Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mohammed Naim, your memory will live on forever.


A photo of Mohammed Naim standing in front of Gaza port

Unable to believe that the war came to an end, unable to comprehend that life was supposed to move on, I locked myself at home completely overwhelmed with sadness and helplessness. War, at least, kept us busy with our nonstop attempts to survive mentally and physically. Right after the long ceasefire was announced, emptiness and grief overtook my entire being. Images and faces of the martyrs started passing through my mind, images of people running for their life, looking for a safe haven forced themselves into my mind. I couldn't help but fall to depression.

As an act of moving on, I had to go back to work. I did miss my students and I wanted to check if all of them were alright after the war but I was scared to go. I was afraid of hearing any bad news. I entered the center and my students started coming. I thanked God whenever a student comes in alive and safe. They all came but one, Mohammed Naim. I asked the administration if they called him, they said they sent him a message and that he's coming soon. I asked his classmates, they were reluctant to tell. After a pause, one of them said that Mohammed was killed. The phrase struck me and left me unable to utter a world. I couldn't believe them. I remember reading all the names of the martyrs, his name wasn't among the names" I said in a broken voice.
 I made the administration call his mobile again. His phone was off. I was still having hope that he was alive, not until I searched his name on Facebook and found "Rest in Peace" written above his photo.
I remember him; very calm, hardworking and always neat. I used to call him Naim because there were three others called Mohammed in the same class. The last time I saw him was two days before the war erupted. I gave the students a quiz and he was the last to leave. He wouldn't leave any question unanswered even if that meant sitting two hours thinking and trying to answer it. He handed me the quiz, I wished him a good day and then he left.  I had no idea that, that very moment was the last to see Mohammed.
Mohammed Naim, the one with a green shirt, during a class just two weeks before the war.

Mohammed was killed the first week of the war. His father owns a bakery in Al-Zaytoon neighborhood. Mohammed and his younger brother, Hossam, went to distribute bread to the markets in Al-Shijaia. There. An Israeli warplane targeted the bus they were in and killed them instantly.
 Mohammed was just a student dreaming to graduate and to have a proper job. One missile cut his body to pieces and turned his dreams to ashes. Mohammed and his brother are just two out of thousands whom Israel killed in a cold blood.

I wish there was a way to tell him that his memory will live on forever. I will remember how good and quiet he was every time I start a class. Mohammed Naim, may you rest in eternal peace. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Escaping a massacre to another: The story of Ahmed and Mahmoud.


"That day is carved in my memory; I relive the scene every day.  Me lying on the street unable to move, smeared with blood, conquered with shock and fear, surrounded by wires and dead and dying bodies, I could only hear screams and the thunderous sound of bombs." Ahmed said with a choked voice while sitting in a wheelchair in AlQuds hospital in Gaza. 

Ahmed abu Shanab, 17 years old, and Mahmoud Naser, 18, recalled the day they were injured. After few days of the Shijaia massacre, the Israeli warplanes and the artillery tanks shelled Al-Shijaia market with several missiles during a ceasefire. The bombing left 17 deaths and 200 injuries. Ahmed and Mahmoud, who after the strike became close friend, were among the injured and are now at Al-Quds hospital receiving treatment.

Ahmed and Mohammed live in the far east of Al-Shijaia neighborhood where Israel committed one of its ugliest crimes during the last war on the Gaza strip. Both survived the massacre that day and they escaped to someplace else in Gaza.  They recalled the night of the massacre and described it as the worst nightmare they ever lived.

 " I don't know how in the world we managed to survive, God was watching for us, bombs were falling at us like rain, we ran and ran and never looked back, we didn't have time to even check if we were among our families or not. My aunt and uncle were killed while they were running for their life. We couldn't stop to rescue them, shelling was random and non stop. "Ahmed recollected with a voice charged with grief. After a pause he continued: My cousin was also killed, he went to look for his family after he learnt that two of them were injured, he wanted to rescue them, but an Israeli sniper shot him in his leg, chest and head, this is the most dreadful crime.  I then realized he was talking about Salem Al-Shamaly whom his video being killed spread all around the internet. 

