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)