Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Just Another Nightmare

We were having dinner in the kitchen when we heard very loud artillery shelling; we went directly to the balcony to see where the shelling was. Heavy smoke which moved like tornadoes came from the east of Gaza; we realized then that Al-Shijaeia was being under intensive attack from Israeli tanks and warplanes. The black smoke was all over Gaza, it was moving very fast that it sounded like a storm, it was moving toward our house, the smoke then covered me and I couldn't breathe, I struggled very hard to go inside the house and this stopped when I woke up realizing that this was just another nightmare that I have been having since the bloody Shijaeia massacre during the last war on Gaza. 

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.