Ahmed's brother was one of Salem closest friends. They used to go out together every day during the war, rarely were they seen separated from each other. Ahmed remembered in agony how his brother and cousin used to be inseparable   "My brother wakes up every night sobbing, when we ask him what's wrong, he would say that Salem was calling him.  My brother is still incapable of accepting his best friend's death.  They planned their future together, Salem wanted to get married this summer, they killed him, they killed my cousin and my brother's closest friend." 

The video of Salem Shamily, Ahmed's cousin, being killed by an Israeli sniper

Ahmed is injured in his leg; small shrapnel are all over his both legs. He's been in a wheelchair for a month now, so has Mohammed, whom one of his legs is amputated. They are due to go to Germany to receive further treatment. They smile bitterly in how they by a miracle survived the Shajaia massacre but not another strike at Al-Shijaia market that left them casualties.

Mahmoud spoke bitterly of the day when he was injured critically in his leg that it had to be amputated. "I was shopping in Al-Shijaia market when I heard a deafening blast nearby, I don't know how my legs led me there, I found myself standing in front of the targeted place, some people were killed and many were injured the time I arrived, when the ambulances reached the place, another missile dropped over our heads, it threw me to the floor and left me bleeding. I saw blood flooding out of my leg, I tried to stand but my left leg bended and I fell to the floor, I couldn't feel my legs afterwards.  I dropped unconscious and when I woke up in the hospital, I felt that my leg was very light, I knew then that it was amputated. At that moment the only thing I wished for was death." 

Mahmoud thinks a lot about how he is going to move on in his life again "I dropped from school to help my family, I used to work as a plumber, I don't know now what to do. Doctors say that I'll be able to walk again with a prosthetic limb." Mahmoud is waiting now his visa to travel to Germany for further treatment.
 
Ahmed Abu Shanab sitting in Al-Quds hospital.

Ahmed who survived Al-Shijaia massacre recalled the other massacre he witnessed days after "I was walking in the street when a very loud explosion happened; I heard screams so I rushed to help people. The scene was unbelievable, huge fire burst out of place and another house was targeted in front of it, bodies of dead and dying were all around,  I went to help people in the house, I carried a girl who seemed to have been killed to the ambulance, when I got there, a huge explosion sucked the air out and threw me meters away, I lay still in the street, I couldn't move but I felt sharp pain in my leg, a young boy dropped lifeless beside me, blood was coming out of his neck, his blood covered me, minutes after, Israeli warplanes fired at us again, the sound was indescribable, as the fire intensified, I believed that day was to be my last, and I mumbled a silent prayer."

The war ended two weeks ago, but what they have been through plays in their mind over and over again. "We sometimes wake up filled with fear thinking that an airstrike is going to hit us again, loud door slamming or passing cars are enough to enforce the memory of that day into our minds. I one time thought that the passing car outside was the sound of a missile dropping that I covered my ears with my hands."
Ahmed and Mahmoud's only wish now is to be able to walk again. Life will never be as it was before; they however will try their best to move on.

This is A video of Al-Shijaia market massacre. Ahmed appears in the video(m. 5:00)




