that is, to stay strong. I know that by holding on to the values of justice and equality which humanity shares, I contribute in making the change our world longs for. Yes, only humanity shares, only real humans, not barbaric cannibals of modern times hiding behind fancy tuxedos. Safeguarding these values and principles is the only means to save the dehumanized people of our world who have been deprived of the most basic rights every human being is granted by all religions and international laws.

I pray for the growing generation of today to grow up into a world free of tyranny and human greed. A new era of justice and peace will shine over my children’s world. Time will tell and time has told: the age of darkness and evil has begun to decay. No ultimate superpower shall stand when it functions on evil to dominate and suppress other peoples. The world of tomorrow will have no place for dictatorship and aggression; only peace, love and justice shall prevail.

If you liked this post, please share and I’ll be happy for any feedback. Thanks!

 

The Damn Power Generators

The Damn Power Generators

A few years back, I didn’t have the privilege of knowing what a power generator looked like. To me it was a strange name which I failed to put a face to since it was not in my league of interest.  But this situation has dramatically changed. Ironically, my source of enlightenment on power generators actually came by way of the darkness initiated by the severe electricity outages which Gaza has been continuously enduring for over seven years now. Of course if my memory has not failed me, electricity outages were always there ever since we were children, but not with the same intensity as have been since the Siege over Gaza imposed after the Palestinians’ democratic elections took place in January 2006.

Power generators come in different sizes and capacities. When the electricity in the neighborhood is cut of, every house starts to turn on their motor whether manually or automatically depending on size. During the day, as I walk down the street past the shops, I can feel the ground underneath shaking and the noise is boisterous. Ubiquitous  motors lined up and chained in front of stores give off a most deadly fume. This evening I wanted to go out to the balcony to hang up the laundry. As I opened the door I was received with a most vociferous welcome by the neighborhood motors. Even on evenings when the electricity is on, the buzzing of the deadly drones take over to give you a feeling of anticipated strikes. As I stand at the window, an empty feeling resonates within and feel alienated from pure and beautiful nature. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the war on Gaza three years ago. I remember how impenetrable darkness conquered the scene and nothing could be seen with the naked human eyes except the light of the drones and war planes above. I guess from then I had begun to lose my harmony with the sky and stars I was so fond of throughout my life.

Yesterday evening, I went out with my six year old daughter, Nada, in an attempt to appease her after having a tantrum from being bored. I held her hand and went down the noisy yet dark street. The street lights were out, but generators were growling. As we reached the shop lined streets which were lit thanks to the motors, I realized how shopping had become the less popular leisure activity for a girl on this part of the world. I didn’t want my daughter to inhale the fumes, but maintained calm and only hastened my steps every time we passed a generator.

The story of the power generators does not stop here; it isn’t only about noise and air pollution. Dozens of people have been killed due to generator -related accidents. The stories are horrible mostly including children. In one family, three children died as they tried to escape through their bedroom window when the power generator exploded causing a fire to break out. What is even worse is that people who own power motors store gallons of liquid fuel inside their houses which has led to even more hazardous outcomes. Over time people have become more aware of the hazards and began to take precautions, but the major problem still continues to pose long-term effects on the population.

In the mornings, my wish is that the children of Gaza wake up to the singing of birds and retire to the natural sounds of nocturnals even if it be the chirping of crickets. That way, when my children ask me what the source of the noise is, and why it’s there, I’ll readily have an answer they can easily swallow.

Refugee or Citizen, What difference Does it make?

Refugee or Citizen, What Difference Does it Make?

I’m a genuine flesh- and- blood Palestinian, with some Egyptian components intermingled deep inside where I took my first breath of life aside the Nile in Cairo. In an attempt to closely examine my identity,  I’ve witnessed vast changes, especially with the eruption of the late Arab Awakening season which ignited with the turn of the new year, 2011. The three decades which mark my existence on the planet, I had never seen or heard of an Arab country whose people exercise  freedom of any kind, the freewill to adopt beliefs and practices or any form of democracy whatsoever. I grew up hearing and reading about stories of torture in the dungeons of our Arab intelligence services. Whenever someone travelled, especially from Gaza, they had to be interrogated and could either be deported, imprisoned or even be disappeared into anonymity to a place we refer to in Arabic as being ” behind the sun”.

My personality began to mold itself as I became more aware of my national identity first, and then later my  Muslim  Arabic identity which extends to any Muslim or Arab country with whom I share so much regardless of the different languages, dialects and the lengthy distances which physically separate us. When I was in first grade, my home-class teacher asked one of the pupils a question he didn’t know the  answer to and was thus rebuked for his ignorance. I thanked God she didn’t turn to me for an answer because I would not have known what to say either. ” Are you a citizen or a refugee?”, was my  teacher’s unfair densely complicated question asked to  a six year old. I left Gaza at the age of ten and returned at the age of fifteen when I was about to enter 10th grade. To my discontent, my classmates pointed the same question at me, which baffled my curiosity. Of course I had learned the answer by then, which made no difference to me and I began to feel  offended by being asked that question which I believed was purely prejudiced. At university, a wide circle of my best friends were ” refugees” and as my knowledge of  the  refugee case began to broaden, I felt my sympathy grow with those who were displaced from their original villages and town in 1948. Stories of  hair-raising horror and obnoxious crimes against humanity further added a broader range to my identity and sense of unanimity with both ” refugees and citizens” alike . As I witnessed the last two years of the first Palestinian Intifada, it was clear enough that the  Israeli Occupation did not distinguish between the two categories of people. This attitude continued with in the second Intifada and during all major events which took place in Palestine.

What is the significance of all this?