Saturday, August 2, 2014

Terror in The First Day of Eid


We were very excited for Al-Fitir Eid this year which comes after we finish Ramadan, a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. My little brother and sister bought El-Eid clothes since the first week in Ramadan when the mad war was not there yet. They were waiting impatiently for Ramadan to end so they can wear their brand-new clothes and celebrate the Eid, which for our children symbolises joy and happiness embodied in playing on swings. The war started in the second week of Ramadan. Since then, their dreams, Gazan children's dreams of having a happy Eid started to fade away.
My little 12-year-old brother and 9-year-old sister did not stop asking questions. When is this going to end? Are we going to celebrate? Are we going to wear our new clothes? They kept asking till the Eid came but their questions were answered with bombs and new massacres everywhere.
In the first day of Eid, I woke up to the news that my mother's cousin was killed. My mother rushed to my grandfather's home unconsciously when she learned about her cousin's death. We followed her minutes later. At the door, children related to Mohammed, the martyr, were sitting at the threshold crying.
The scene of those little children crying is very heart wrenching. Those children were supposed to be celebrating and enjoying the Eid by now. They were weeping over their beloved uncle instead. I went into the martyr's home concurred with grief. His wife and sisters were there, shocked and full of sorrow. Everyone in the home was unable to believe what had just happened. They were unable to believe that Mohammed, who was always smiling, is now gone, forever. He wasn't going to come and light up the house with his smiles and play with his children, niece and nephews and throw candies at them.
I sat there, in between my relatives who were mourning Mohammed, thinking of the hundreds of victims killed since the start of the attack on Gaza who didn't have a funeral held for them due to the continuing bombardment and rising number of killed people. "What is happening now here is happening, happened, and will happen in many places across Gaza," I thought to myself.
My thoughts were then interrupted by a loud noise outside; I hurried outside. It was Mohammed, carried on the shoulders of men chanting, "Rest in Peace, Mohammed. We will continue the struggle." Everyone was chanting these words as we followed the martyr into his home. Mohammed laid there while wrapped with a flag of Palestine. Everyone he loved came to say the last goodbye and give him the farewell kiss.
Mohammed is/was married with two children; 4-year-old Malak and 2-year-old Ahmed. They were the only ones not crying, they were unable to comprehend what was going on. Malak somehow believed that her father is simply sleeping and that the men are taking him to his work and that he will come back soon. She didn't know that he father was gone forever. She couldn't realise that she will grow fatherless.
The Eid was unlike any other Eid we ever had. Grief was spread all around. Even when children tried to celebrate and forget about the airstrikes, Israel came after them and killed them while playing on swing. Ten children were killed in a drone attack while playing on a mini Ferris wheel in the beach camp in the first day of Eid.
How come the "self-defense" that Israel claims legitimises all the crimes Israel is committing against the innocent inhabitants of the besieged Gaza Strip. It's in the name of 'self-defense' that the Israeli Occupation Forces killed children playing on the beach, children playing on the roof of their house feeding pigeons, children playing on a mini Ferris wheel.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Al-Shijaiyya Massacre



Under the darkness and the non-stop bombing, I gather with my family around the radio listening to the 
news.  News of bombing and murdering keeps coming to an extent that we can't keep up with any more. It is Sunday night; artillery shelling from the north and the east haven't stopped for even a minute.  I decided to escape news and seek a book to read instead. I looked at the small library in my room, and I picked "The 
Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine".

I started reading while the radio is still on reporting the news of massacres being committed against more victims, F16s targeting places every now and then from the very south to the very north of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Occupation navy shelling towards people's houses across the beach, Tank fire and shells being shelled towards people houses across the border line with the so-called 'Israel'. The sound is too loud that the whole house shakes once a new bombardment happen. I jump to the window every time a missile falls to check if its near. If it is not, I go on reading.  I try my best to concentrate. I. However, fail.  So, I went back to join the family who was gathering around the radio, listening to the horrible news.

Reports from Al-Shejaiyya are still flowing intensively. Non-stop. Reports say that Al-Shejaiyya is under intensive bombardment both from the land and the sea. "It is under fire. Houses are burning and being totally destroyed upon their residents. Nakba-like scene can be seen among the traumatized people who are running to safer shelter while shells are chasing them," a witness said. I am in utter shock, unable to move, unable to imagine thousands of innocent people being under fire, under genocide. "The ambulances can't reach the neighborhood, hundreds are injured. Dozens of bodies are still stuck under the rubble." the reporter says.

I looked from the window, the sky is full of war-planes, and it flashes red every now and then. I hear some blasts from a distance, some sound very near. Death seems hovering closer. I shut the window.

News from Al-Shejaiyya is still coming. Some of the neighborhood's inhabitants manage to call the radio to ask for urgent help to rescue them.  "They bombed our house.  They are bombing houses randomly, tens are injured, ambulances haven't reached our area," A person living in Al-Shijaiyya on radio says while out of breath. I heard cries in the background; the same person screams in horror" Help us, the wall is falling, it is falling on us."  He then hanged up. No one knows if he survived or he has gone, to immortality.

He hanged up to leave me wondering what happened to him and to his family. The scene of them all gathering in one room, terrified and helpless, keeps flashing in my mind like a nightmare. I imagine the father trying his best to calm his children down, I imagine them looking in horror, smelling death everywhere, their little bodies sitting next to each other wishing their life won't end under that wall, wishing to survive.

Morning comes out. It's 5 am now, no one knows yet how many are injured, how many are murdered in Al-
Shejaeyya. Ambulances are still banned to go there. I try very hard to sleep.


Electricity came back at 1 pm. I rush to go on the internet, to see what has become of Al-Shejayyah.  "62 are killed, hundreds are injured." I read. Images start conquering my head, I think of the 62 people including 26 children who were killed. The last minutes of their life, their last wish, their battle to survive under inevitable death, the terror they had to go through. I feel helpless, powerless, as I sat just writing this article to document another atrocious massacre, "Al-Shijaiyya Massacre". I just stare at the number of the dead and burst crying. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Turn the Gaza lights on




Imagine that you have to spend your night in utter darkness, to arrange your plan for each day according to a power-cut plan, or to force yourself into bed as there is nothing you can do other than to sit in the dark. Picture yourself studying for your exams using a candle, or spending all day long waiting for the electricity to come back, or walking in streets at night that are only lit by cars' headlights. If you find it hard to imagine all of these things combined, just seek the help of a Palestinian from Gaza. No one could explain it better.

It has been a week since the government announced the new electricity schedule. Yet I still find it very difficult to adapt to. Previously, power used to be off for 8 hours a day. We accustomed ourselves to that schedule despite the fact that it took us a while to get used to it.

The electricity crisis seems to be moving from bad to worse. Never better.  Currently, we only get to see electricity for 6 hours a day. That means that power is off for 18 hours! When I heard the news about the new power-cut plan, I was stunned, my mind froze. I’m not sure how successful I will be at adapting myself to it. I got mad just wondering how I’ll get through the day. What should we do during the 18 hours of darkness? Or should the question be “How can we make the most of the 6 hours of electricity?” Should I Study? Use the Internet? Do the housework? Watch TV? Do the laundry? Ughhh! This is very confusing. Deciding what to do during the 6 hours with electricity is much harder than the 18-hour power-cut!  What a busy 6-hours it’ll have to be!

What do we do during power cuts?

"What do you do during power cuts?” is a question I frequently start with during my English-teaching classes. The majority of my students choose to sleep so time passes faster or flee outside their homes to the streets to sit wherever there are lights.

I work as an English teacher from 11am until 6pm everyday at an English-teaching centre. One of my classes starts at 4pm and finishes at 6pm. It starts getting dark at 5pm in Palestine. I had to finish these classes earlier sometimes because of power-cuts. There is a fuel shortage at the center I’m teaching at which makes it hard to turn on the generator every day. 

When I finally finish work, I keep praying all the way back home that there would be electricity there. However, I usually return to discover that my prayers weren’t met. Feeling very exhausted and hungry, I light a few candles to make lunch. As I have my lunch with the dim light of candles, I try to convince myself that I'm having a romantic lunch. I fail and a malaise falls on me quickly. This is never a romantic lunch.  I didn't choose to have my lunch over candle lights. I was forced to as I didn’t have any other choice. When I finish my late lunch, I sit powerless staring at the darkness and waiting for the lights to turn on and for the generators’ noise to stop. Oh how slow time passes while waiting! The roar of generators keeps hovering over my head all night long.

My parents and my little brother and sister have started to sleep very early at night. They force themselves into their beds at 8 pm or sometimes even earlier. At 4 am they wake up voluntarily after they have enough hours sleep. Sometimes, my mother wakes up in the middle of the night. She deliberately leaves the lights on during power-cuts before she is off to bed, so when the power is back, some light disturbs her sleep so she can take advantage of it, turn on the washing machine, and then return to bed.