So a great many will argue that what I am saying are plain facts, right? Yes, these are facts which have transformed my identity  into a more universal one,  if I may call it. I am not a refugee is a fact, but that has not made me senseless towards the suffering of my people who once lived in honor and dignity in their own homes and were suddenly uprooted and robbed from all their possessions by the Zionist clandestine military groups; the Irgun and Hagana. Mobs whose aim was to exterminate the indigenous population and replace it with actual imported Jewish refugees.  I can picture the horror which gripped mothers who ran barefoot with their terrorized children screaming and running in their trail trying to hold on to them. Hiding in bushes and seeking the cover of darkness to make their way to any safe place. Suffering sunstrokes, hunger, thirst and death along their wretched journey which was never planned or yet envisaged in the mind of any sound human being . To sleep in their own beds the night before and days later under the trees of orchards in Gaza Strip, and to be later settled in tents provided by what became known as the UNRWA. Today and over the past sixty years, we still see the Nakbah survivors holding on to their house keys and official documents which prove possession of their original lands in historical Palestine. They have fed the minds of their children and grandchildren with the story of their suffering and their uncompromising right to return to their homes. They realize it is a desolate path to which they have taken, but their staunch faith and resilience has dictated that they can never give  up on that right or turn it down for all the gold that money can buy.

So whether refugee or citizen, the Palestine People are united in their stance on the Right to Return to our land. I may not be from Haifa, Acre, Jerusalem, Beir Al-Sabah, Jaffa, Safad; but being a Palestine means I belong to Palestine, all of Palestine. I am denied to visit my Palestinian cities and towns just as the refugees are denied the right to return. I have to tolerate watching Zionists pray at Alburaq Wall (The Western Wall) when I am denied to rightfully pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque  and Dome of the Rock. Another fact, I am not the only person whose heart embraces this feeling , for every Muslim in any part of the world, remote or near shares me this nostalgia to pray in Al-Aqsa and kiss the ground on which it is deeply rooted.

We Shall All Return One Day Inshallah.

My speech at the meeting with the European Delegation: The Deprived Childhood of Gaza

The Deprived Childhood of Gaza

 There are many twists in the fate of Palestinians, particularly in the Gaza Strip, but in Palestine as a whole. Although most of these events have been excruciating – the outcome of protracted struggle – yet they are all significant steps in the one million mile journey of my people. Gaza, not more than 360 square kilometres, may be a tiny spot of land on the map, but for many around the world it has become legendary, the embodiment of steadfastness and perseverance for an epoch. Currently bled dry by the Siege imposed for over five years now, it still prides itself on teaching the rest of the world what dignity and honour mean. Impoverished families whose houses were demolished in front of their eyes remain unbowed, not willing to give up. Families who lost loved ones in their battle for freedom are determined more than ever. Their plights and misfortunes have only made them stronger, more adamant in their pursuit of liberty. This is the image with which we welcome a visitor to Gaza.

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.

Almost three years ago , new year was pouring hell over Gaza, so that totally obliterated any elated feelings one might have inside towards celebrating this annual event. Here in Gaza when new year draws near, it has become commonplace for people to commemorate the war instead of celebrating the new year. Even more, people now remember certain occasions in their lives by dating them back 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”, or: ” we got married right just before  the war.” So, I’ve come to think that the people of Gaza have developed their own calendar system.

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 which stunned me the most was when I had told them about their dead grandfather who died from a stroke that he 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.

 Even on supposedly ordinary occasions, it turns out that keeping your children safe takes over your whole thinking. When I went to enrol them in elementary school, we  had to  choose one that was close to the house in case of  shelling. I was set on putting each one in a different class but the principal advised me that I should put all three in one class so if Israeli shelling occurs we don’t have trouble finding them.

In Gaza, it is more natural to think of death than it is of life. Sky gazing, which used to be a favourite pastime of mine, has turned into a gloomy and ghastly experience. The hovering of choppers and drones continue to spoil the serenity and beauty of the sky I used to know. On the ground, as you walk in the streets the walls are daubed with graffiti about martyrs. I pass a coffin cloth maker on my way home from work and think of how this man makes a fortune from death. I pass by the cemetery which is inside the city and see a sign that reads:  “There is no more room for burial here”, which people ignore because it is hard to make it to the one located in the eastern parts of city, close the Israeli borders. The children have developed their own worries and fears. Their innocent childhood has had to bear unbearable things. They have not been spared from the air strikes and have become an easy target for the Occupation. As a grown up, when you watch them shivering or crying when they hear a plane, your heart is shattered. Many children were targeted and murdered while playing outside in front of or on the roofs of their houses.  

As days pass by you watch your children grow into inquisitive youngsters. By age five or even less, they can tell what kind of plane is hovering above, and whether a rocket if falling from above or being launched from the ground. Occupation is the primary source of disorder and displacement in Gaza for all of us: anything else is secondary.

The question is: how do we go about raising our children in this kind of atmosphere. With many facts on the ground too difficult to hide from them, we feed them with bits just enough for their little minds to take in. However, the outcome is not always predictable, but ignoring these tough facts which stand in our way wherever we turn is not an option for a parent living in Gaza. For instance,  if we’re in the car taking the kids out to have fun, the car will stop at the traffic lights and they’ll be faced with a huge picture of a martyr on the wall and there comes the question: Mom , who is this? It is inescapable, so my natural answer is always: It is the Shahid, martyr. The term is not likely to be outdated by the time they grow up.

But life still goes on. Moreover, this lack of everything almost including our basic necessities does not include our morale and optimism. It does not include our resolve or faith. The people of Gaza have seen their small cities tumbling down before their eyes during the war.  They have seen their loved ones shot or burned to death in the most brutal way. These scars may be very hard to heal, but we Palestinians have also learned that sixty three years of struggle are too precious to waste.