Electricity now controls our daily lives. It controls our sleeping and waking up times. It even decides for us whether to receive guests at home or not. Electricity interferes with every detail. Residents of Gaza are not the only ones affected by the power cuts. Their relatives abroad get their share of this daily suffering as well. I have two sisters in Malaysia pursuing their higher education. My mother used to skype them everyday, but now we can barely talk to them. There is either no electricity or a terribly weak Internet connection.

Ways to endure power cuts

My little brother tries very hard to entertain himself during power cuts. Our people are known for innovating means of entertainment. Once, he decided to buy cards "Shaddeh" for us to play during the daily power cuts. Shaddeh turned out to be great fun and great for killing time.  We gather around a small table, light a candle and start playing shaddeh. We repeat the game over and over again until we get bored. One advantage power-cuts have brought to us is that our family spends more time together. My little brother and sister seem to enjoy powercuts because we, sometimes out of boredom, agree to play their ridiculous games.

History of power cuts

The people of Gaza have been suffering from power shortages since Israel bombed the power station in the Gaza strip in June 2006.  Since then, the electricity crisis has gradually become worse. Power-cuts used to last for 8 hours before, but now we only get to enjoy electricity for 6 hours a day. The electricity crisis has a grave impact on all sectors of our lives and all residents of Gaza strip. It has become the main topic that everybody complains about. “Health and humanitarian conditions in Gaza are at risk due to electricity outage  across the Gaza Strip,” The Minister of Health warned. Hospitals are unable to supply fuel to turn the generators on for the whole day. Patients are now at a real risk.
In the thirst for electricity, many people had to buy generators powered by petrol.  However, they had to pay a huge price for it. In some cases, people paid with their lives. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 30 people have died since the beginning of this year due to the unsafe use of generators

Who's to blame?

The situation in Gaza is complicated. We don't really know who to blame for the current crisis. Israel? Egypt? Hamas and Fatah? Or all of them combined? Israel is imposing a suffocating siege on the Gaza strip turning it into an open-air prison. Egypt seems to be collaborating with our jailers in tightening the siege. The Egyptian Authorities have destroyed most of the tunnels along the Gaza border with Egypt and imposes a closure on the Rafah border, the only exit for our people outside the strip. Our people used to bring in fuel through the tunnels into Gaza which managed to ease our lives to some extent. Whoever is responsible for darkening the Gaza strip has to stop. Most of the Palestinians living here are under 18, where is the justification to collectively punish them? We have a right in Gaza to see light.

The condition in Gaza is becoming unbearable.  Every day is another challenge for us. Each day we have to show steadfastness in order to survive and go on. Israel has deprived us of our very basic rights. It has deprived us of our land, our freedom, and our right to lead a normal life like any other human. I wonder when we will be able to stop worrying about such basic needs like electricity? On behalf of every civilian of the Gaza strip, I scream, LET OUR LIGHTS COME ON IN GAZA.




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

18-11-2012 Attack on Gaza


My uncle called my mother and told her that Israel threatened to bomb a house next to their home, and people there are evacuating their homes. Al-Askri house is just few blocks from my home, the time we heard about the threat. We all gathered in one room waiting for the strike. We were very nervous, the house threatened is 3-floor building, that means it will cause damages to all the neighborhood.

My grandfather home is right in front of the Al-Askri's. 70 persons live in my grandfather's building, most are children. They all gathered at the building's first floor. Kids were crying of horror, and everyone was extremely worried.

As we were waiting anxiously for the strike, Israel launched 5 drones missiles at Al-Askri home, then it targeted the house with F16s missiles. The sound was unbelievable. We could hear the windows of the homes around smashing. We for a moment thought that our house is destroyed, my father went around and checked if everything was okay. Thanks God, everything was fine.

The other day, I went to see Al-Askri's home. The scene was unimaginable, the house is flattened and leveled to the ground. The houses around partially destroyed. Residents of Al-Askri were sitting in front of their destroyed home! They have no shelter now.

below are some photos I shot of Al-Askri house.

                           







Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Victory or Death



Naje El-Ali once said “The road to Palestine is neither far or near but only at a distance of a revolution.”  Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails have started a revolution against the repression and cruelty of prisons and the hard conditions they live in. Following Naje El-Ali's statement, I say that the road to freedom is neither far nor near, it's at a distance of an empty stomach.

When my father tells me about  the 15 years he spent in Israeli barbaric jails, my thoughts immediately goes there, to the Israeli jails, where there are still more than 5000 prisoners experiencing what my father had experienced.  Locked in their dark cells, deprived from seeing the sun and breathing the fresh air of the beautiful Palestine, away from their homes and friends, not allowed to see or to hug their families, feeling hungry, lonely and cold.  This is how the Palestinian prisoners live and this is what they are obliged to experience every day.

5000 Palestinian detainees are locked up behind Israeli jail bars, dreaming of the day they shall see the sun again. Their life at Israeli prisons is a miserable one. They are deprived of their basic rights that any human being should have. Israel is trying its best to make the Palestinians suffer more and more. Inside the Israel jails, there are young and old men, children, and women. Israeli jails are spread all over Palestine; they do never stop arresting Palestinians.
 
Palestinian detainees do never accept the injustice and oppression they are subjected to.  You might think they are powerless and can do nothing to end the injustice because they are jailed, chained and have nothing but their bodies. Then you're wrong. Palestinians have their strong will, their desire for freedom, they have their empty stomachs.

Palestinian detainees have long used their empty stomachs to rebel against the cruel and unjust Israeli jails. They used to start the battle of hunger. And today, they continue, and will never ever stop till they get their right of a free and just life.

The least we can do to support our heroes is to show our solidarity with them.  They are eager to know that their people stand by their side and will never ever forget them.

April 17th Hunger strike.


Palestinians inside Israeli jails initiated a mass hunger strike on the 17th of April and they are still going on. Today is their 16th day of hunger strike; they vowed to continue until their demands are accomplished.  More than 3,000 prisoners are now on an open-ended hunger strike in protest of the Israeli policies at jails and the miserable condition of detention in which they are subjected to. They are deprived of their basic human rights. Palestinian prisoners demand to end solitary confinement and administrative detention, put an end to night raids and searches, allow family visits particularly for the prisoners from Gaza who have been deprived of family visits since 2007, ensure the opportunity to continue their education.
Their demands are very legal and they have the full rights to have them accomplished. Israel is violating the very basic human rights of the Palestinian people in general and the Palestinian detainees in particular.
Those Palestinians are not doing so only for the sake of their own freedom, but for the sake of every single Palestinian freedom and dignity. They are the unknown soldiers who suffer to make us live in peace and freedom.

Hunger strikers' life at Risk

Bilal Thiab and Thaer Halahla 



Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla are two Palestinian detainees who are held illegally in administrative detention. Bilal and Thaer have declared their open hunger strike on 29 February 2012. They have been hunger striking for more than 60 days to protest administrative detention. Bilal and Thaer decided not to stay silent over their miserable conditions at the Israeli jails. They have followed the steps of Khader Adnan who hunger striked for 66 days protesting his administrative detention and who has made victory over the Israeli occupation and gained his freedom, and the steps of Hana Shalabi who hunger strikred for 44 days.
Bilal Diab and Thaer halahla's health condition is deteriorating. They  suffers from unbelievable pain, they started vomiting blood, their families are very concerned about their health and said that they are afraid that they might die in any moment.
There are a group of another prisoners who have been hunger striking before April 17th.
Hassan Safadi, on his 58th day of hunger strike.
Omar Abu Shalal, on his 56th day of hunger strike.
Mohammad Taj, on his 40th day of hunger strike.
Mahmoud Sarsak, on his 42nd day of hunger strike.
Abdullah Barghouti, on his 20th day of hunger strike.
Jaafar Azzedine, on his 35th day of hunger strike.
Fares Al-Natoor, on his 35th day of hunger strike.

Palestinian prisoners have started a revolution using their empty stomachs. Their empty stomachs speak louder than their voices. Nothing matters to them when it comes to freedom, neither hunger nor jailers will make them stop the battle, The battle of empty stomachs.